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Introducing the 2015-16 Macey Scholars

SOCORRO, N.M. May 27, 2015 – New Mexico Tech has announced the recipients of the 2015-206 Macey Scholarships, the university’s top academic honor for undergraduates.

This year’s honorees include four students in chemical engineering and one in physics:

n  Tobias Burger, a senior in chemical engineering

n  Jared Canright, a junior in physics

n  Andrew Hunt, a senior in chemical engineering

n  Kevin Reed, a senior in chemical engineering

n  William Sullivan, a senior in chemical engineering

Macey Scholars are academic standouts, as well as “super-citizens.” They represent the best of and most well-rounded Tech students – brilliant young scientists and engineers who are involved in their communities and give of their time to worthy causes.

“Selecting Macey Scholars is one of the most difficult yet most rewarding efforts on campus. I am always amazed at the depth and breadth of our students’ academic achievements and commitment to helping others and our 2015 Macey Scholars are exceptional examples of that generosity of spirit.” said Elaine DeBrine Howell, the scholarship committee chair.

The Macey Scholarship is among the most prestigious scholarship awarded at New Mexico Tech. The program is named after 1942 New Mexico Tech graduate William B. Macey. Mr. Macey has been among the biggest supporters of New Mexico Tech over the years, including significant contributors to the Macey Center building fund in the early 1980s and the Macey Family Children’s Center in 2010.

“New Mexico Tech is very fortunate to have the generous support of the William B. Macey family in contributing to the development of life-long scholars.,” said DeBrine Howell. “Toby, Jared, Andrew, Kevin and Will embody all of the qualities of a Macey Scholar and I know they will continue to be a credit to New Mexico Tech long after they leave us..”

Qualified students apply for the program, along with nominations from faculty and staff members, employers and research associates nominate students. Macey Scholars receive an award of $5,000.

The selections are based upon accomplishments in the classroom, research laboratory, service projects, volunteerism, awards, honors and other activities. Each of the 2015 winners have an impressive resumé, full of research projects, internships, volunteer work and extracurricular activities. They are all well-rounded young scientists who have marked their careers at Tech with academic achievement, campus involvement and devotion to helping others.

Tobias Burger

A graduate of Desert Academy high school in Santa Fe, Burger has been involved in research on campus since January 2014 and a long-term volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Santa Fe.

Burger’s has done research with Dr. Menake Piyasena of the Chemistry Department. He has investigated acoustic focusing in microfluidic mediums. He has explored methods of sealing microfluidic challensl machined into metal. He uses air plasma surface modification techniques to produce a polymer-metal hybrid flow system for focusing particles and cells using acoustics.

“The research that I have conducted at New Mexico Tech has absolutely been the most rewarding aspect of my collegiate experience,” he wrote. “In fact, it has been a large motivating factor in my decision to pursue a career in research.”

This summer, he is doing photovoltaic research at the University of Michigan with Dr. Stephen Maldonado. Burger will participate in a project to design new means of solar energy production that is more efficient and less costly than current methods.

“Every academic decision that I have made since the start of my high school education has been in the name of pursuing research in solar energy production,” he said.

Burger’s nomination was supported by letters from Piyasena, Dr. Jeff Altig of Tech, Dr. Steven Graves of UNM and Rob Lochner of Habitat for Humanity.

Piyasena wrote that “He is one of the talented and highly motivated students in my class. … I observed him helping fellow students in the class. He was well respected [by other students] for his knowledge and willingness to help others. … Tobias is a quick learner and a creative thinker. In a very short time, he learned many techniques in my lab.”

Altig wrote that “Tobias has demonstrated an aptitude for independent research … Dr. Piyasena is demanding of his students and the work is exacting, requiring a considerable attention to detail.

Graves, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at UNM, has worked with Burger and Piyasena on research funded by the National Institute of Health. He wrote “He has made more progress on his research project (the creation of acoustic cells) than many of my graduate students in the area. ... Tobias is a credit to NMT and I would be very pleased if he were from my group.”

Lochner supervised Burger when he volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and coached Burger in soccer at Desert Academy.

He called Burger a “natural born leader,” praising his dedication while serving as a soccer team captain and a Habitat volunteer.

“The amount of time that Tobias put into Habitat for Humanity shows a great commitment to his community and to service in the name of helping others.”

Burger is set to graduate in May 2016 and he intends to enter a doctoral program in chemistry after completing his bachelor’s at Tech.

Jared Canright

A double major in physics and electrical engineering with a minor in math, Jared Canright has been active in research, teaching, campus clubs and volunteer work.

Along with research advisor Dr. Dave Raymond, Canright is doing atmospheric physics work that examines the formation of tropical storms. For the past three semesters, Canright has been gathering and analyzing sea surface temperature and wind vector data from satellite instruments. He has also written various software programs to process and display the data.

“This project has yielded a robust set of sta acquisition and processing scripts that can now be put to use for other projects in atmospheric physics,” he wrote.

His nomination was supported by letters from physics professors Dr. Dave Raymond, Dr. Ken Minschwaner and Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld.

Canright impressed Sonnenfeld as a freshmen when he excelled in his computational mechanics class, typically taken by sophomores. In a subsequent class with Sonnenfeld, “he was a lively contributor to class discussion and asked some ‘stump the prof’ questions. … Jared is pretty close to the top student in everything he does, and he does so much of it. The thing that is truly extraordinary about Jared is that he consistently takes an impossibly large load of more than 20 technical units a semester and still comes out very close to the top of the class. Furthermore, he is a happy and enthusiastic guy.”

In his nomination letter, Dr. Raymond submitted a list of Canright’s activities and accomplishments. “Frankly, I don’t know when he sleeps, with all the things he does,” Raymond wrote. “Jared has shown himself to be proficient in research-related activities … He showed an unusual degree of cleverness and resourcefulness in getting the job done.”

As the current president of the Physics Club, Canright has organized educational outreach events at local schools, presentation for visiting prospective Techies and ran the Meteorology competition at the N.M. Science Olympiad.

Minschwaner wrote that “As faculty advisor for the club, I can state that he has done an excellent job rejuvenating student interest and participation, and has displayed leadership qualities in the process.”

He started as a grader for Physics 121 as a freshmen and later worked as an instructor and a tutor for that class and for Physics 221, positions normally reserved for graduate students. This summer, Canright is an intern at the Air Force Research Lab in Albuquerque, studying the plasma-electrode phenomena.

Sonnenfeld wrote that Canright also finds time for morale-boosting hijinks. In March, Canright and his friends plastered more than 1,500 comics from xkcd.com in the Workman Center stairwell. “Although the results raised the blood pressure of our Facilities Department, the students thought it was a smashing achievement.” Ever being responsible, Canright and crew removed the comics within two days.

“Jared Canright epitomizes a Tech student,” Sonnenfeld wrote. “He is academically brilliant, he leads by example and without arrogance, he is industrious, enthusiastic, nerdy as heck (but still able to talk to real people), and has an off-beat, indomitable spirit.”

Andrew Hunt

A rising senior in chemical engineering, Andrew Hunt’s time at Tech has been marked by academic excellence and honors, research, outreach and volunteerism.

Hunt’s nomination was supported by letters from chemistry professors Dr. Altig and Dr. Piyasena, chemical engineering professor Dr. Michaelann Tartis and Sue Waid of the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch.

As a sophomore, Hunt worked with Tartis and as a student intern at Sandia National Laboratories. With Tartis, Hunt did various experiments related to targeted drug and gene delivery. Starting in the spring 2014 semester, he spearheaded his own project involving the transfer of DNA into yeast cells for bio-sensing applications. As a junior, he continued working with Tartis, and also started working with Piyasena, developing novel microfluidic devices that can diagnose diseases in the developing world.

“Not only have these research positions helped me to gain valuable experience, but they also allowed me to help maintain NMT’s strong reputation in the science and engineering community,” Hunt wrote.

Hunt is a member of the AIChE, Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society and Golden Key campus chapters He volunteers for fund-raisers and outreach efforts, including mentoring a freshmen team in the chemical car competition, which he helped jump-start. He has also tutored local children at the Socorro Youth Center.

“I found this rewarding because it was a great way to help the community and try to give children extra assistance outside the classroom,” he wrote.

Hunt has also volunteered at the N.M. Boys and Girls Ranch near Belen, where he tutors youngsters in math and science.

Altig wrote that, “Andrew is bright, personable and a fast learner. … Andrew’s research project involves the development of a low-cost and easily manufacturable device for acoustic focusing in a microfluidics system. He is working alongside several graduate students in the same laboratory.”

Piyasena, his research advisor, wrote that “Andrew is friendly, respectful and helpful student, and he has great work ethic. He is a very good team player who does not hesitate to help fellow researchers in the lab.”

Waid, the administrator of education at the Boys and Girls Ranch, wrote that, “He is professional and patient in his approach with our students, and he has a great command of both math and science knowledge which he demonstrates both in the lab classe and traditional tutoring classes.”

Kevin Reed

A native of Farmington, Kevin Reed has also worked on research with both Tartis and Piyasena. He will graduate in May 2016 with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and two minors in chemistry and biology.

“My decision to pursue a double minor in these subjects embodies the wide range of research that fascinates me. I am interested in topics ranging from biosensing and drug delivery to plasmonics, quantum computing and DNA circuitry,’ he wrote.

Reed started in research as a sophomore with Piyasena, the same year he won the 2014 Analytical Chemistry Student of the Year award. Shortly thereafter, Reed earned a Research Experience for Undergraduates assignment at Duke University in biomedical research.

“My experience at Duke truly convinced me to set my future goals toward attending grad school and receiving a Ph.D.,” he wrote.

Dr. Nick Carroll of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Duke wrote that “Kevin was able to establish a very positive reputation for himself and New Mexico Tech at Duke … it’s obvious New Mexico Tech does a very good job of preparing students for research as reflected in the great contributions made by Kevin.”

Reed was listed as a co-author on a manuscript from his research at Duke. Carroll also wrote Duke’s research director visited Socorro to encourage more Tech students to join the research team at Duke – largely thanks to the impression Reed made.

Reed is now working with Piyasena to develop a novel, inexpensive device capable of accurately diagnosing protein energy malnutrition for use in developing nations and for astronauts. For his work, Reed received a $5,000 undergraduate award from the N.M. Space Grant Consortium, which is funded by NASA.

He is also the team leader for his junior design team that is working with Dr. Micheal Heagy of the Chemical Engineering Department. His team is research the photocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to feedstock.

Prior to coming to Tech, Reed served a tutor in math and science at San Juan College in Farmington. This summer, he is working with Tartis and Dr. Chelsey Hargather to refine the Intro to Engineering 189 course.

“This is of great importance to me because freshmen year is such a pivotal point for students,” he wrote. “I hope to continue providing a great first impression of New Mexico Tech to my students with my heartfelt commitment to their educational and career goals,” he wrote.

Fellow student Cora Carman wrote that “Kevin is an all-around great person to look for in a mentor.”

Piyasena wrote that “May times, I used his answers to make keys for exams, because his answers were very accurate and precise. … I am very delighted that he will be taking my Chem411 class this fall. It is a very challenging course and it is a please to teach such a course to a student like Kevin.”

Reed has vast experience in volunteering on campus and beyond. He is an active member of the AIChE club, Tau Beta Pi, Society of Women Engineers and the Track and Field Club. He will be in charge of community service coordinator for Tau Beta Pi, which gave him the Community Service Award in 2014. He tutors students at local schools and the local youth center and mentors freshmen in the chem car competition.

Dr. Corey Leclerc of the Chemical Engineering Department wrote “Kevin is a great asset to the Chemical Engineering Department. He has distinguished himself academically, in the lab and by serving the Institute and the community. He will make an excellent Macey Scholar.”

Reed wrote “I am truly grateful for what the school and the community have done for me and I frequently give back as often as I can. … New Mexico Tech has prepared me better than any other school possibly can.”

William Sullivan

William Sullivan – yet another senior chemical engineering student – is a native of Portales in eastern New Mexico. 

“In Portales, I had very few opportunities in STEM, which I feel left me lacking the necessary tools to succeed in the rigorous academia of New Mexico Tech. However, I know that through persistence, hard work and dedication I could overcome my obstacles and be successful at NMT.”

Sullivan said that a large part of his success can be attributed to being involved in many clubs, including the AIChE, Saint Patrick’s Newman Center and Tau Beta Pi.

“I have been provided an invaluable network of peers who have been crucial in providing me the help that I have needed for many classes,” he wrote. “I am confident that without much of the advice that I have received from older members of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE), I would not have achieved the success that I have at NMT.”

He was an active volunteer as a freshman, then served as treasurer during his sophomore year. As a senior, he will be the club’s vice president.

Sullivan has proctored events at the N.M. Science Olympiad and volunteered during Club Fair and Research@ Tech Day, a recruitment event that he attended while in high school and convinced him to come to Tech.

He has volunteered for community events as well, including the San Miguel Fiestas and tutoring at the Socorro Youth Center. In Portales, he regularly helped with the Beautify America campaign

Sullivan completed an internship with Southwest Cheese, which wanted him to return for a second internship. However, he landed a Research Experience for Undergraduates position at the University of Pittsburgh.

His nomination was supported by Tartis, Altig and Leclerc, who is his research advisor.

Sullivan joined Leclerc’s research team during the spring 2015 semester. Leclerc wrote that “His maturity level is much higher than many students … besides his superior academic performance, Will’s enthusiasm sets him apart from his peers. … He is eager to learn new lab techniques and shows up to the lab at scheduled times … He has thus far been a reliable member of my lab.”

For more information about the Macey Scholars program, visit www.nmt.edu/macey-scholars.

– NMT –