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News Release

Student Leaders Recognized at Annual Ring Ceremony

San Diego, CA, July 1, 2015 -- The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering held its 9th annual Ring Ceremony on Saturday, June 13. Out of 700+ graduating engineers from across six departments, nearly 450 of them participated in the ceremony. Among them were a number of outstanding student leaders who were recognized by their department for Excellence in Leadership and Service.

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Gillie Agmon

The Department of Bioengineering chose two students to receive the award: Gillie Agmon and Jared Kehe. Gillie graduated with a nearly perfect GPA of 3.935! She won the C. William Hall Scholarship from the Society for Biomaterials, which is given to only one undergraduate in the entire national society each year, for her research. She is a Regents Scholar, an Amgen Scholar, and a Gordon Scholar. As co-president of Engineering World Health she organized the EWH Women Empowerment Conference to encourage and support female leadership in the organization. After graduation, Gillie will attend Stanford University to begin a PhD in Bioengineering.

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Jared Kehe

Like Gillie, Jared Kehe graduated with a nearly perfect GPA and served as a teaching assistant for two BE courses including, BENG 140A where he wrote the entire 200 page course reader which has been used for two years. He worked in Professor Adam Engler’s lab for two and a half years and will be submitting a research paper this summer. Being a music minor, Jared composed several pieces that have been performed at the Conrad Prebys Music Center. He is a member of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi and the Muir College Senior Honors Caledonian Society. Jared will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to begin his PhD in Bioengineering.

The Department of Computer Science & Engineering selected Jennifer Lu. Jennifer interned at Microsoft for two summers and conducted research with Professor Gert Lanckriet to create a context-aware phone application. She served on the Women In Computing outreach committee where she helped organize Girl's Day Out, an event to inspire high school girls to pursue STEM. Jennifer was a CSE tutor and was part of the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi, and the Marshall College Honors Program. After graduation, Jennifer will begin a summer internship at Intuit before starting the Master's program in Computer Science at Stanford University in the Fall.

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Jennifer Lu

The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Award for Excellence in Leadership was given to Kristoffer Wilkerson. Kristoffer has served as the president of the Kappa Psi chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, and as clinical volunteer coordinator with the Flying Samaritans where he helped provide free health and dental care to underserved communities in Mexico. As president of HKN, he worked to provide professional, technical, and academic programs for engineering students. He worked as teaching assistant for the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science during one summer. Kristoffer is also an IDEA Scholar and a Gordon Scholar. Upon graduation he plans on joining Tortuga Logic, a local hardware security startup.

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Kristoffer Wilkerson

The Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Award for Excellence in Leadership went to Katherine Liu, who as an undergraduate researcher with Professor Jorge Cortes, designed a scalable system to that gave localization capability to an autonomous, multi-agent robotic vehicle in a GPS-denied environment. Katherine represented UC San Diego at the 2013 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s, Unmanned Aerial Systems competition. After graduation, Katherine will begin a PhD program at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Mechanical Engineering.

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Katherine Liu

The Department of NanoEngineering gave the award to Bao Chi Bo Ngo. Bao graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and an overall GPA of 3.972, the highest in his class. He served as the president of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers this past year after being a highly active member for three years. He recently published a research article on the Molecular mechanical properties of short sequence peptide enzyme mimics in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics. After graduation, Bao will be working as an Associate Process Engineer at Fluor in Orange County.  He plans on pursuing a Chemical Engineering M.S. in Berkeley's Product Development Program in Fall 2016.

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Bao Chi Bo Ngo

Finally, the Department of Structural Engineering selected Kayse Sheppard to receive this award. Kayse is an IDEA Scholar and has emerged as an exceptional leader in the Structural Engineering Department. She has been heavily involved in the Society of Civil and Structural Engineering’s Seismic Outreach Program and was the co-project manager of Seismic Outreach for the past 2 years; the program’s success is due to her dedication. After graduation, Kayse hopes to work in engineering design for public projects.

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Kayse Sheppard

Other awards included the Undergraduate Community and Diversity Award which was given to Rocio Pena. Rocio has been dedicated to building a supportive community of engineers here at the Jacobs School and within the greater San Diego area. She has been a leader within the engineering community by serving as President of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers where increased membership, helped implement a junior chapter at a local high school, and set the precedent for future leaders. She worked as a Resident Advisor and leader for the IDEA Scholars for two years where she introduced over 100 incoming freshmen to life as an engineer here at UCSD. Rocio was a member of the Graeve group and worked in the Nanomaterials Processing Laboratory where she conducted research on the fabrication of nanofluids that incorporate metal and metal oxide nanomaterials in fluids to enhance fluid thermal conductivity. After graduation she plans to pursue a career related to her interest in materials and earn a master’s degree in material science.

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Rocio Pena

The Undergraduate Student Leadership Award was bestowed on Renn Darawali, a graduate of Environmental Engineering. Renn has been a leader within the engineering community by serving as Pledge Marshal of the Theta Tau co-ed engineering fraternity, recruiting and mentoring new and potential members. She was also a Resident Advisor and leader for the IDEA Scholars summer programs and volunteered at countless engineering events, lending her skills as a photographer, designer, and speaker. She even designed the program for tonight’s Ceremony! Renn has been an undergraduate researcher in Professor Carlos Coimbra's lab for the past two years, where she has helped develop the next generation of solar instruments and forecasts that will enable higher usage of renewable energy. After graduation, Renn will continue her studies here at the Jacobs School pursuing a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering where she hopes to make significant contributions to solar energy research.

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Renn Darawali

A professor was also recognized for the impact his teaching has had on students. Dr. Justin Opatkiewicz is a lecturer in the NanoEngineering Department. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University in 2012 and earned his B.S. in both Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering from UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Dr. Opatkiewicz created and taught the course “Mathematical Techniques for Chemical Engineers” while still a student. At Stanford, he received multiple teaching awards, including the 2010 Stanford University Centennial Teaching Assistant Award.

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Dr. Justin Opatkiewicz

This is what students say about Dr. Opatkiewicz:

  • "He is the best professor at UCSD."
  • "He cares about his students and goes above and beyond to help them succeed."
  • "Incredibly kind, caring and encouraging professor. My favorite professor ever."
  • "He is the most helpful, passionate, and committed professor here at UCSD."


Congratulations, class of 2015! You are the engineers of the future, and you hold in your hands the power to do great things. Keep us in the loop as you innovate, and don’t forget to add our new university page to your LinkedIn profile!

You can see all of the pictures from the Ring Ceremony here.

Media Contacts

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation