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Around the School

Athlete-Engineers: Jacobs School Hybrids

Matt Cantele
Matt Cantele
Daniel Derkacs
Daniel Derkacs
Amanda Felder
Amanda Felder
Caryn Urbanczyk
Caryn Urbanczyk

From crew to baseball and triathlons, intercollegiate athletics are part of the Jacobs School experience. During the 2007-2008 academic year, 68 engineering students balanced the demands of a top tier engineering education with life on one of UC San Diego’s highly ranked Division II athletic teams. Read four of their stories below. Visit for news, stats, insider information, and most importantly, game schedules. With San Diego’s great weather, rainouts are exotic events and the only ice you’ll find is in your drink. Whether you’re local or living out of town, it's always fun to come back to campus and cheer on the Tritons.

Matt Cantele

Striking out is not an option for Matt Cantele, first baseman for the No. 13 ranked Division II UC San Diego baseball team. His 48 total homeruns over the last three years rank him second in school history.

The Bay Area native says being an athlete allows him to better understand the human body, aiding his bioengineering career.

"It's exciting to see how technology can help the human body, like building chips for medical purposes to do things like release insulin into the body,” he says. "The technology that comes out of bioengineering can hopefully make people's lives better."

Daniel Derkacs

Daniel Derkacs, a former junior Olympian and a nationally ranked all-American triathlete, started running at age 7. Since then, he has added cycling and swimming and has been competing in triathlons for 11 years, including Ironman races, which demand swimming 2.4 miles, bicycling 112 miles, and running a 26.2-mile marathon. The Los Alamos, NM, native earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico. UC San Diego’s strong academic reputation and the area’s popular triathlon scene drew him to San Diego.

Derkacs, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is currently working on a new solar cell project with Professor Edward Yu.

Amanda Felder

In Spring 2008, 26-year-old triathlete Amanda Felder won her second National Collegiate championship at UC San Diego (her first was in 2005). Now a professional triathlete, Felder usually places in the top 10 in about 10 triathlons a year. Felder earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University and came to UC San Diego for its well-known Department of Bioengineering.

“I want to use engineering in a way that affects people more directly than just building cars and airplanes,” the Houston,TX, native says. She even met her husband-to-be at UC San Diego: fellow triathlete and engineering Ph.D. student Daniel Derkacs.

Caryn Urbanczyk

Caryn Urbanczyk, 20, was drawn to UC San Diego’s No. 2 ranked Department of Bioengineering, but she also discovered women’s crew. The team finished its 2008 season as national runners-up at the NCAA Division II Championships for the second straight year. Urbanczyk, who rowed all four years for Cold Spring Harbor High School in New York, is currently a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar Athlete. During the 2006-2007 season she stroked the Varsity Four boat, which finished second at the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Urbanczyk says both crew and bioengineering require strong teamwork. “If it wasn’t for my classmates I wouldn’t be doing well,” she says.

She was attracted to bioengineering because it combines medicine with modern engineering research. “It really is a new field,” she says.

Jacobs School Recognition Banquet

Outstanding Executive Award

Bernard M. Gordon

Bernard M. Gordon, inventor of the first solidstate Xray Generator, earned the Outstanding Executive Award. His first company, Epsco, specialized in analog-to-digital conversion applications. He also founded Analogic Corporation, which made high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanner technology. His most recent startup was Neurologica, maker of low-cost mobile CT brain scanners. Gordon and his wife, Sophia Gordon, pioneered the National Academy of Engineering's Gordon Prize to recognize the best engineering leadership programs. "We recognize a truly amazing engineer and a member of my council of advisors," said Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School, at the school’s 2008 banquet. "Bernie has made it his life’s passion to raise awareness for engineering leadership."


Outstanding Alumnus: Decoder of Da Vinci

Maurizio Seracini

The Jacobs School presented its 2008 Outstanding Alumnus Award to Maurizio Seracini, who received a bachelor's degree in bioengineering from the Jacobs School in 1973. He is using novel investigative techniques to find images drawn by Leonardo DaVinci not seen in 500 years because they were hidden under his Adoration of the Magi. Now an adjunct professor in structural engineering at the Jacobs School, Seracini has founded the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3).


Outstanding Jacobs School Teacher

Maurizio Seracini

Students with the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society presented mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Vitali Nesterenko with the 2008 Outstanding Professor Award. Nesterenko’s research includes fundamental discoveries on the dynamic behavior of materials and new materials for superconducting coils that could lower the cost of magnetic resonance imaging machines.


Graduate Student Research Award

Jessica Godin

The Graduate Student Research Award was presented to Jessica Godin in recognition of her work to downsize a flow cytometer machine to fit on a microchip. WithYu-Hwa Lo, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Godin developed a prototype device to test water for biological warfare agents. The device could also revolutionize portable medical diagnostics.


Undergraduate Student Leadership Award

Jeffrey Mounzer

Jeffrey Mounzer received the 2008 Undergraduate Student Leadership Award for his exemplary leadership in student organizations. Mounzer inspired his undergraduate classmates to reinvent National Engineer's Week at the Jacobs School. He envisioned and executed highly successful career fairs, educational outreach events, and the wacky and fun Engineer’s Games. A double major in electrical engineering and economics, Mounzer also found time for undergraduate research and industry internships. He graduated in spring 2008 and is now a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Stanford.

Controls Come of Age

Uwe Boettcher, a mechanical and aerospace engineering Ph.D. student, shows off a 'Control This' t-shirt. It was a big hit at the celebration for the Jacobs School's new Cymer Center for Control Systems and Dynamics (CCSD).
Uwe Boettcher, a mechanical and aerospace engineering Ph.D. student, shows off a "Control This" t-shirt. It was a big hit at the celebration for the Jacobs School's new Cymer Center for Control Systems and Dynamics (CCSD).

The Jacobs School’s new Cymer Center for Control Systems and Dynamics (CCSD) was officially inaugurated in May 2008 with the announcement of a corporate gift by Cymer Inc. and the first two industry members of the Center, Cymer and General Atomics.

CCSD aims to attract and train talented students in the field of controls while working with its industry partners on research projects ranging from control of propulsion and energy systems to positioning systems in manufacturing.

Controls curriculum taught by faculty in the center is focused on practical industrial problems such as communication systems and networks, seismic protection, aerospace and marine systems, and sensor networks. One of the center’s goals is to encourage collaboration among UC San Diego schools and departments, from engineering and mathematics, to cognitive science and physics.

For more information on CCSD, please visit