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News Release

Outstanding grads 2014

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IEEE President Victor Lee, fourth from left, is one of 1,000 students graduating from the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego in June 2014.
Photo: Tony Wong 

San Diego, Calif., May 23, 201More than 1,000 students will be graduating from the Jacobs School of Engineering next month. We couldn’t possibly profile them all, so we asked for help from our faculty to find a few of them that exemplify all the amazing achievements of our undergraduates. 


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TESC President Pooja Makhijani plans to go to medical school after graduation.

When Pooja Makhijani first visited the Jacobs School, she didn’t know if she wanted to be an engineer. “I went on lab tours during my visit and was amazed that professors were willing to mentor me that fall,” she recalls. Makhijani signed up for bioengineering. A Jacobs Scholar, she took an unpaid research position her first year and worked on an independent project, which became the seed for her senior thesis. She served as TESC president in her junior and senior years. She created a peer mentorship program and spearheaded the creation of a scholarship fund to help students attend conferences and present their work. She plans to attend medical school at Stanford University this fall. 



Sam Avery was standing on the ceiling. But to him, it seemed like everyone else was upside down. “You think the ceiling is the floor,” he said. “Your mind completely agrees it’s the floor. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced.” Avery was on his second flight on a special NASA plane with UC San Diego’s zero-gravity team. They were investigating how biofuels burn in space, at the suggestion of mechanical engineering professor Forman Williams. It was Avery’s second stint on the team, this time as captain. Avery is headed for graduate school at Stanford. He’d like to start his own company someday.


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Sam Avery, first on left, was the leader of UC San Diego's zeroG team, which flew on a NASA plane especially designed to simulate microgravity. The students were testing the behavior of biofuels in microgravity. 



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Nanoengineering student Celine Liong is headed for a Ph.D. at Stanford.

In the past four years at the Jacobs School, Celine Liong has done research in four different labs, including work on drug delivery to solar cells. She also was the president of the UC San Diego chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. She plays badminton and likes to cook. Liong, who is the first in her family to go to college, said she was drawn to nanoengineering because of the field’s potential. “You can do so much,” she said. This fall, Liong will explore more of this potential at Stanford, where she will work toward a Ph.D. in translational medicine. 



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Zach Johnson, a comptuer science major, will join Google's Glass team. 

When he graduates this summer, Zach Johnson will join four other Jacobs School computer science alums on the Glass team in Google[x], Google’s moonshot group. Johnson is better known to his classmates and the teachers here as zachoverflow, his Twitter handle and Internet pseudonym. Johnson interned at Microsoft and Facebook before landing an internship on the Glass team last summer. “I had a few assigned projects but I got them done early and decided to squash other peoples’ bugs—it's a good way to make friends,” he said. When he’s not programming or thinking about philosophy, Johnson enjoys playing the hammered dulcimer, a string instrument generally found in folk music pieces.


Under Victor Lee’s leadership, the UC San Diego chapter of IEEE grew from about 400 members to 630, becoming the second-largest in the nation. Lee said he’s just giving back. “I’m pretty sure I owe my success to IEEE,” he said. He is graduating with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering this year, but he’s not quite done with UC San Diego. Next year, he will be a master’s student here. “This is what I like,” he said. “This is what I’m good at.” In his spare time, Lee is transforming his parents’ home into a smart house. His latest project is an automatic watering system for his mother’s plants.

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering