by Kathleen Hedges
Left: Tech grads display their knowledge of crystalline structures and skills with pipecleaner art.
SOCORRO,N.M., May 12, 2007 – In commencement ceremonies at New Mexico Tech, 317 people received 331 degrees, and several top award winners were named.
Schlake's browsable web archive of photos: http://infohost.nmt.edu/~schlake/fstmp/grad2007/
The university's top award, the Brown Award, was presented to Nathan Goulding (photo, right, courtesy of Schlake), a graduate in computer science and electrical engineering. Nathan, a graduate of Albuquerque's La Cueva High School, is the son of Robert and Barbara Goulding of Albuquerque.
When something needed to get done, Nathan was the guy in the department who got it done, and apparently without effort, and always with a smile on his face. He has volunteered for events such as Science Fair, Engineering Weekend, the Computer Boot Camp Program, and giving tours to prospective students. Within the Socorro community, he has also volunteered at the Socorro Puerto Seguro homeless shelter.
Within the EE department, Nathan has supported Dr. Wedeward's electric power system modeling research for ICASA and has provided data analysis for Dr. Thomas in the lightning research area. Both his senior design project and summer work that he carried out at Los Alamos National Laboratory have resulted in conference presentations for Nathan. He has also been a peer facilitator and a tutor.
In his spare time, Nathan has been the President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and the chair of the student chapter of IEEE. He has been honored as a New Mexico Tech scholar and a Macey Scholarship recipient.
Nathan plans to attend graduate school at the University of California at San Diego.
The Cramer Award for the female engineering student with the highest average went to Victoria Aston (photo, left, courtesy of Schlake). Victoria, who received her degree in chemical engineering with highest honors, is a Tech Scholar, and has received the Macey Scholarship. She was recently named Engineering Student of the Year.
Victoria has been a peer facilitator for the Advising Resource Center, has conducted student engineering and research assignments with EMRTC, and has worked in polymer physics modeling for materials engineering professor John McCoy. Her work in that last position has resulted in her being co-author of a research paper which has been submitted to the Journal of Chemical Physics.
Last summer, she completed an engineering internship with EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), Inc.
In addition, Victoria is vice president of the New Mexico Tech chapter of Tau Beta Pi, secretary for Tech's student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Aston has also been an active volunteer in the Socorro community, at both the Puerto Seguro and Good Samaritan Village.
The second Cramer Award of the year, for the male engineering student with the highest grade point average, went to Keenan Dotson (photo, right, courtesy of Schlake), who also received his degree in materials engineering with highest honors. Dotson was been on the university's honor roll every semester, is a Tech Scholar, and holds both the Ron Roman Scholarship and the Tech Competitive Scholarship.
Dotson is a graduate of Farmington Harrison High School in Farmington Hill, Mich.
Keenan has worked as a peer facilitator and tutor for the Advising Resource Center, and as a research laboratory assistant with both the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Most recently, he was a lab assistant working with Tech materials engineering professor T. David Burleigh, conducting research on anodized oxide coatings on carbon steel.
Dotson has undertaken two summer internships with Traylor/Shea, JV, in which he managed data communications on a major underground tunneling project in Southern California.
In addition, Keenan is a past senator on the Tech Student Association, and currently serves as treasurer for both the Students for Progressive Action and the Tech Rugby Football Club, on which he also plays lock and flanker positions. He also is an active member of the local chapter of the Tau Beta Pi national honor society for engineering students.
The Distinguished Research Award went to Dr. Tanja Pietrass, professor of chemistry (photo, left). Dr. Pietrass has made important contributions in developing sensitive methods to characterize carbon nanotubes. These nanotubes have important potential applications for storage of hydrogen and for sensitive detection of trace gasses. Dr. Pietrass has not only used the technique of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy, but she has also pioneered the use of Electron Spin Resonance spectroscopy.
Tanja has been a collaborator in many international research projects, with grants totaling over $2.5 million dollars. She has published nearly 50 papers in national and international referred journals. Since 2004, she has served as a member of the executive committee of EPSCoR, a statewide, NSF-funded program to stimulate competitive research. She oversees and manages all nanoscience-related spending of EPSCoR funds at New Mexico Tech.
Most NMR labs are large groups that share the burden of technical and financial costs of expensive and complex apparatus. Dr. Pietrass has done this virtually single-handedly in realtive geographic isolation.
In the last three years alone, she has had 15 publications in top national and international journals, as well as producing three Ph.D. students. She served for five years as chair of the Department of Chemistry, followed by two years as president of the Faculty Senate.
The Distinguished Teaching Award went to Dr. Warren Ostergren (photo, right), associate professor of mechanical engineering.
When Dr. Ostergren came to New Mexico Tech in 2003, he brought with him a long background of experience working in industry. After earning degrees at the University of Rochester, Brown University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he then had a successful career with GE Power Systems, GE Aircraft Engines, and Wastech International, Inc. He then dedicated his considerable technical and people skills to teaching, and Tech students are glad he did.
In nominating him for the award, Dr. Ostergren's students pointed out that he "brings real-world engineering experience into the classroom, which not only helps with his teaching, but also aids in finding research projects for undergraduate and graduate students."
One student stated that "The fact that he requires that every design clinic project have an industrial sponsor, be supported by a substantial budget, and meet a real need for a company has equipped graduating mechanical engineering students with a wealth of real-life experience in technical project leadership, design, fabrication, management, and professional interaction with a customer."
Another student commented, "Very often, after reading the text [and being confused], I would hear Dr. O's lecture and think 'Wow, I can't believe I was confused about this stuff before!'"
Yet another student added, "As a professor, he is thorough and systematic, and one of things I admire and appreciate about his teaching is that he consistently puts forth the effort required to know the students he teaches - our level of understanding, how we learn best, our interests, and our capabilities."
But Dr. Ostergren has a few surprises up his sleeve for students. One of them said, "Dr. O is usually our clean-cut and sometimes square professor, wearing Dockers and button down shirts. At one recent departmental barbecue, we all saw a different side of our professor. He confessed to attending the infamous Woodstock concert as a teenager."
The Langmuir Award for a top research paper published by a graduate student or recent graduate went to Dr. Ming Tang (photo, left), also received his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering. Dr. Ming was chosen for the Langmuir award based on a paper in the Journal of Applied Physics. The paper is entitled "Ion-irradiation-induced phase transformation in rare earth sesquioxides)." The paper was co-authored by Dr. Ping Lu, from New Mexico Tech Materials Department, James A. Valdez and Kurt E. Sickafus, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Dr. Ming's paper describes the discovery of a phase transformation observed in the rare-earth oxides upon ion irradiation. Dr. Ming's theory is very important not only to the understanding of irradiation damage in solids but also to the predication of microstructure evolution of the materials under ion-irradiations. Also presented in the paper is a theory to predict the transformation based on high temperature phase diagram of the material.