MechSE's 2023 undergraduate student award winners


At MechSE's annual Alumni Awards Banquet last Friday, our talented undergraduate students won department awards for their outstanding scholarship and achievements.

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MechSE Awards Banquet 2023

The department’s spring awards banquet celebrated our many undergraduate students who have been recognized for their outstanding leadership, academic achievements, and character. The following undergraduate students are the recipients of these 2022-23 departmental awards.

Emilia Carlson | Bei Tse & May Chao Award

This award is presented to a senior within the department who has displayed extraordinary scholarly achievements and promise.  It is given in honor of Professor Bei Tse Chao, a pioneering scholar in the diverse fields of metal cutting, heat transfer, and multipurpose flow, and Professor May Kiang Chao, an assistant professor of library administration at Illinois. In 1952, Professor May Kiang Chao began her career at the university shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in library science from Illinois. Professor Bei Tse Chao began his career at Illinois in 1948. He held fellowships with ASME and ASEE. In 1975, Bei Tse Chao was named Head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, serving from 1975 to 1987. In 1985, he was among the first group of University of Illinois faculty to receive the University Scholar Award. 

Emilia is a senior studying Mechanical Engineering and minoring in the Hoeft Technology and Management Program. Her graduation date is May 2023. She is president of Women in MechSE, and has been involved in American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Alpha Omega Epsilon throughout her time at University of Illinois. Outside of academics, Emilia enjoys rock climbing, intramurals, hiking, and playing guitar. After college, she will be working at Procter & Gamble in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Anastasia Hernandez, Zachary Kocinski | Clarence L. & Harriette Johnson Award

The Clarence L. and Harriette Johnson Award was established by Clarendon Lee Johnson (BS Marketing 1954) and Erle Johnson (BSGE 1949) in memory of their father, Clarence L. Johnson. Although Clarence was not a graduate of Illinois, he developed a strong attachment to the MechSE Department through his love of steam engines. This award is determined by scholarship, personal qualities, and professional and cultural activities. 

Anastasia is a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Game Studies and Design. She is a team member of the Chassis Sub-Team for Offroad Illini and is the Publicity Co-Chair and part of the Technical Team of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). She also works as a recruitment Ambassador for the Morrill Engineering Program.

Zachary studies Mechanical Engineering and is also a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Technical Projects Team. Currently, he is studying abroad in Paris, France, shaping his skills to adapt to new environments and he is excited to bring his global mindset back to Illinois.

Justin Kao, Nikita Lukhanin | O. A. Leutwiler Award

This award is given to a senior in mechanical engineering or engineering mechanics in honor of Oscar A. Leutwiler, professor of mechanical engineering and head of the department from 1934 to 1945.  Established in 1991, recipients of this award are determined based upon scholarship, personal qualities, and professional and cultural activities. Recipients have their names placed on a plaque and receive a certificate and monetary award.

Justin is a senior in mechanical engineering. He has been heavily involved in leading Eco Illini Supermileage and in research where he works with conducting ceramic matrix composites in Dr. Panerai’s hypersonics lab. He is passionate about enabling meaningful, positive change through developing key space technologies and has pursued his passion for space through internships at Stoke Space Technologies, United Launch Alliance, NASA Johnson Space Center, and Boeing. He dreams to one day play a key role in contributing to a sustainable, highly productive space economy that benefits humankind.  

Nikita came into Illinois as a transfer student and is a senior in Mechanical Engineering. Nikita is an undergraduate research assistant with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. And even with only four semesters on campus he has found a way to be involved with iRobotics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Illinois Triathlon Club, and the American Chemical Society.

Aditya Dutt, Heejun Yang | Fred B. Seely Award

This award honors an outstanding senior in engineering mechanics and was established by Professor Fred B. Seely’s sons in his honor.  Professor Seely was department head of the former Theoretical and Applied Mechanics Department from 1934 until 1952. Professor Seely was not only a leader in the field of mechanics, but also had a gift for enriching the educational experiences and creative talents of his students. Every action and deed coupled with a warm and friendly attitude displayed his sincere desire to be helpful and thoughtful of others. Meticulous in his technical writing and setting high moral and ethical standards in his own activities, he inspired those who worked with him to develop professionally to their fullest capability.  

Aditya is a senior in Engineering Mechanics with a double minor in Physics and Computer Science. He is also doing research in soft robotics and controls. Aditya is the current Review Lead for the Society of Engineering Mechanics, is a tutor for the Center for Academic Resources in Engineering.

Heejun is a senior in Engineering Mechanics with a specialization in dynamics and control. As an entry-level mechanical engineer with experience in mechanical design within the home appliance industry, he is highly motivated to create innovative technical solutions to address everyday challenges.

MechSE Student Design Awards

James & Loretta Bayne Award for Outstanding Senior Design Project

Spring 2022 winners: Pratt & Whitney, Jet Engine Hoist – Oliver Bishop, Skander Boudabbous, Josh Carpenter, Henry Feldhaus, Alex Hall, Alek Hall, and Matthew Orfaly
Fall 2022 winners: Sandia National Lab, Mechanical Fixture Design – Nabeeha Ahmed, Joel Cropsey, Alyssa Hawe, Jacob Snapp, Danielle Yingst

This award is presented in honor of Professor James W. Bayne to a Senior Design team that had an outstanding project from the previous fall and spring semesters.

MechSE Interest Area Awards

Sophie Grabis | John C. & Elizabeth J. Chato Award in Bioengineering

The John C. and Elizabeth J. Chato Award in Bioengineering was established in 2001 and is given to an outstanding undergraduate student engaged in activities related to bioengineering. Professor John C. Chato joined the faculty of mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois in 1964 and retired in 1996. He was instrumental in establishing the campus-wide Bioengineering Program and was the first chairman of its executive committee. Elizabeth Chato earned a B.S. degree in zoology from the University of Cincinnati in 1954, and later worked as a Laboratory Technician with the Department of Horticulture at Illinois. 

Sophie is graduating in Mechanical Engineering this May, completing her degree in just three years. She will be pursuing a Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering (M.Eng.ME) with a concentration in Technology and Entrepreneurship here this fall. She is the current Business Director of the Jackson Innovation Studio and does undergraduate research with Professor Bill King on additively manufactured aircraft components. In her spare time, Sophie enjoys engaging in her Polish heritage, traveling, cooking, and exercising. 

Ethan Moore | A. G. Friederich Memorial Award

The A. G. Friederich Memorial Award is given to a junior or senior in mechanical engineering or engineering mechanics who has a special interest in machine design. 

Ethan is a senior in Mechanical Engineering and will be graduating in May. He has independently developed aquatic robots and machine learning algorithms to monitor and forecast environmental hazards. As an Undergraduate Researcher in the Augmented Listening Lab, he leads robot design for a Mechatronic Acoustic Research System and previously developed farming robots with the Distributed Autonomous Systems Lab. Ethan founded and runs a weekly robotics program for disadvantaged students that has blossomed into four competitive FLL (First Lego League) teams. Ethan’s efforts have garnered him national recognition as an Astronaut, Udall, and II-VI Scholar. 

Keerthi Kamath | Seichi Konzo Memorial Award

The Seichi Konzo Memorial Award is given to an outstanding undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering. 

Keerthi is a senior in Mechanical Engineering and will be graduating this May. On campus, she has held leadership positions in two registered student organizations (RSOs i-MADE and SWE Team Tech), in addition to being an undergraduate researcher with the Wave Propagation and Metamaterials Lab. After graduating, Keerthi will be joining Northrop Grumman as a Mechanical Hardware Engineer.

Ian Kinsel, Luke Markuson | Helmut H. and Rudi K. Korst Award

The Helmut H. and Rudi K. Korst Award, established in 1984, is presented in honor of Professor Helmut H. Korst and his wife Rudi K. Korst and is funded by the Korst children. Professor Korst served on the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1948 to 1984 and as head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from 1962 to 1974. Rudi was his gracious partner and teammate throughout Helmut's tenure in the department and played an active role in assimilating the students, spouses and partners into the university culture. This award is presented to a senior in mechanical engineering who displays excellence in thermal science courses and in overall scholarship. 

Ian is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science. After graduation, he is looking forward to working on his master's degree. Recently, Ian has been working as a course assistant for the computer science department. He is hoping to continue exploring teaching in the future. Ian is an Eagle Scout and a Chancellor’s Scholar.

Luke discovered his passion for thermodynamics after taking his first heat transfer course in the spring of 2022. After enjoying his time assisting with research as an undergraduate, Luke is planning on attending graduate school in the field of thermal sciences. With a lifelong passion for sustainability, originating from his time in the Boy Scouts, Luke sees his future working to make the world a cleaner, more efficient, and more livable place for everyone.

Felipe Pallo Rivadeneira | TAM Merit Award

Established in the early 1980s by the former Theoretical and Applied Mathematics Department, this award honors a student's special contributions to engineering mechanics programs and activities. The TAM Merit Award is not an annual award, but rather, is given when a student's contributions during the year are determined to have been significant. 

Felipe is a junior studying Engineering Mechanics with an interest in fluid dynamics. He is serving as the president of the Society for Engineering Mechanics (SEM) where they have projects and social events for anyone interested. In the future, Felipe will continue his education in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics to become an educator.

Aaryaman Patel, Graham Campbell | Swanson Environmental Sustainability Award

This award is presented to a student who has demonstrated significant interest in working to protect the earth’s ozone layer and stabilizing the global climate by working with technologies that reduce emissions of ozone-depleting fuels, to use fossil fuels more efficiently, and to produce energy from non-fossil fuels. 

Graham will graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering this May. He is the President of Eco Illini Supermileage. Graham is also an assistant undergraduate advisor in the Undergraduate Programs Office and tour guide for prospective students and donors. He will be working with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, OH upon graduation.

Aaryaman is a junior in Mechanical Engineering whose interests extend far beyond the walls of just engineering. From coding his own website to composing music on the weekends, he is always working on exciting new projects. He started The UIUC Talkshow on campus - an initiative that seeks to engage in deep conversations with some of the most interesting people on campus. He is also the Mechanical Lead of Illini Solar Car, a team pushing the frontier of renewables and electric vehicles, and an avid photographer.

Madison Yang, Yintao Zhou, Qianmeng Chen | Kenneth J. Trigger Award

The Kenneth J. Trigger Award, in honor of Professor Trigger, is presented to a senior in mechanical engineering or engineering mechanics who has displayed an interest in manufacturing and has demonstrated excellence in that area, as well as overall scholarship. 

Qianmeng is a senior in Mechanical Engineering and will graduate in May with a dual degree in Statistics and a minor in Computer Science. She is a current research assistant with Professor Shao on the Ultrasonic Metal Welding Monitor System. She is also a course assistant for Signal Processing.  We thank you for your service!

Madison will graduate from Mechanical Engineering in May 2023 with a minor in Mathematics. She is the current captain for Baja SAE. Madison will work for Milwaukee Tool following graduation.

Yintao is a senior in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is a research assistant with the Energy Transport Research Lab as well as with the Human Dynamics and Controls Lab. Yintao is also a member of Off-Road Illini, Baja.

MechSE Student Society Awards

Joanna Silva | Patrick B. and Janet A. Flanagan ASME Senior Leadership Award

Each year, a senior in the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is selected by the organization’s faculty adviser. This award was established in 1974, and selection is based upon leadership within the society. 

Joanna is a senior in mechanical engineering, graduating this May. On campus she is the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a co-welding lead for Off-Road Illini. Post graduation Joanna will be working at Proctor & Gamble in St.Louis, Missouri. 

Jensen Blum | James W. Bayne Award for Outstanding Senior in Pi Tau Sigma

James W. Bayne attended the University of Illinois and earned both his BSME and MSME from the former Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. During his career in engineering education, Professor Bayne dedicated himself to fostering the careers of young people with an interest in engineering. This award is presented to an outstanding senior in Pi Tau Sigma determined by scholarship, activities, and service. 

Jensen is a senior in mechanical engineering, graduating this May. Outside of classes, he is a Machining Lead on the Off-road Illini Baja SAE team and the External Vice President of Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society. These two organizations, along with his courses, has helped him develop invaluable technical and soft skills over the past few years. Jensen hopes to build on these university experiences as he begins his career at Navistar, Inc. as an R&D Engineer on the powertrain team.

Hrushikesha Athreya, Noboru Myers | ASME Junior Leadership Award

Established in 1975, this award is given to a junior studying mechanical engineering and is based upon achievement and leadership within the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). 

Hrushi is a junior in both Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Physics. He is also pursuing a minor in Astronomy. He is a monitor for the Jackson Innovation Studio and an undergraduate research assistant with the Observational Cosmology lab. Hrushi is also the Co-Director of Product Development for ASME, the President of Illinois Robotics in Space and the Co-Director of Education for MechSE MakerWorks.

Noboru is currently a co-director of the Product Development Committee within ASME along with Hrushi. Together, they headed the creation of a committee last year to create a product to address a need within a community and give students experience with product design. In previous years, he has been a co-director of the Special Projects Committee and a project lead within the Special Projects Committee. Outside of ASME, Noboru is also involved in research at the KIMLAB, and sings in the University Chorus.

Tom Kunst | Pi Tau Sigma Sophomore Award

The Pi Tau Sigma Outstanding Sophomore Award is selected by the Illinois Alpha chapter of Pi Tau Sigma, a national mechanical engineering honors fraternity.  This award was established in 1962 and is given to the most outstanding sophomore in mechanical engineering each year.

Tom is a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering and is working to secure an internship this summer. He worked an internship last summer for the City of Elmhurst. He is involved in Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society, and Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity.

Kamden Damrow | GM / Philip W. Leistra Jr. Society of Automotive Engineers Award

This award was funded by General Motors in memory of Philip W. Leistra, Jr.  Mr. Liestra earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1969.  While working at General Motors, he was instrumental in acquiring financial resources from GM to support many Formula SAE race teams. The award is presented each year to an outstanding member of the SAE Student Chapter who is also a student in MechSE. 

Kamden is a senior studying mechanical engineering. He has been involved in Pi Tau Sigma, a mechanical engineering honors society, and Baja, an off-road car-building team competition. He has been the president of PTS for the last two years and runs the administration of the club as well as initiating new members into the organization. Kamden is also the president of Baja and is working on the transmission as his senior design. Upon graduation, he will work for Caterpillar in the Industrial Power Systems Division.

Alex Patel | Konzo/ASHRAE Engineers Award

The Central Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) established this award to honor the late Professor Seichi “Bud” Konzo, a key figure in the field of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration for nearly a half century. Professor Konzo earned his MS in mechanical engineering from Illinois in 1929 and was a member of the research staff and faculty of the university from that time forward. The beginning of his pioneering research preceded the commercial development of residential air conditioning by almost two decades. He retired in 1971 but remained an active participant in the department. The award is presented to an outstanding junior or senior who is an ASHRAE member. 

Alex is a first-generation undergraduate student. He had many internships during his time in MechSE at companies such as Volvo Trucks. Apart from that, he’s also enjoyed working in the Energy Transport Research Laboratory with Professor Nenad Miljkovic to explore research associated with HVAC systems. Through his experiences, he has been able to narrow his career interests down to computational analysis and will be graduating this May.

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This story was published March 29, 2023.