Top Graduate Awards Presented At Commencement

Top Graduate Awards Presented At Graduation


SOCORRO, N.M. – The 2017 Commencement Ceremony at New Mexico Tech featured about 300 graduates taking part in the ceremony on a sunny Saturday morning in Socorro.

Dr. Frank Etscorn, the inventor of the nicotine patch, presented the keynote address. Student Regents Myissa Weiss also gave an inspirational talk.

One highlight of the ceremony each year is the announcement and presentation of the top awards for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The Langmuir Award honors an outstanding scientific research paper by a student or recent graduate of New Mexico Tech. This award consists of a plaque and a cash award. This year’s voting for the Langmuir Award ended in a tie. Instead of trying to determine a tie-breaker, the Faculty Senate decided to present two Langmuir Awards this year. The winners are Samuel Collopy of the Physics Department, and Shangwen Zha of the Materials Engineering Department and the Petroleum Recovery Research Center.

Shangwen Zha

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Two Langmuir Awards were presented this year. From left are President Dr. Stephen Wells, Samuel Collopy, Shangwen Zha, and Graduate Dean Dr. Lorie Liebrock.


Last month, Shangwen Zha successfully defended his dissertation, titled “Study of Hollow Fiber Membrane Based Technologies for Oilfield Produced Water Remediation.”  Zha was nominated for this award based on his publication on the same subject of treating oilfield water.

Over the past three years, Zha’s findings have been published in five peer-reviewed publications, including the SPE Journal, the Chemical Engineering Journal, the Journal of Industry and Engineering Chemistry, and Separation and Purification Technology.  Zha will officially complete his degree during the summer semester.


Samuel Collopy

Samuel Collopy is a doctoral student in Physics and an employee of Raytheon in Albuquerque. Collopy finished his high school career in Socorro and has earned his bachelor’s and master’s here at Tech as well.

Professors in the math and physics departments have called Sam one of the brightest students to ever walk the halls at NMT. Sam was nominated for this award based on his work for a paper titled “One-loop quantum gravity in the Einstein Universe,” which he co-authored with math professor Dr. Ivan Avramidi, who is his research advisor.

This paper is devoted to the study of quantum gravity at finite temperature in the Einstein Universe and the related thermodynamical properties of the graviton gas. This paper is on the cutting edge of an important area in mathematical physics. The paper is highly technical and 39 pages long, yet was accepted very quickly for publication in a top journal with no revisions.

The Founder's Award honors the people responsible for founding the New Mexico School of Mines in Socorro in 1889.  The award is presented to a graduate student who graduated during the 2016-2017 academic year who is judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the Institute through scholarship, research, and involvement in campus affairs. The award consists of a plaque and a cash award. 

Dr. Stipo Sentic

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Dr. Stephen Wells presents the 2017 Founders Award to Dr. Stipo Sentic.


This year’s Founder’s Award winner is Dr. Stipo Sentic of the Physics Department.  Dr. Sentic received his Doctorate in Physics with Dissertation in Atmospheric Physics.

A native of Croatia, Stipo has devoted his research efforts toward understanding, explaining and modeling convection in the Earth’s atmosphere around the tropics. In November 2015, he published a high-impact paper on this topic in the “Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems.” His work was also featured as a research highlight in the EOS, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union.

In addition to his research achievements, Stipo has been involved in campus life to a degree many would consider superhuman.

Stipo has volunteered to tutor children at the Boys and Girls Ranch near Belen. He obtained grand funding and created new science outreach efforts for elementary students in Socorro, and has volunteered for outreach efforts through the music program. Stipo has also exhibited great leadership as an officer of the Graduate Student Association.

– NMT –