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Three Tech Seniors Named Macey Scholars, Oct. 31, 2008

By Thomas Guengerich

SOCORRO, N.M., Oct. 31, 2008 – New Mexico Tech has announced the 2008-2009 winners of the Macey Scholars Program scholarships – seniors Kaoutar “Coco” Abbou Oucherif, Peter Valdez and John Korbin.

Funded by Tech graduate Bill Macey, the program awards $5,000 to three exception undergraduate students each year.

Abbou Oucherif and Valdez are chemical engineering majors. Korbin is working on two bachelor’s in mathematics and computer science.

Three students received honorable mention: Laura Stanley, Toby Sachs-Quintana and Amber Ortega.

Bill Macey graduated from New Mexico School of Mines in 1942. He has been New Mexico Tech’s strongest supporter over the years. He and his former wife, Jean, who passed away in February 2006, donated more than $1 million for the construction of the Macey Center. Macey has also staked matching funds for other donations for the construction of a new Children’s Center.

Macey Scholars are chosen for their academic accomplishments – both in the classroom and the research laboratory – as well as their community service, participation in extracurricular activities and character.

The Macey Scholars will organize and present a campus-wide seminar about their topics of interest during the 2009 spring semester.

Coco Oucherif

Kaoutar “Coco” Abbou Oucherif

A native of Morocco, Abbou Oucherif transferred to Tech from Edmonds Community College near Seattle in the fall of 2007. She has an exceptional academic record and is involved in a number of clubs, research projects, and extracurricular activities.

She completed a summer research project in particle design at Purdue University. Her research focused on optimizing the microfluidic crystallization of lactose monohydrate. She used simulations, modeling and experiments to test her theories.

She has already presented her findings in poster and oral sessions at Purdue and at Michigan State. She will present her research again at a national undergraduate conference in Philadelphia in November and at a regional competition in Colorado in March.

Soon after arriving at Tech, she resurrected the Chemical Engineering Car Competing Team, which earned a third place finish at the regional competition and will compete at the AIChE National Competition in November.

Abbou Oucherif also was selected to represent New Mexico Tech at the Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces in August. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering society and the Tech chapter of Society of Women Engineers. She has volunteered for Science Olympiad and Science Fair. She also helps the Student Affairs office as an ambassador for new international students.

Her advisor, Dr. Michaelann Tartis, wrote in her recommendation that Abbou Oucherif is a natural leader and shows enthusiasm and self-reliance. She also said she receives high marks from her fellow students in anonymous surveys.

“I have been impressed with her independence and her ability to seek and digest research articles,” Tartis wrote. “Her ability to quickly understand an experimental procedure as well as analyze and interpret data is well above that of an average undergraduate researcher.”

Abbou Oucherif was also nominated by the chemical engineering department, Dr. Her-Yuan Chen and international program director Chelsea Buffington.

“She presents the best of what New Mexico Tech has to offer,” Buffington wrote. “She is truly one of the most well-rounded students I have encountered at New Mexico Tech.”

She is the daughter of Farida El Khaddar and Abdellatif Abbou Oucherif of Larache, Morocco, a port city south of Tangiers. Abbou Oucherif hopes to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering.

Peter Valdez

Peter Valdez

Valdez has excelled academically and has been involved in a number of activities on campus, in the community and through his church.

He has maintained a 3.97 GPA while helping other students through the First-Year Experience class, the Advising Resource Center and as a mentor. He is also involved in campus clubs, his church, community groups and academic societies.

“Tech has provided me with an excellent education as well as the opportunities to learn and grown outside of the classroom,” he wrote.

Valdez matriculated at New Mexico Tech in 2002, but left after one year to complete a mission in Chile through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He returned to Socorro in the spring of 2006 and didn’t miss a beat.

He first started working at Sandia National Laboratory in 2001. For the past two summers, he has worked on developing decontamination methods for biological and chemical weapon attacks.

“I strongly feel that my coursework and experiences at Tech greatly enhanced my abilities to be a contributing member of the Sandia team,” he wrote.

In his junior design class at Tech, he helped develop a lab module for a simplified biodiesel production experiment. He also helped professor Tartis develop a new freshman seminar class and introductory materials for chemical engineers. Valdez attends the freshman seminar so he is prepared to be a tutor and peer facilitator.

“He leads by example and is an excellent role model,” Tartis wrote. “He brings laughter, comfort and accountability to our classroom. I feel many freshmen will benefit greatly in their academic tenure from this experience with Peter.”

In fact, Valdez’s nomination was accompanied by signatures from nearly all of the 44 chemical engineering freshmen, including a few notes of support.

Freshman Randy Arnold wrote, “Peter has not only been a mentor, but a very valuable peer with abundant knowledge and experience at NMT.”

Freshman Kristin Simmons wrote, “Peter is pretty much just awesome.”

Valdez reaches many students through his volunteer efforts at the Advising Resource Center. Director Elaine Debrine-Howell wrote a glowing nomination for Valdez.

“With his high personal standards … he is able to bring out the best in his fellow students,” Debrine-Howell wrote. “He has been an inspiration for his fellow students. … He is a role model that we would all be well to follow.”

Valdez helped with Science Fair and has participated in education outreach at Socorro schools. Last year, he organized and served as host of a regional conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, which was held at Tech. He is also organizing a student volunteer effort to help the Puerto Seguro homeless shelter in Socorro.

Valdez is the son of Rudolph and Monica Valdez of Albuquerque. He graduated from Cibola High School.

After graduation, he will finish his internship at Sandia through August. He and his wife, Jana, who teaches history at Socorro High School, will probably move wherever Peter enrolls in graduate school.

John Korbin

John Patrick Korbin

A native of Albuquerque, Korbin will hit the small screen in a few months as a cast member of the “Man Vs. Cartoon” show on TruTV. He’s not just a pretty face, though. Korbin has a 4.0 GPA and is involved in clubs, helped write a textbook, conducted research at Sandia and presented his work at a national conference.

He is a member of several clubs and academic societies and has received numerous awards.

“The collegiate experience at New Mexico Tech has no only been very exciting, challenging and rewarding, but more importantly synergistic,” Korbin wrote in his application. “I find my reasoning, judgment and maturity have developed each and every semester here at Tech.”

Korbin’s research activities include a project in applied physics and chaotic dynamics using the Sandia National Laboratory supercomputer. H expects his work with Dr. John Starrett on compound pendulums to be published in the near future. He also presented his research at an American Physical Society conference.
He also competed in the William Lowell Putnam math competition and the Mathematical Contest in Modeling. He said his most rewarding activity at Tech has been serving as peer facilitator, research assistant and intern in the math, computer science and chemistry departments.

“The professors and administration at NM Tech are some of the best mentors I’ve encountered,” he wrote. “I attribute much of my success to their support, likeability and encouragement.”

Four professors and a staff member wrote letters of support for Korbin. Dr. Andrew Sung of the computer science department said Korbin outperformed graduate students in CS342: Formal Languages and Automata Theory.

“It is extremely rare to see students able to pursue so much extracurricular activity while keeping up with course work,” Sung wrote. “John’s academic accomplishments alone have brought much credit to himself and visibility to New Mexico Tech.”

Dr. Hector Erives of the electrical engineering department credited Korbin with showing up early for class and helping set up labs – among other things.

Korbin is also the chief financial officer for the Residential Hall Association. Ruth Ann Stoddard, Director of Residential Life, wrote that Korbin’s efforts have helped immensely, including a reorganization of the organization.

Honorable Mention

Laura Stanley

A junior who hails from Socorro, Stanley is a junior majoring in chemistry. She was nominated by professors in chemistry and psychology and by Sarah Grijalva of the residential life office.Stanley has a 3.93 GPA and is involved in campus clubs, research projects and community groups. Through the materials engineering department, she has worked with Sandia on a project testing polymers.

She is involved with Beta Beta Beta Honor Society, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Students for Life and Campus Republicans. She volunteers at Good Samaritan Village nursing home in Socorro and the American Cancer Society.

Toby Sachs-Quintana

An Albuquerque native, Sachs-Quintana is a previous winner of a regional paper writing contest. He is a senior materials engineering major with a 4.0 GPA. His nomination was supported by three of his professors.

He has completed two summer internships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, from which has written two papers, one of which was published.

He has numerous academic awards from competitions and is active in several campus clubs. He also is a volunteer math tutor at Socorro High School.

Amber Ortega

A native of Albuquerque, Ortega is a junior with a double-major in biology and psychology. Her nomination was supported by professors in psychology, biology and chemistry.

Ortega completed an internship in molecular biology at Stony Brook University. She will present her research at a conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science this fall.

She is an officer in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Beta Beta Beta Honor Society. She is a residential assistant and volunteers at the UNM Hospital every week.

– NMT –