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Jessica Godin, Electrical Engineer, Wins R.B. Woolley Leadership Award

San Diego, CA, November 19, 2008 -- “Interning at NASA, I realized that I was going to need at least a master’s and more than likely a Ph.D. to do what I wanted to do,” said Jessica Godin, who came to UC San Diego in 2004 to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Now on the home-stretch of her Ph.D. at the Jacobs School of Engineering, Godin has won the annual R.B. Woolley Graduate Leadership Award.

“This award is a tribute to Jessica’s world-class research as well as the tremendous community building work she has done here at the Jacobs School,” said Jeanne Ferrante, Associate Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering and a professor of computer science.

Godin is working on lab-on-a-chip technologies that may one day serve as downsized flow cytometers that fit on a microchips and monitor water supplies for bacteria and other contaminants. There are many other potential applications of this technology in the areas of medicine and security, said Godin, who is a member of electrical engineering professor Yuhwa Lo’s research group.

“We are hoping that our work will revolutionize portable medical diagnostics,” said Godin. Her research has focused on miniaturized optical detection of individual cells.

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Godin came to UC San Diego from the Applied & Engineering Physics department at Cornell University, where she enjoyed a tight-knight community of students during her undergraduate years. Early on at UC San Diego, she chose not to be anonymous.

“When I walk down the hall and see friends and co-workers, I am a happier, more enthusiastic graduate student and person. Meeting new people keeps things exciting and keeps my horizons expanding,” said Godin who has been deeply involved in the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Graduate Student Council. In 2007, she served as Vice President for the council, helping to create more regular and well-attended coffee hours for student interaction, and also helping to start the now-regular social hours in the department. These efforts have led to a more involved student community, increasing participation in the graduate student council and growing a more tight-knit community among the electrical engineering graduate student body. The following year, she played a crucial role in creating a place for electrical engineering graduate students to relax, the Ramesh Jain student lounge.

Jessica Godin and Buzz Woolley
Jessica Godin with Buzz Woolley.
In addition to the generous financial gift that directly supports the winning student, the R.B. Woolley Graduate Leadership Award also provides $2,500 for the winner to use in support of leadership activities. Godin plans to use most of her funding to sponsor events that generate interaction between graduate students who are in different departments within the Jacobs School of Engineering. Godin knows first-hand how valuable and satisfying inter-departmental connections can be. Her research required her to spend lots of time in Calit2’s Nano3 Lab, a state-of-the-art clean room and microfabrication facility. Here, she met students from other departments who were also working in the area of microfluidics. Her interactions with bioengineering graduate students have been particularly fruitful.

“I was coming from Yu-Hwa Lo’s lab where we had all the PDMS-based microfluidics fabrication facilities in one place. We were able to help teach some of our processing to others, letting them use some of our facilities or helping them to establish their own,” said Godin, who was quick to say the information-sharing was mutual.

Jessica Godin
Jessica Godin, winner of the 2008 R.B. Woolley Leadership Award at the Jacobs School of Engineering can have her cake and eat it too.
“Some of the bioengineering students had much more refined processes for getting samples onto chips, and I learned some great tricks from them that I am still using,” said Godin.

With the financial support from the R.B. Woolley Leadership award, Godin plans to organize events for Jacobs School graduate students in which more of these kinds of cross-department interactions can spring up.

Godin is also working to make sure that the graduate students in each of the Jacobs School’s six departments have a strong graduate student organization.

“Jessica came to the electrical engineering department in 2004 and truly has become a star within the department,” said Larry Larson, chair and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

At the conclusion of the reception for Jessica Godin, Buzz Woolley, the creator of the leadership award, underlined how important it is for students to learn to work in teams, collaborate and communicate. “It’s also very important to get involved in all aspects of society,” said Woolley.

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