Spring 2015 Outstanding ASU Undergraduate Engineering Students
Each spring and fall semester special recognition is bestowed upon high-achieving and exemplary students graduating from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
Faculty members select one undergraduate student from each engineering degree program as the program’s Outstanding Graduate. Students are designated as Outstanding Graduates based primarily on their academic performance, both in classroom studies and in related research experience.
The honor also recognizes the students’ contributions to the success of student organizations and support for the Fulton Schools of Engineering educational mission through their service as peer mentors, teaching assistants, and their leadership roles on teams involved in engineering student projects and competitions.
The students selected as Outstanding Graduates for the 2015 spring semester are:
• Kristopher Dorer, Software Engineering
• Rachel Janke, Applied Science (Operation Management)
• James White, Informatics
Lindsey Baker, Graphic Information Technology
From dropping out of high school to Dean’s List, a 4.0 GPA, and being named Outstanding Graduate Student in the Graphic Information Technology Program. That’s Lindsey Baker’s story, and it’s an inspiration for those who might think that college is out of reach.
Baker, who earned her GED after leaving high school, was undoubtedly a smart woman who saw a bright future for herself. She chose Mesa Community College to get her career started and, after earning her associates in applied science degree, decided to keep going at ASU.
“I’m a creative-minded person, and also persuasive,” she said. “I chose graphic design and GIT because it wasn’t just graphics, it has an engineering component.”
Baker says she was able to get the most out of her undergraduate experience, thanks to public and private support she received that allowed her go to school full time. Some of the scholarships and awards she received include the San Tan Ford Scholarship, Donald & Dorothy Colee Scholarship, Harry A. Findor & O’Neil Printing Scholarship, Ethelmae S. Merriam Endowment and the Transfer Achievement Award.
While Baker said she focused most of her attention on academics, she was able to attend one of the hack-a-thon events on the Polytechnic Campus. It was there that she ended up meeting friends with whom she would go on the start her own business. Called Small Emperor, the technology business develops web applications.
“One of the most rewarding things about ASU has been the networks I have built,” said Baker. “I have been able to start my own business…and I am so grateful that ASU provided me with so many opportunities. It has been life changing.”
Baker noted that the faculty of the Polytechnic school is exceptional, and she had particularly fond praise for Deb Prewitt and Laurie Ralston.
“Professor Prewitt is a fantastic instructor! She is great at challenging me, has a critical eye and her feedback has been instrumental in my success,” said Baker. “Professor Ralston is a wonderfully supportive instructor and she motivates me to be successful. “
In addition she said she could not have done it without her mom and the positive support of her family.
Baker is coming back to the Polytechnic School for her master’s degree and will continue to grow her tech company.
Amy Baldwin, Computer Science
Amy Baldwin loves to knit and turned her passion for creating intricate and beautiful things into a love of coding.
“Prior to the start of freshman year, I read through the descriptions of all the different engineering majors offered at ASU and computer science just sounded like something I would enjoy,” Baldwin said. “I wanted to solve problems using my mind, not necessarily with my hands. Needless to say, I fell in love right away and it all worked out despite not having written a single line of code prior to college.”
The Prescott High School graduate was a member of Women in Computer Science for three years. She acted as the industry outreach coordinator and programming competition director for two years.
“One of the biggest achievements I had as part of the organization was the drastic expansion and increase in popularity of the annual programming competition,” Baldwin said.
The completion grew from 60 participants her sophomore year to over 90 each of the past two.
Baldwin got the attention of Google when she applied for the first of her two summer internships with the company. She was also awarded a 2014 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. “I gained invaluable industry experience and established lasting connections with my peers and other members of industry at Google during the internships.”
“As a Google Scholar, I have had the opportunity to connect with other inspiring and incredible women in computer science across the country and become part of a network of amazing women,” she said. “This has also increased my reach in regards to inspiring young girls to explore computer science, and encouraging others to not give up.”
Her work within Google paid off in the long term as well as she will begin her career as a software engineer with the company in August. She’ll be working on building new features for Google search in Mountain View, Calif.
“There are many opportunities just within the company for me to make an impact in nearly any area I desire; if some project stands out to me, I have the opportunity to work on what interests me,” said Baldwin. “Perhaps in the future I will end up starting up a new company, or joining a startup, or perhaps just joining another large tech company altogether.
“The possibilities are endless, and I will see where this path takes me. In addition to my goals as a software engineer, I also want to remain actively involved in inspiring the next generations of girls in computer science. “
Andrew Barkan, Mechanical Engineering
In high school Andrew Barkan found himself enthralled by problem-solving processes. That interest would evolve into “a fascination with the dynamics of all the things that move and interact in the physical world,” he said.
The attraction led to a choice to major in mechanical engineering when he entered ASU as a student in Barrett, The Honors College.
The graduate of Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix had set his sights on the university as a youngster when he and his family began going to ASU football games and became avid fans. When he later heard “high praise” for the engineering programs, it sealed the deal.
Soon his keen interest grew into a passion for research. “It’s been the most rewarding experience of my undergraduate years,” Barkan said.
He spent three of those years in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program, focusing on the design and development of a new kind of treadmill for studying the patterns of human gait – the locomotion resulting from the movement of human limbs.
His work in the Human Oriented Robotics and Control (HORC) Laboratory resulted in earning six FURI grants to support his research, lead authorship of an article published in a research journal, co-authorship of articles in two professional conference publications, and a pending application for an international patent.
HORC Lab director Panagiotis Artemiadis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, became his mentor.
“His guidance and teaching had the biggest influence on my development as a student and researcher,” Barkan said.
His research success gave him “an intense feeling of fulfillment,” he said, a feeling he wanted fellow undergraduates to experience. He volunteered as a FURI Fellow to encourage them to get involved in the program.
Barkan won the Outstanding Honors Thesis Award in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. He will continue studies in the fall for a master’s degree through the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering 4+1 program – after a summer internship with Raytheon Missile Systems.
He hopes to eventually earn a doctoral degree and pursue career goals of “expanding the horizons of human-machine interfaces” in the physical rehabilitation and augmentation fields, and in advancing space exploration technology.
Outside of studies and research, Barkan spends time working on sketch art.
“Drawing is a creative outlet for me. It takes precision and patience, but it’s very relaxing,” he said.
He is also into sports, playing football, baseball, basketball and soccer recreationally. One of his most memorable moments remains catching a touchdown pass in a high school football game on his birthday – after which the team’s cheerleaders sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
Chris (Frank) Brown, Environmental and Resource Management
“Majoring in environmental and resource management was the perfect fit for me, because it aligned with things that were important to me growing up, namely the environment,” said Chris Brown. “I grew up outside and it’s something I want my kids to be able to enjoy as they are growing up.”
Brown was raised in Austin, Texas, and worked at Dell and Seletron Technologies before coming to ASU. He originally started out as a computer science major, but found that programming was not his thing. So he drew from his childhood passion to find his career path.
He felt right at home at the Polytechnic School because of its diverse community that includes many non-traditional age students like him. In addition to his course work he is doing a paid internship with lecturer Albert Brown and assistant professor Kiril Hristovski on the Border 2020 Project. They are working on wastewater systems along the border in Mexico.
Brown also participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative. His project, under the mentorship of professor Hristovski, focused on phosphate remediation using nano technologies.
“Dr. Hristovski has been the most influential person during my time at ASU,” he said. “He encourages students and pushes them to do their best. He always gives us room to explore and learn what we love to do.”
Brown has earned a 3.76 GPA and been on the Dean’s list each semester. In addition to his coursework he is involved is several co-curricular activities, included the ERM student organization and as safety officer for ASU’s EcoCar team. He also is a teaching assistant in ERM, where he teaches water and wastewater treatment.
When he graduates with his bachelor’s degree, Brown will stay on at ASU where he will pursue his master’s degree in environmental and resource management. He hopes to eventually work in the water treatment, HAZMAT or the wastewater industry. Down the road, his dream is to work as a consultant.
“Working as an environmental consultant is a dream job, if you’re good, because you get to pick the contracts you want to take. It’s like owning your own business without actually owning your own business,” he said. “Plus you can still carry a career outside of consulting contracts without it interfering too much.”
If Brown could give words of advice to those considering college, it would be this: “You are never too old to go back to school.”
Kyle Brue, Industrial Engineering
Kyle Brue grew up knowing from a young age that he wanted to become an engineer. He chose to switch his major to industrial engineering his freshman year because of his interest in the field and his desire to own his own business in the future.
Brue is from Gilbert, Arizona where he graduated from Mesquite High School. He has a full-ride four-year scholarship from the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) that helped guide him to attend ASU.
In the NROTC Program, he has held multiple positions such as the Battalion Executive Officer. After graduation he will serve as a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.
“My biggest achievement to date is earning my commission as an Ensign in the Navy,” Brue says.
Brue has been named to the Dean’s list six times and credits a pair of faculty members as being influential in his success. “Dr. Linda Chattin and Dr. Dan Shunk have been my role models in the industrial engineering program. They have been my most influential professors here at ASU. They honestly do care about their students and their success.”
The Navy is in his immediate future, but he has bigger plans down the road as well. “I want to earn my M.B.A., an M.S.E. in systems engineering, and eventually own my own business where I can apply my education.”
What will he take away from his time at ASU? “The friends and experiences that I have made here are things that I will remember for the rest of my life. No matter what happens, I will always be a Sun Devil.”
Brandon Caffie, Computer Systems Engineering
Brandon Caffie said that deciding to be an engineer in college was a simple task because, “engineering challenges the individual to innovative and design new technologies that help improve the lives of many people. I personally love to help others live a better life, and using my mind to do so really motivated me to pursue engineering compared to any other field.”
The decision to become a computer systems engineering (CSE) major on the other hand came as an “accident.” At the age of seven, Caffie broke his family’s household computer.
“After I got disciplined, I decided to look inside what I believed to be at the time was a ‘magic box.’ I was awed at the discovery of noticing the components that made up such a complex computer, and knew I would become a computer engineer at that point,” he said.
He eventually settled on computer systems engineering as his major.
“I definitely had my doubts on CSE in the beginning, but Ryan Meuth and Kevin Burger (lecturers in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering) helped build the confidence I need to continue to pursue and succeed and have shown me that computer engineering is more than just algorithms, code, and systems,” Caffie said. “Through their guidance, I have learned the endless opportunities that will come my way if I stay dedicated to the field.“
He received $2,000 annually from the Buick Achievers Scholarship, presented by General Motors. The connection was something that Caffie believes was meant to be, for after graduation he will be working as a software developer for General Motors.
“With the fundamentals given to me from my courses in engineering, I plan to help create innovative technologies that can give GM the best services to customers all over the world,” he said.
His long-term career aspiration is to reform computer systems to have better performance than they currently do. He has done research on parallel architecture and has been intrigued by this concentration. He plans to understand computer software more in-depth and work on computer hardware independently as his focus after graduating.
The Cincinnati, Ohio native decided to attend ASU after doing research on the top engineering schools in America.
“I also saw great photos of the lifestyle that ASU students are accustomed to, and I wanted to become a part of that. More importantly, I knew that choosing ASU would help me become a better individual, for I would learn a lot about myself if I traveled to a university that prides itself on bringing out the best in its students.” Caffie said.
“I must say, the predictable cloudless weather for a majority of the year really was a great plus in my decision, given the fact that I have lived in rainy weather for a majority of my life. “
Caffie loves helping others live a better life and becoming the best that they can be, and it seems that ASU has returned the favor.
“What has been most rewarding about my undergraduate years at ASU is the wonderful people I have met,” he said. “I will cherish every single person I have met. Even if I met someone who I have talked to briefly during my time here, I know they have made a significant impact on the person I am both professionally and personally. What the ASU family has done for me, no other person outside of the family can replace. To the ASU family, I just want to say thank you for making a better Brandon Caffie.”
Katelyn Conrad, Biomedical Engineering
Katelyn Conrad was all about making a difference. Whether it was the lab, the classroom or in a student organization, she was making her presence felt.
“I would always see her in the lab and she would always be smiling and helping everyone out,” said Ashley Guerrero, lab partner and friend. “That is one thing about her that sticks out – she helped everyone out, no matter what. If you would ask her something, she would take a whole day out to work with you so that you get what you need. She would put everything aside for someone she knows.”
Conrad was close to completing her degree in biomedical engineering before she tragically died in a climbing accident in January. She was a student in Barrett, the Honors College, and was planning to complete her master’s degree in bioengineering through the 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program.
She was on the dean’s list and had been a recipient of the AIMS Scholarship, the 100 Club of Arizona Scholarship and the W. L. Gore Undergraduate Scholarship.
Conrad served as president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and participated in Alpha Eta Mu Beta and the ASU Outdoors Club. Conrad was a volunteer with Project C.U.R.E. and served as a lector at the ASU All Saints Catholic Center.
She participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and had received a travel grant to present her findings at the Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. She was an undergraduate teaching assistant and was a fixture in the lab for assistant professor Jeff La Belle.
“She was absolutely a special person,” says La Belle. “She was everything you would want in a student. She exemplified hard work.”
La Belle says Conrad was a true leader in the lab from her first day as a freshman.
“Like many Fulton Schools freshmen, she had energy,” said La Belle. “But Katie had focus, intensity and a goal. She hit the ground running digesting all the material and literature and asking for more, then sending us material she found. She reminded me more of a new grad student, not a freshman.”
In the lab Conrad wanted to build a better sense of community, so she organized a group, La Belle’s Army, to create a social connection among the students. By the time she was a sophomore, she was already leading a project team, working with students from all backgrounds and ages, up to graduate students.
Guerrero worked closely with her in the lab on their capstone project, creating a novel approach to a 3-D printed prosthetic hand. Conrad had worked on the concept for four years and had developed multiple prototypes and an actuator system to make the fingers move. Guerrero joined the project two years ago and was amazed at Conrad’s dedication to the effort.
“She worked so diligently,” she said. “Most of the time in class she would be pulling up designs and trying to figure out new ways to implement it. She would go to other campuses for medical devices, talk to people and come up with new ways to improve it .”
La Belle said Conrad has left a lasting legacy within his lab, within the School of Biological Health Systems Engineering and most importantly, within everyone she interacted with.
“I am reminded everyday about caring, being helpful, thoughtful, kind considerate and compassionate, all the traits Katie showed everyday in the lab,” he said. “She was such a wonderful human being.”
Alison Gibson, Aerospace Engineering
Alison Gibson is getting her second undergraduate degree from ASU, adding an aerospace engineering degree to a previous one in cognitive psychology.
She expects expertise in the two fields to expand opportunities for career success.
“I think it gives me a unique perspective as an engineer,” she said. “Most of my engineering research has benefitted from my knowledge of human cognition.”
Her knowledge in these areas was especially beneficial during six semesters conducting research in brain-machine interface technology in ASU’s Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab.
Gibson was able to join the lab by earning support from the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative program and the ASU/NASA Space Grant Program.
She will do research in related areas when she begins studies in the aeronautics and astronautics graduate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.
The graduate of Horizon High School in Phoenix is following her passion for space exploration and her “ultimate dream” to be an astronaut and perhaps help to colonize Mars.
“I’d also be happy to contribute to major advances in the technology to help us, and robots, get there,” Gibson said. “I believe space exploration will play a major role in humanity’s survival.”
A big highlight of undergraduate years was being the lead engineer for the ASU Dust Devils Microgravity Team.
NASA selected the student team to participate in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. It involved an astrophysics experiment for which the students went on a flight on the ZERO-G (zero gravity) jet plane.
“Getting to float in microgravity with astronauts was a big reinforcement of my goals in engineering,” Gibson said.
She has been a member of Tau Beta Pi-The Engineering Honor Society, the international Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, and the Daedalus Astronautics student organization at ASU.
These achievements helped her earn a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship to support her graduate studies, which she will begin after spending the summer working for SpaceX, a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.
Gibson made the Dean’s List each semester, but said a more rewarding accomplishment was her research success.
“Learning about physics and engineering design principals is exciting, but nothing is as fulfilling as applying that knowledge in the real world and watching it work,” she said.
She credits her research mentor, Panagiotis Artemiadis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
“He definitely helped me become an engineer. He as been a great source of knowledge, experience and support,” she said.
Beyond her efforts in academia, Gibson became a certified yoga instructor and has been teaching yoga for four years.
“My yoga practice has helped me survive engineering studies,” she said. “It gave me the patience, focus and stamina to get through 14-hour days.”
Zachary Gordon, Chemical Engineering
An early interest in math and science rapidly grew into an intense pursuit for a young Zachary Gordon.
“I created extra math problems on tests in elementary school just to get more of a challenge, and science experiments were my favorite part of the day,” he recalled.
Chemistry was his favorite subject at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, and by the time he graduated Gordon had decided engineering was the best path to a career that combined his passions.
Entering ASU as a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, he chose to major in chemical engineering and minor in mathematics.
His choice of to attend ASU was swayed by the opportunities the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering offered for undergraduates to do research.
He got five semesters of research experience through Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, focusing on exploring ways to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries.
In addition to research accomplishments, he made the Dean’s List each semester, earned grants to support his studies, was active in the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and served as a tutor to fellow students.
He also completed engineering internships with Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and the consumer products company Henkel.
Gordon found himself challenged to cope with the multitude of responsibilities both in and outside the classroom. He credits the teacher who helped him learn to manage the load he with having a big impact on his success as a student. Candace Chan, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, was Gordon’s research advisor for three years.
“Through her guidance, I grew a lot in my ability to perform and organize research, draft research proposals and carry out laboratory techniques,” he said. “I relied on the skills I learned in her laboratory to perform my job duties in summer internships.”
Chan also influenced his decision to go on to graduate studies, which he will do through the Fulton Schools of Engineering’s 4+1 graduate program.
First, he will be work a summer internship with Texas Instruments in a position that will give him experience in semiconductor manufacturing, an industry he’s interested in entering after earning a master’s degree.
“I want to be a contributor to big technological innovations,” he said. “Maybe I can collaborate on devising manufacturing processes for the next generation of semiconductors.”
Among other aspirations, Gordon wants to revive his musical side. He played clarinet and guitar in high school but found little time to keep at it in college.
“After finishing school, I hope to join a symphonic band to renew my clarinet skills and take piano lessons,” he said.
Shinya Ishizaki, Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Shinya Ishizaki earned his first degree in economics in Japan. During his studies he became curious about irrational behavior in the marketplace and turned to behavioral economics to help explain it.
“The experience triggered me to want to study more about the micro approach to human behavior, and that is why I wanted to study industrial and organizational psychology,“ he said.
Ishizaki came to ASU as a New American University Scholar. He found the Polytechnic campus to be a perfect fit.
“There are two reasons that ASU attracted me: kindness and spirit of loyalty,” he said. “ASU students are very kind and helpful, not only for friends, but also for strangers. The kindness is very comfortable to me. They also love their university. I like the Sun Devil spirit.”
Ishizaki said the most rewarding experience of his undergraduate years was his selection for the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI). He conducted his own research, under the mentorship of assistant professor Hyunjin Song, which explored how the difficulty of reading affects the evaluation of resumes. He varied resume presentation, such as print fonts, as a manipulation of difficulty.
“When people evaluate someone, biases caused by their minds are critical problems that disturb fair evaluations,” Ishizaki said. “It was my first experience with funded research and I learned about both the stress and pleasure of it.”
As an international student, Ishizaki said there were many challenging situations along the way. If he could choose one, it would be “keeping a good GPA.” He will be graduating Summa Cum Laude.
After commencement, he will continue his graduate studies in industrial and organizational psychology in the UK. He has offers from the University of Sheffield, University of Nottingham, City University London, Aston University and the University of London, Birkbeck, but has not yet chosen which he will attend.
Ishizaki said he has two academic and career aspirations. One is to help improve well-being and productivity from the psychological viewpoint.
“Since money is not the biggest issue for me, and for some entrepreneurs I have met, I would like to clarify our motivations to work and our decision-making in the workplace.”
The other area of focus centers on validity and reliability of assessment. For example, Ishizaki said, he would like to clarify how individual difference, such as personality, self-efficacy, or past experience may cause bias when someone evaluates another.
Career-wise, he would like to eventually be a psychologist working at a company that is seeking to make a better workplace for its employees. This would be a place where he could use the knowledge from his research in his job.
“My ultimate goal that I would like to feel is that there was some very difficult times, but my life was fantastic when I put it all together,” Ishizaki said. “To achieve the ultimate goal, I would like to take life one day at a time. It is the biggest dream I want to challenge and enjoy for life.
“I would like to thank all faculty and friends whom I’ve met. I appreciate that my mother, Michiko Ishizaki, and my grandmother, Shizuko Ishizaki, have always supported me.”
Brett Larsen, Electrical Engineering
Brett Larsen’s interest in engineering was inspired by science fiction. He wanted to develop futuristic technology that would improve people’s lives, and chose electrical engineering because he was interested in circuit design and physics.
To say Larsen is a bright, motivated and hard working is a bit of an understatement. The Barrett Honors College student knew before he came to ASU that he was looking for experiences beyond the classroom. He wanted to get involved in research as soon as possible, and he had heard professors in engineering could provide him that opportunity and mentor him along the way.
He started research at ASU’s Flexible Electronics and Display Center his freshman year as part of the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, and his work on signal processing soon led to a paper presentation at SPIE’s Defense, Sensing, and Security Conference. His current project is working on electric and magnetic field imaging, “potentially using flexible electronics,” Larsen said. “The main goal is to be able to quickly detect and disarm explosives by being able to image currents and voltages in a circuit.”
After his sophomore year, Larsen interned at Sandia National Laboratories as a member of the lab’s custom circuit design group. It was there that his path took a turn.
“I enjoyed working at a large national laboratory, but I realized that my interests lay outside of pure circuit design the day I took a tour of the Z-machine where one of our ultra-fast imaging arrays was to be used,” he said. “The facility sparked my interest in participating in large collaborations in the pursuit of new physics. This inspired me to add a major in physics and apply to work at CERN.”
The following summer Larsen conducted research at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, as one of only 15 U.S. undergraduates. He said it was his “most rewarding experience.”
“It hosts the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, and I had the opportunity to work with physicists and engineers on developing advanced detector technology for future runs of the LHC,” said Larsen.
“I also had the opportunity to work with students from around the world, attend lectures by some of the foremost experts in particle physics, and travel around Europe on the weekends. It was an incredible experience.”
During his time at ASU, Larsen received the Daniel Zusman Scholarship for Engineering Excellence, the Gary and Diane Tooker Scholarship for Engineering, the International Switching Symposium Endowed Scholarship, and the Dean’s Exemplar Student Award. He also was recently awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier award for undergraduates studying science, math and engineering.
Larsen gives a shout-out to professors David Allee, Michael Goryll and Antonia Papandreou-Suppappola, who were his most influential teachers and mentors.
In addition to his classes and research, Larsen found a variety of co-curricular opportunities at ASU. He has worked as an engineering peer mentor in the honors dorms and currently leads a science club at a local elementary school. He also is a member of the Barrett Choir.
Following graduation, Larsen will pursue a doctorate in physics at Stanford University. His goal is a career that combines computational physics research, science and technology policy and U.S. science education.
Mason Phillips, Construction Management
Mason Phillips said he “fell in love” within the first month of his freshman year at ASU.
He came to college with only a vague idea of what he might want to choose as a major. But after only a few weeks in some introductory construction classes, he got strong feelings that construction management might be his calling.
Those feelings turned out to be a reliable guide.
The graduate of Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California, made the Dean’s List at ASU each semester. His academic performance earned him the Concrete Industry Management Scholastic Achievement Award to support for his studies for five semesters.
He applied what he was learning in the classroom to volunteer work, helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity and wheelchair ramps for the Arizona Ramp Project.
Phillips has been involved in student chapters of the American Concrete Institute, Sigma Lambda Chi (the construction management honor society), and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). He is ending his undergraduate years as the president of the AGC chapter.
Phillips competed with fellow ASU students in four Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) student construction management competitions against other students from the top construction management schools in the country. He captained two ASU teams to second-place finishes in the national ASC competitions.
After two summer internships with the Hensel Phelps construction company, he has accepted a job with the company’s Southern California operations.
His most rewarding experiences during his undergraduate years has come from “the tight-knit community I have become part of at [ASU’s] Del E. Webb School of Construction,” he said. “Being in that community, and the leadership roles I’ve had in [student organizations], has given me skills that will help me prosper.”
Two particular members of that community – construction management faculty members Edwin Weaver and Aaron Cohen – have had a big influence on Phillips.
Cohen, advisor to the AGC student chapter, became a valuable mentor, while Weaver “helped me develop an outlook on the life that will help me continue to grow as a leader,” he said.
For now, Phillips is looking forward to getting out into the field in his first full-time construction management job, “but I can see myself owning a construction company in the future,” he said.
When not at work, he will be where he was when he took breaks from studies at ASU – outdoors, on land or water, off-road driving in the desert, jet-skiing on lakes, fishing, camping, sport shooting and hiking.
Logan Salaki, Aviation Programs
Logan Salaki grew up in Versailles, Missouri, watching B-2 Spirits fly regularly over his house. It was then that his interest of aviation was sparked.
After visiting control towers in Missouri and “seeing how cool the job was.” He decided he wanted to be an air traffic controller.
Salaki chose ASU because he knew “that the Polytechnic campus would be a great place to pursue an aviation management education. It has high-tech aviation facilities, and simulators, and is a great location right next to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport,” he said.
A Barrett Honors College student and recipient of a Provost Scholarship, Hendrick Foundation Scholarship and San Tan Ford Scholarship, among others, Salaki maintains a 4.0 GPA. His majors are air traffic management and aeronautical management technology.
He is treasurer of Alpha Eta Ro Flight Fraternity, a member of the Campus Ambassadors and Wildlife Students Restoration Association, and is active in intramural sports. He also is a youth leader in his church.
“I’m very proud of the work I did with the Barrett Honors College on a summer program that taught eighth-graders critical thinking skills and how to work effectively on teams,” he said.
Salaki noted that there isn’t one faculty member who stands out above the rest because “all of the faculty at ASU have taken me under their wing and helped me succeed.
“It has been rewarding to come to a place where faculty and administrators truly care about us. They to go out of their way to give us the chance to succeed, connecting us with opportunities, internships and other things that benefit us.”
Salaki has been working for the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in airport operations as an intern since 2014. He also interned with the FAA at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport last summer.
Salaki hopes to become an air traffic controller at a large airport, and possibly work his way into air traffic management. Until then, he plans to continue working at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway after graduation.
Carl Scott, Manufacturing Engineering
That “Ah-Ha!” moment came for Carl Scott when he saw his daughter’s first ultrasound. Right then and there he knew he was on the right life path.
“Pursuing engineering not only fit well with my skills and interests, but also will let me provide comforts for my family,” he said.
A career in manufacturing engineering was an easy decision. Scott considers himself a “math-minded person, very analytical,” and engineering makes sense for him.
He chose ASU because it had “great rankings” and he could stay close to home.
It is apparent that, for Scott, family comes first. If there is anything you could say comes a close second, it would be cars. He was a race car mechanic for eight years before attending Scottsdale Community College for a year and then transferring to ASU. He has been racing go-karts, formula cars and sedans for more than 20 years.
At ASU Scott is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Team. He is most proud that he was part of the team when they designed the gearbox and went to SME and won the AeroDef Competition in 2014 – the industry’s most acclaimed manufacturing event.
He also volunteered for SAE World in Motion and worked with junior high school students on their engineering projects. SAE International is focused on mobility engineering.
“I love the project-based curriculum in his program and appreciate the practical experience I am receiving,” he said. “The most challenging part of school is finding time to sleep!”
Scott already has a job offer waiting for him after he graduates. He will be moving into a manufacturing engineer position at Benchmark Electronics, managing cleanroom assembly and some machining. He hopes that in the future he will be an engineering department manager and, being a quick study, is open to any industry sector or company where an opportunity might arise.
He is extremely proud of being on the Dean’s List, with a 3.94 GPA. He had a long road coming back to school and is very proud of his academic accomplishments.
Scott eventually plans go on the graduate school, but will take some time off as he ponders programs in engineering and business management.
For now, he and his wife Allison are happily awaiting the birth of their second child. Down the road he says his “dream would be to race go-carts around the country with his kids and see them develop into wonderful adults. Then grandkids!”
Steven Sherant – Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering
There’s nothing less than grand-scale ambition in Steven Sherant’s long-term career aspirations.
He wants to “design superstructures, like skyscrapers,” he said, “and if at all possible in my lifetime, I would like to be part of creating a space elevator.”
Such goals would likely not be possible had he stayed with his first plan to major in business or accounting. But while at Paradise Valley Community College, Sherant discovered an affinity for math and physics and learned he could apply them to an engineering career.
When the graduate of Pinnacle High School in Phoenix transferred to ASU, the courses that interested him most were in civil engineering. He would go on to make the Dean’s List every semester.
He has been an active member of the ASU student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, especially in helping to lead student teams in regional steel bridge and concrete canoe civil engineering competitions.
His most challenging semester came when he took a full course load while working an internship, serving as manager of a concrete canoe project and design captain for the steel bridge team, and being an undergraduate teaching assistant for two courses.
“It really challenged my time-management skills and taught me a new definition of hard work,” he said.
He counts his time as a teaching assistant as the most rewarding.
“I was unsure about doing it, but I learned that I really enjoy helping people who want to learn,” Sherant said. “There is nothing more rewarding than being the reason that something finally clicks for someone. Their excitement is so genuine and contagious.”
The biggest influence on his growth as a student was civil engineering professor Keith Hjelmstad.
“His innovative teaching style really changed the way that I think about things, and he rewarded and acknowledged hard work,” Sherant said. “He was the first professor to ask me to be an undergraduate teaching assistant, which was cool to me because I wasn’t expecting it. I always learned something new from him, whether it was about engineering or about life.”
Outside of engineering, he remains enthusiastic about maintaining his basketball skills. He played competitively for 13 of his first 18 years, and continues to play recreationally.
Despite his academic achievements, one of the more memorable moments of his life remains when he hit a winning three-point shot (“Nothing but net,” he said) at the end of a game.
Sherant will pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering through the Fulton Schools of Engineering 4+1 program. He’ll work an internship for PK Associates, a structural engineering consulting company, with expectations of a full-time position with the company after earning a graduate degree.
Bethany Smith, Materials Science and Engineering
Bethany Smith attributes her academic success to discovering that she could learn by teaching.
As a freshman, she became a research assistant to materials science and engineering professor Stephen Krause, whose work includes developing effective methods of teaching engineering.
“I learned how to teach materials science and engineering in an easy-to-understand way. That greatly increased my confidence in my own engineering abilities,” said Smith, a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College.
“Getting to help other students learn through my work with professor Krause was my most rewarding experience,” she said.
The graduate of Highland High School in Gilbert found other ways to learn from educating others.
Since her sophomore year she has been on the executive board of the Fulton Ambassadors, which promotes the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering through public outreach.
Smith was active in the ASU chapter of Material Advantage, which promotes interest in materials science and engineering.
She also learned important lessons through collaborations with other students.
She recalls struggling with a big group of fellow materials science and engineering majors to complete a particularly difficult lab report only a day before the Thanksgiving holiday break.
“None us gave up even though even though it was really hard. We worked together and got it done, and everyone made their flights home,” she said. “I knew then that I was in the right major because of how everyone stuck together and persevered. I hope I find that kind of teamwork in the workplace.”
A winner of a National Merit Scholarship in high school, Smith has continued to be an academic standout in college, making the Dean’s List each semester.
She has excelled as well in the laboratory, primarily through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative. Her work focused on a novel concept for applying techniques used in the paper-folding art of origami to improve the energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
Her plans include an extra year at ASU to earn a master’s degree through the Fulton Schools of Engineering 4+1 graduate studies program.
“After that, it’s either go get a Ph.D. or go to work,” Smith said.
She would like to do research and development in the solar energy industry, helping to make solar power more economical. She would also like to someday teach engineering at the university level.
Beyond her profession, she plans to maintain her musical versatility. Smith plays saxophone, clarinet and flute, and performs with a band at weddings and other events.
“I also play video games, just for fun,” she said.
Kaitlyn Smith, Engineering Management
Kaitlyn “Katie” Smith loved and flourished in her math and science courses throughout her time at Highland High School in Gilbert, Ariz. so she decided she wanted to study engineering in college. She switched majors and became an engineering management student when she decided she wanted to work within all departments of a company or project and work with people.
Smith has enjoyed campus life outside of engineering and has been very involved with the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at ASU serving as both the New Member Director and as the Chief Recruiting Officer in her time with the Delta Epsilon chapter of the sorority.
“Joining Kappa Alpha Theta introduced me to my best friends whom I would have never met without this organization as well as opened many leadership and internship opportunities,” Smith said. “Leading my chapter through recruitment was an overwhelming but incredibly rewarding experience. Being able to see those friendships that were developed during that long and tedious process continue to prosper and flourish today is extremely gratifying. Knowing that I left a positive and memorable impact on Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Epsilon gives me an insurmountable feeling of pride upon leaving these friends that turned into sisters.”
The honors student has a 4.0 GPA and received a Regent’s High Honors Scholarship from the Arizona Department of Education on behalf of the Arizona Board of Regents.
Smith says she wants to be a part of a world-changing company and become head of a program or project that has a lasting effect on the betterment and well being of our Earth. “My dream is waking up excited to go to work everyday, to have the ability and resources to make big change and impact many lives.”
She just accepted a position as a project manager in the IT department of Aetna. “This position enables me to be a part of one of the largest giants in the healthcare industry that is determined to significantly improve all aspects of our suffering system. It gives me the opportunity, resources and motivation to enhance lives through new solutions and the development of sophisticated technology support.”
Randi Taylor, Engineering
It was by chance, Randi Taylor said, that she enrolled in the engineering program at The Polytechnic School. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made.
But maybe it wasn’t as random as she thinks. Taylor was an engineering major when she attended Rice University in the late 1990s. She changed her major to linguistics for a number of reasons, but one of them was that she did not see engineering as an opportunity to help people around her.
“One thing that has become clear to me during my time at ASU is that, in the coming decades, engineers will play an important role in shaping the way our society will function and interact with our environment and societies around the world,” Taylor said.
Her desire to help people led her to a career in social services after she earned her bachelor’s degree from Rice in 2002. She worked in that field for seven years, helping children and families. The married mother of four children, ages 8, 6, 4 and 4 (twins) also worked as a stay at home mom for several years.
Calling herself an “introvert,” Taylor realized that she was not well suited for social services, a “very emotionally taxing field.” While the Altadena, California, native moved around a lot, she graduated high school from Mountain View in Mesa, so the Polytechnic campus was a good place to make a life change.
Taylor said the challenges of being an older student balancing family needs, school and a job can be daunting. The biggest hurdle, however, was finding her self-confidence.
“My first day of classes I was literally sick to my stomach. I remember thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ But I stuck with it,” she said. “At the beginning of my second semester I had a class with competency-based grading. We took the pretest and, although I got a few questions right, I got no competencies. My normal reaction would have been to be pretty upset with myself, but I just remember thinking, ‘I’m going to learn a lot this semester.’ That as a breakthrough for me.”
Taylor has been able to achieve a 3.89 GPA and worked on the STEAM Machine Clubs Pilot Program for the past two year, where she coordinated the implementation of 35 engineering-oriented after school programs for middle-school-aged children.
She said that three professors, in particular, were instrumental in her success.
“Dr. Odesma Dalrymple put more effort than anyone into making sure that I had research experience and that I was well-equipped to apply to graduate school,” she said. “My discussions with Dr. Adam Carberry very often begin with, ‘Calm down,’ followed by him helping me to understand that, despite whatever my current issues are, I am completely capable of succeeding as a student and future engineer,” she said.
“Of Dr. Pavlos Mikellides’ classes, I will say that I have never done so poorly on tests while learning so much. That is a testament to the high standards he sets for all his students.”
Taylor is planning to attend graduate school to study for her doctorate in mechanical engineering. She was accepted to five programs with funding for four at the University of Maryland, University of Notre Dame, University of Florida and Virginia Tech. She accepted admission to the University of Maryland and will be moving with her family in August.
After graduate school she hopes to work at a national lab on issues related to energy and sustainability.
Taylor said she could not have succeeded without the “huge sacrifices” made by her family and their support. She also met so many “wonderful people, both students and faculty, who have made this a really amazing educational experience.”
David Wolfgramm, Engineering Technology
David Wolfgramm alternates the cups in his cupboard one up, one down. Without even thinking, he did this be more space efficient. And it works.
“I know it is a silly example, but my mind works in this manner with almost everything,” he said. “I have always enjoyed making things more efficient, or ‘lean’ as they say in manufacturing, whether is be time, cost, space efficiency, whatever. It is like a game to me, to look at a process and see how to make it better.”
Wolfgramm, who hails from Kennewick, Washington, had his associate’s degree and worked at Lockhead Martin for more than five years. He decided to move his family to Arizona to complete his education and chose the manufacturing engineering program at the Polytechnic School because he felt it was the best in the western U.S.
“Now that it is located in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering I have the best of both worlds,” he said.
Wolfgramm loves the Polytechnic campus and commends the faculty for preparing students for the real world and “to think outside the box.”
For Wolfgramm, his degree and education are very important to him, and he has worked hard to “hopefully” achieve a 4.0 GPA by the time he graduates.
“My family and friends are so proud of my accomplishments. This is truly my dream,” he said.
Wolfgramm said he is still trying to figure out his longer-term career goal. His interest in materials science was piqued when a guest speaker in one of his classes explained how it can be used to determine airplane failure in an emergency landing or crash.
“I would love to have a job like that someday,” he said. “However, additive manufacturing, 3D printing – being so up and coming – I feel like now would be a great time to be studying this. I would like to understand all the property changes that materials may go through during this process, as well as help figure out all that additive manufacturing could do.
“Honestly, my dream for life is to leave a positive impression, or some sort of contribution to the world. I try to influence those around me for the better. I believe that knowledge should be shared, and I believe in working to be the man I will envy tomorrow. Don’t live with regrets, tomorrow is another day,” Wolfgramm said.
“As for my future, I have no idea what is to come. It is an adventure. All I see is that my family and I will be happy.”
Sharon Keeler, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering