Commencement 2005

by Kathleen Hedges

SOCORRO, N.M., May 2005 – New Mexico Tech held Commencement Ceremonies on Saturday, May 14, 2005.

Joseph Montoya, Brown Award

Jonathan Montoya, a graduate of Española High School, was presented with the Brown Award, New Mexico Tech’s highest award to an undergraduate. .

Montoya received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with highest honors at the state-supported research university. He plans to go on to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to study theoretical chemical physics.

Montoya is the son of Walter and Anna Montoya of Española. His paternal grandparents are Tony and Margie Montoya, and his maternal grandparents are Flora and the late John Ault.

Jonathan was chosen for the award by faculty members, based on his outstanding achievements in scholarship, leadership, and conduct. According to his faculty advisor, Dr. Don Weinkauf, “Jonathan has been a pleasure to have in the classroom. He thinks outside the box and asks ‘what if.’ He is receiving his degree in a practical engineering field and yet is choosing to go on in a theoretical field. He epitomizes the best in both pure and applied sciences and has made himself a role model for students who may follow after him.”

During the summer of 2004, Jonathan was an intern at Pennsylvania State University, working on protein ultrapurification techniques. He has had two summer internships at Los Alamos National Laboratory, resulting in two in-house publications there.

Montoya has been named a Macey Scholar at New Mexico Tech and is a recipient of the General Motors Minority Scholarship. He was active in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and was a member of the Tau Beta Pi national engineering honor society and the Hi-Tech Campus Ambassadors program.

Montoya has been a teaching assistant and volunteer tutor in New Mexico Tech’s chemical engineering and chemistry departments. He has also volunteered his time tutoring students in Socorro elementary schools. In addition, Montoya has worked on-campus at New Mexico Tech as a lifeguard at the university’s swim center, and as a research assistant at the Petroleum Recovery Research Center.

Srinivas Mukkamala

Srinivas Mukkamala was chosen to receive New Mexico Tech’s Founder’s Award, the highest award to a graduate student, at Commencement ceremonies on May 14, 2005. Mukkamala received his Ph.D. in computer science from the state-supported research university.

Mukkamala, the son of Dr. Sambasiva Rao Mukkamala and Subha Mukkamala, is originally from Kolavennu, Andhra Pradesh, India. He has been a resident of Socorro, New Mexico since 2000. He a 1995 graduate of Nalanda Junior College. He received his bachelor’s degree from Sathyabama Engineering College (University of Madras) and his master’s degree from New Mexico Tech.

Mukkamala received the award for both the research work he has done as a graduate student and for his many volunteer activities. He is a frequent contributor to information security and soft computing literature which includes book chapters, journal papers, conference proceedings, and magazines. He has over 60 publications in the areas of information assurance, information security practices and applied soft computing techniques. He is a frequent speaker on information system security audits and forensic incident analysis. He has a patent pending on Intelligent Agents for Distributed Intrusion Detection System and Method of Practicing Same. He was a student lead of the information assurance research group at New Mexico Tech that developed expertise in learning machines for intrusion detection, modeling, and feature selection algorithms for intrusion detection, trends in malware analysis and applied information assurance.

Mukkamala has assisted the Computer Science Department and New Mexico Tech with preparation of research proposals, recertification as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance, student recruiting, and teaching workshops in computer security. He has been the Computer Science Department's representative to the Graduate Student Association, where he has served on several committees. He has done a number of presentations on computer security, both on campus for prospective students and off-campus, for New Mexico schools, community colleges, and the state of New Mexico.

Mukkamala has also been the recipient of a number of awards, honors, and fellowships. In 2003, he was the recipient of the Patrick Orr Memorial Award, given by the Department of Computer Science at New Mexico Tech to an outstanding graduate student who demonstrates excellence in scholarship and potential for service in computer science education. The award was named for Patrick Orr, a faculty member who died in 1981.

He was also a recipient of the Tripuraneni Ramaiah Chowdary Memorial Scholarship.

Mukkamala was a member of the teams that were winners of the 2003 and 2002 Forensic Feuds, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The Forensic Feud is a contest that tests forensic experts’ collective knowledge on a wide variety of questions from all forensic disciplines.

Mukkamala is a senior research scientist at Institute for Complex Additive Systems and Analysis (ICASA), a division of New Mexico Tech. He is a resident of Socorro.

Julieanne Heffernan, Cramer Award

Julieanne Heffernan is a chemical engineering major from Alamogordo, New Mexico. She has worked as a researcher for Dr. John McCoy in Materials Engineering, in the area of computational thermodynamics of polymers. She is planning to stay at New Mexico Tech for a graduate degree in materials engineering. In addition to excelling academically, she is also an artist who has had her work displayed at Macey Center.

 Nicholas Jacka, Cramer Award

Nicholas Jacka is a mechanical engineering major from Valier, Montana. He has been an outstanding student who always produces more than his professors ask from him. He was the leader of a senior design group that designed new smart-gait emulator under Thompson Sarkodie-Gyan. After two successful internships at Applied Technology Associates in Albuquerque, Nicholas has been offered a job there, as well as an opportunity to continue his education at the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Clint Richardson, Distinguished Teaching Award

Clint Richardson came to New Mexico Tech in 1987, having just earned his Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. His interests are in cleaning up contaminated groundwater, containing waste, and designing systems to treat wastewater.

When he arrived at Tech, there had been a two-year gap during which there was essentially no Environmental Engineering program at Tech. Clint Richardson took on the task of building the program virtually from scratch. In the beginning, he taught all of the classes and gave and graded all of the exams himself, in addition to hiring new faculty and establishing a direction for the program.

Over the years, Clint Richardson has taught about 30 different courses, not only in Environmental Engineering but also in Engineering Science, Mineral Engineering, and in the Master of Science Teaching program. As the many students and alumni who nominated him for this award all agreed, his courses are demanding, and he has high expectations of his students. But they also all agreed that he is always available to help them. He is an expert at drawing on clear, real-world examples to help them understand a problem.

Alumni who are working in the field of environmental engineering say that one of the big factors in their success is the high expectations Dr. Richardson had of them in their classes and projects and his unfailing willingness to help, explain, clarify, and instruct them when they were struggling to meet his standards.

One alumnus said, "When I graduated from Tech, I was head and shoulders above colleagues with more advanced degrees. I believe that this was the direct result of Clint's exceptional preparation, teaching, and great but challenging attitude."

Clint has also been active in helping his former students obtain certification as Professional Engineers. Clint himself is a PE in both New Mexico and in his home state of Kentucky. In addition, Clint has successfully mentored groups competing in the WERC competition, an engineering design competition sponsored by the Waste-Management Education and Research Consortium. During the 13 years he served as faculty advisor for teams, his teams received 18 of the top awards.

Dr. Richardson's work as an advisor and mentor to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students has been outstanding. He encourages students to go on to graduate school and helps them choose the best one for them. He actively assists students in finding employment after graduation and always finds time to write letters of recommendation.

One working environmental engineer commented that "It was Dr. Richardson's high expectations and detailed evaluation of his students' work that made it easy for me to enter the real world after graduation." He concluded, "His office door was always open for students."

Dr. William McIntosh, Distinguished Research Award

Dr. William C. McIntosh came to New Mexico Tech as a graduate student, having earned his bachelor's degree at Princeton University and his master's at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his Ph.D. under Charles Chapin, then director of the Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources.

McIntosh was then given the job of establishing a geochronology research lab at New Mexico Tech. The lab he created and is co-director of today is recognized as one of the top facilities of its kind in the world. The lab uses isotopes of argon to determine the ages of rocks.

Since this was a new technology when Bill started, he had to design and build much of the equipment himself. He proved to be a multi-talented individual who could do anything from designing and building mechanical systems, to writing computer code, to inventing new ways to solve seemingly intractable problems.

Once Bill took a new and creative approach to solving a problem, his techniques very quickly spread to other laboratories. For instance, he developed a method of using carbon-dioxide lasers to melt samples. Reviewers of his NSF proposal said it couldn't be done. After Bill did it, his methods were spread to laboratories around the world.

This gives the impression that Bill McIntosh is primarily a laboratory geochemist, but in fact, he is well-known for his outstanding field work as well as his laboratory work. He has been very active in Antarctic research and has designed and built several innovative systems for monitoring volcanic activity on Mt. Erebus. One of his inventions was a snowmobile-mounted chainsaw trenching machine, which he used to obtain samples of glacial ice that preserved climate records from the past half-million years.

Bill's combination of mechanical genius and scientific expertise has made him a very exceptional researcher.

Liangxiong Li, Langmuir Award

The Langmuir Award for 2005 went to Liangxiong Li, a graduate student in materials engineering, for an article titled "Desalination by reverse osmosis using MFI zeolite membranes," published in the Journal of Membrane Science in 2004. This article virtually opened up a new area of research by proposing a new application for this type of membrane. Li proposed that zeolite membranes may be used for desalination of complex wastewaters, which contain organic solvents and radioactive elements. This paper has attracted a great deal of attention and generated many inquiries.

Thanks to this and several other journal articles by Li, the Petroleum Recovery Research Center succeeded in winning a research contract from the U.S. Department of Energy for $1.15 million dollars. Robert Lee, director of the PRRC, has stated that "Liangxiong Li has great potential to become an outstanding scientist."