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Commencement 2008

New Mexico Tech Congratulates December 2007 grads and May 2008 Grads!

by Kathy Hedges and Valerie Kimble

Graduation 2008

Right: Officials line up on the podium for Graduation 2008. Photo by Schlake.

SOCORRO, N.M., May 17, 2008 – After years of differential equations, thermodynamics, and computer programming, New Mexico Tech graduated 303 students, comprising the Class of 2008.

David Limmer

In his opening remarks, New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López congratulated the Class of 08 for their dedication and achievement. He said that 40 percent of the class had at least one 'F' on their transcripts, the class' cumulative GPA was 3.17 and, the Class of 2008 had taken an average of 10 semesters to get their degrees.

Left: Dr. Peter Gerity congratulates David Limmer. Photo by Schlake.

The Brown Award, New Mexico Tech’s top award to an undergraduate, went to David Limmer, who also graduated in chemical engineering with highest honors. Limmer, a 2004 graduate of Clovis High School, was lauded for his academic achievements, his volunteer service both to the university and to the Socorro community, and for his leadership qualities. Limmer is the son of Craig and Gwen Limmer of Clovis.

He was in a cooperative program with Los Alamos National Laboratory, spending one semester at the laboratory and finishing his New Mexico Tech degree in 3 ½ years.

As an undergraduate, Limmer was author or co-author of six technical posters and papers. His first-place finish in a paper competition sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Regional American Institute of Chemical Engineers propelled him to the national event, where he placed fourth among 170 chemical engineering schools.

Limmer has engaged in many service and volunteer activities, including serving as a peer facilitator with the First-Year Experience program for two years, and being contributor and editor of Miners’ Ink, the student literary magazine. Limmer served as president of the student chapter of the AIChE and as a member of the university’s Retention Task Force. He also helped at events such as SocorroFest and the Community Arts Party.

Limmer will enter the Chemistry/Chemical Engineering Department at the University of California at Berkeley as a doctoral student this fall.

Norelle Shlanta

The Founder’s award, New Mexico Tech’s top award to a graduate student, went to Norelle Shlanta (left), who also received her master’s degree in mathematics. Norelle earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at New Mexico Tech in 2006. The daughter of a Tech alumnus, Dr. Alex Shlanta, she started with a summer mini-course at Tech in 2001.

Most recently, Norelle served on the Retention Task Force, for which she did a sophisticated statistical analysis, which also constituted her master’s thesis. In addition to her expertise in statistics, Norelle’s understanding of New Mexico Tech and Tech students added an extra dimension to this project and made her a valuable member of the committee.

In addition to her mathematical work, Norelle led the Desert Roses dance company, choreographed several spring musicals, and taught courses in dance through New Mexico Tech’s Community College.

Two Cramer Awards were presented, to the male and female engineering students who excelled academically.

Yanyan Guo

Right: Dr. Lopez presents the Langmuir Award to Yanyan Guo. Photo by Schlake.

The Langmuir Award for an outstanding research paper by a student or recent graduate of New Mexico Tech went to Yanyan Guo. Guo is a second year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry Department. Her research led to an article titled "Nanoparticle-Based Photosensitizers under CW Infrared Excitation" published in the December 2007 issue of Chemistry of Materials.

In the article, Ms. Guo describes the design and development of a nanoparticle-based material that has the potential of becoming a next-generation photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy. PDT has been gaining acceptance in recent years as a technique for cancer and antibacterial treatment. This work opens the door for a new design of photosensitizers that would be versatile, specific and effective. In vivo tests of this new and effective cancer therapy are underway.

Katharine Dahm

Katharine G. Dahm (left) received the award for top female engineering student. Dahm graduated with highest honors in environmental engineering. She was active in many New Mexico Tech clubs and sports, including Society for Women Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, women's soccer, and women's rugby. Dahm is entering a graduate program at the Colorado School of Mines.

Joseph A. Fernandez

Joseph A. Fernandez (right) received the Cramer Award for top male engineering student. He graduated with highest honors in electrical engineering and is planning to enter Carnegie-Mellon for his Ph.D. Fernandez was a summer employee of Sandia National Laboratories and was named Outstanding Student by the Albuquerque section of IEEE. He was president of New Mexico Tech's Auto Racing Club and organized several Auto-X events.

Steve S. Torres

Socorro native Steve S. Torres received an honorary doctorate for his 30 years of service as a member of the university’s governing Board of Regents. Torres, now in the real estate business in Albuquerque, will receive the degree in business management.

Steve Torres was first appointed to the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents in 1966 by Governor David F. Cargo and was reappointed five times by four successive governors: Bruce King (twice), Jerry Apodaca, Toney Anaya and Garrey Carruthers.

“It gives me great pleasure to present Steve with the highest academic honor a university can award,” said Dr. Daniel H. López, Tech president, who presided over the ceremony in which Torres was “hooded” with official academic regalia.

Steve Torres

Left: Steve Torres is hooded by Van Romero (VP for Research and Economic Development) and David Johnson (Graduate Dean) while Daniel H. Lopez looks on. Photo by Schlake.

Torres was nominated for the award last December by Dr. Van Romero, Vice President for Research and Development at New Mexico Tech. Romero worked for the Torres family as an undergraduate and was hired as director of the Energetic Materials Research & Testing Center (EMRTC) during Torres’s tenure on the board.

Torres is a member of a local family with deep roots in the business community. He is a 1954 graduate of Socorro High School, and four years later earned a B.A. from the University of Washington, Seattle. He also holds an M.A. from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt.

His public service includes 13 years as a member of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation, and he was a member of a number of local organizations including the Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, Socorro County Historical Society and Socorro Golf Association.

In 1995 he was a New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award recipient in the State Government and University category.

Dr. Gilbert Kerr

Right: Dr. Gilbert Kerr waves to students after receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award. Photo by Schlake.

Gilbert Kerr was named recipient of the university's Distinguished Teaching Award. Kerr, associate professor of mathematics, joined the university’s Department of Mathematics as a Visiting Professor in Fall 1994, and was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor the following year. He came to Socorro from Norfolk, Virginia, where he received his Ph.D. in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Old Dominion University. Dr. Kerr completed his undergraduate education at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, his native country. His research interests are in applied mathematics and thermoelasticity.

Dr. Kerr consistently has drawn high praise from students for his teaching of core courses such as calculus, ordinary and partial differential equations, and vector analysis. His teaching style has been described by students as “energetic and engaging.” One student noted that “Dr. Kerr presents mathematical concepts with wonderful clarity and enthusiasm.” Another wrote: “Unlike most professors, he has no problems interjecting humor into the class. It was at an appropriate level and benefited us all.”

Bhaskar Majumdar

Left: Dr. Lopez is pleased to present the Distinguished Research Award to Dr. Majumdar. Photo by Schlake.

Dr. Bhaskar Majumdar received the Distinguished Research Award for 2008. Majumdar is professor of materials and metallurgical engineering. He has taught at New Mexico Tech since 1999, having earned his Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.

Dr. Majumdar has been conducting outstanding research for many years in the area of mechanical behavior of materials systems. He has published many peer-reviewed papers, with over 70 of those in major journals; furthermore his papers have been cited over 700 times. In particular, he is an acknowledged expert in the field of crack tip shielding. He has also done novel work on understanding the behavior of high temperature superalloys. In addition, he is one of the most prolific researchers in the department, having brought in over one million dollars in research funding since he joined New Mexico Tech.

Geza Keller, president of the New Mexico Tech Alumni Association, presented awards to former Regent J. Michael Kelly and alumnus Bryan Ulrich. In addition, two alumni from the Class of 1958 – John Powell and Morris Worley – were recognized on the 50th anniversary of their graduation.

J. Michael Kelly

J. Michael Kelly has been a lifelong supporter of New Mexico Tech. He earned his bachelor of science degree here in 1972 and put his petroleum engineering education to work in the industry, first, as president of his family's Elk Oil Company, and then of his own company, Keltic Oil Services.

From 1992 to 1997, Michael Kelly served on the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents, of which he was president in 1995. Tech must have done a good job of convincing Regent Mike Kelly that we provide an excellent education at a reasonable price, because his next step was to return to New Mexico Tech as a student. In 1996, he earned his master's degree, and in 2000 his Ph.D., both in petroleum engineering.

Since then, he has been an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Petroleum and Chemical Engineering, as well as continuing to be an independent oil consultant. He has been a strong supporter of Tech's student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, participating in many of their functions and arranging career-related field trips for students. New Mexico Tech's petroleum engineering students named J. Michael Kelly "Distinguished Faculty Member of 2008."

He has been a longtime major supporter of New Mexico Tech and chaired the Commitment to Excellence Capital Campaign in 2001. Most recently, he has lent his support to the project of funding an endowed chair position for the Petroleum Engineering Department. Mike continues to be actively involved in the Roswell Section of the SPE and has helped the department immensely in recruiting in the Artesia/Roswell area.

The Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award was presented to Bryan Ulrich, who exemplifies the best of what a New Mexico Tech education offers the professional working world.

Bryan Ulrich

Bryan Ulrich holds two degrees from New Mexico Tech: mining engineering, which he earned in 1983, and geological engineering, received in 1985. He also holds a master's degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, earned in 1996.

Currently, Bryan is Vice President in charge of Nevada Operations for Knight Piésold, a world wide engineering consulting firm.

Bryan Ulrich is considered to be an expert in several fields, including use and interpretation of in situ tests, propensity for static and earthquake-induced liquefaction, material property derivation, laboratory analyses, and slope stability analysis.

His more-than-20 years of experience include geotechnical engineering, project management, design and construction, mine site investigations, soil mechanics, the design of tailings dams, and earthquake hazards.

Bryan is a member of the Society of Mining Engineers and the Canadian Geotechnical Society and has authored or co-authored over two dozen professional papers and articles. Because of his firm belief in continuing education, Bryan has taken an active role in several international conferences. He has been instrumental in recruiting New Mexico Tech graduates to fill important roles in Knight Piésold.


– NMT –

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