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Top Student Awards Announced at Graduation

SOCORRO, N.M. May 16, 2011 – Five New Mexico students earned the top annual awards at commencement Saturday. Three undergrads and two graduate students were recognized for their exceptional academic performance, integrity and community involvement.

The winner of the top undergraduate award, the Brown Award, for 2011, is Nic Shafer, who earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

The Cramer Awards are given to the male and female seniors graduating in engineering who rank highest in scholarship. The 2011 winners are Zahra Ghanbari of materials engineering and David Burkhard of mineral engineering.

The Langmuir Award honors an outstanding scientific research paper by graduate student. Nikolai Evdokimov of the Chemistry Department won based on his research publication in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

The Founder’s Award is given to the graduate student who has made an outstanding contribution through scholarship, research, and involvement in campus affairs. The 2011 winner is Cynthia Veitch, who completed her master’s in computer science.

The Faculty Senate meets the day before graduation to determine the award winners. The winners receive a framed certificate and a cash award.

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Nic Schafer is the 2011 Brown Award winner.

Brown Award Winner Nic Schafer

Shafer is a standout among the Techies. He is graduating with highest honors in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Schafer worked as a residential assistant, then worked for the past two years in the Center for Student Success as a peer facilitator. He led a group that developed a tutoring program for Dine College in Shiprock. Schafer presented the program, which was such a big hit that Tech was asked to present the tutoring program again in Arizona.

Schafer has been involved in InterVarsity, Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and other campus clubs. In 2010, he was among the core group of students that started the Engineers Without Borders student chapter at Tech.

In 2010, Schafer was accepted into a summer internship in Germany. Based on his research skills and his overall impressive academic performance, he earned a full-ride scholarship to return to the University of Dortmund for a graduate program.

The Brown Award is named in honor of Mr. C. T. Brown, who was for many years a member of the Tech Board of Regents.  It is presented to the member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the Faculty, ranks highest in scholarship, conduct, and leadership.

Cramer Award Winner Zahra Ghanbari

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Zahra Ghanbari accepts congratulations from President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez for winning the 2011 Cramer Award.

Ghanbari earned a bachelor’s in materials engineering today.  A graduate of Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, Ghanbari’s career at New Mexico Tech has been marked with many honors, awards and achievements.

Ghanbari earned a reputation among faculty members as an academically gifted student who always helps underclassmen understand material. She has impressed her professors by consistently being at the top of her class and by showing great leadership skills. Any time the Materials Engineering Department needed a volunteer, Ghanbari was the first to step up.

In addition to her stellar academic work, Zahra helped revitalize the American Society of Materials student chapter over the past two years. She organized the inaugural statewide ASM student conference in Socorro. She also won a statewide scholarship from the ASM New Mexico chapter in 2010.

With professor Dr. David Burleigh, she attended the School to Work Career Day in Albuquerque and helped recruit new Tech students. She led the department’s effort to build a 49’ers parade float. She also volunteered at the Community Arts Party. Ghanbari has served as a justice for the Student Association and she won the Student Appreciation Award in 2010 for her service and volunteer activities.

Ghanbari is headed to Golden, Colo., where she has been accepted into a master’s program at Colorado School of Mines.

Cramer Award Winner David Burkhard

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David Burkhart accepts congratulations from President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez for winning the 2011 Cramer Award.

David Burkhard is truly a rare breed. He finished his studies with a perfect 4.0 GPA with a bachelor’s in mineral engineering.

Several of his professors noted that they have never known anybody to do such precise work – and they wished they could have given him A-Pluses. His homework was often so perfect that instructors would use his work as the key to grade all other work. Burkhard’s professors said he is an exceptional student and an all-around good person. He is conscientious, diligent and hard-working.

Burkhard worked as a grader in the department and always showed exceptional dedication and a thirst for knowledge. He completed an internship at BHP Billiton’s coal mine near Farmington. Burkhard was so impressive that his employers would not let him leave. The company created a position for him to entice him to stay.

Burkhard is a non-traditional student. He was a businessman who decided that he wanted to follow his passion, which is mineral engineering. He left his career to go back to school and follow his dream. Burkhard has excelled the entire way and has impressed everyone he meets.

Langmuir Award Winner Nikolai Evdokimov

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Nikolai Evdokimov, 2011 winner of the Langmuir Award. At left is student regent Omar Soliman.

Evdokimov is nearly finished with his P.H.D. in chemistry. He defended his dissertation the day before graduation.

Nikolai was named the winner of the 2011 Langmuir Award based on his research paper titled, “Structural Simplification of Bioactive Natural Products with Multicomponent Synthesis. 3. Fused Uracil-Containing Heterocycles as Novel Topoisomerase-Targeting Agents.” His paper was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, which is the most influential and prestigious academic journal in the field.

Evdokimov’s research involves investigating the anti-cancer properties of natural products and developing new laboratory methods of creating synthetic versions of these chemicals. His work is crucial to finding new ways to treat cancer. New Mexico Tech has a small army of interdisciplinary researchers who are in pursuit of new anti-cancer drugs. Evdokimov is a standout among a team of exceptional researchers.

Evdokimov has earned a reputation among his colleagues as a hard-working and brilliant scientist. Chemistry Department faculty members noted that everyone who comes in contact with Nikolai respects his quality character. He is always pleasant, sincere and friendly. He’s also a busy man at home, where he and his wife are raising their two children.

Evdokimov will be leaving New Mexico Tech later this year. He is headed to UCLA, where he will continue his research on a post-doctoral assignment.

Founders Award Winner Cynthia Veitch

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Cindy Veitch, M.S., receives the Founders Award. 

Photos by Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech

Cindy Veitch finished her master’s in computer science with an emphasis in information technology.

The Founder's Award honors the people responsible for founding the New Mexico School of Mines in Socorro in 1889. It is given to the person graduating this year with an advanced degree who is judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the Institute through scholarship, research, and involvement in campus affairs.

Early in Veitch’s career, she switched from a bachelor’s program in computer science to major in technical communications. After finishing that degree, she returned to computer science for her graduate work.

Throughout her time at Tech, Veitch has impressed her professors in both computer science and technical communications with her stellar work, attention to detail and her willingness to help out.

Veitch helped pilot a First Year Experience Class and showed an intense commitment to her fellow students. In that capacity, she always went above and beyond what was expected of her, giving time when she had no time to spare. She also mentored the instructor who took over the FYE class. She has always made herself available to tutor other students and serve as a role model to other Techies.

Veitch was accepted into the Scholarship For Service program, which is a competitive program for computer scientists who specialize in information security. Her master’s thesis is titled, “Towards automatic classification of citation function in scientific literature: Observations on the mapping of rhetorical structure to citation function.”

Veitch has worked as a researcher or intern at Los Alamos National Laboraty, the Army Research Lab in Maryland and Sandia. She produced stellar work as a master’s student and now works in Critical Systems Security at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech