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Spring 2015 Outstanding ASU Graduate Engineering Students

Spring 2015 Outstanding ASU Graduate Engineering Students

Outstanding ASU graduate engineering students from the six schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are recognized and honored for their academic performance and contribution to their field and community. Each school selects up to two graduate students to be recognized.

The honor recognizes exceptional students who have not only performed well in the classroom, but who also have made an impact through research innovation, project-driven work, student organization activities, teaching innovation, entrepreneurial efforts and/or leadership.

The students selected as Outstanding Graduates for the 2015 spring semester are:

• Mentor Dida, The Polytechnic School

• Arundhati Ghosh, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

• Nikou Hesari, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

• Xia Hu, School of Computing, Informations, and Decision Systems Engineering

• Mark Ison, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy

• James Mertens, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy

• Justin Ryan, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

• Ming Yang, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

• Zhuoyang Zhou, School of Computing, Informations, and Decision Systems Engineering


Mentor Dida, The Polytechnic School

Outstanding ASU engineering graduate

Outstanding ASU engineering graduate

Mentor Dida is originally from Kosovo and moved to America as a high school exchange student. He is receiving his master’s degree in global technology and entrepreneurship.

Dida has been incredibly active and involved with initiatives in The Polytechnic School and at the Polytechnic campus. Among his many accomplishments, he is co-founder and member of Startup Village Student Organization; co-founder and member of the Innovation Creativity and Entrepreneurship Club; chair for special events at Changemaker Central and lead change agent at Changemaker Polytechnic. He also has participated in several public speaking engagements, including keynote speaker for Arizona First Lego League and keynote speaker at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

As an undergraduate at ASU, Dida worked with engineering professor Mark Henderson on the Two Dollar Challenge, a movement to increase global awareness of poverty. He earned a degree in electronics engineering technology, with a focus on alternative energy technologies.

He also started his own nongovernmental organization, Prosperity Initiative in Kosovo, to encourage the country’s young people to participate in public service and community work, increasing the impact of youth decision-making.

Dida was recently hired to join Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, and help build a vibrant network of social innovators, partners and changemakers. 

Aram Chomina-Chavez, a lecturer at The Polytechnic School, described Dida as a “doer,” who leads by example with executive and team-building skills.

“He’s going to have an immensely large impact in his social entrepreneurship endeavors,” Chomina-Chavez said.



Arundhati Ghosh

Arundhati Ghosh, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Arundhati Ghosh’s career goal is to fulfill her potential as an innovator, a leader and an educator. She has gained experience in each role on her educational journey to earning a master’s degree in architecture and a doctoral degree in construction management.

The focus of Ghosh’s graduate work has been the emerging visualization and simulation technology building information modeling (BIM). It involves producing information-rich, virtual 3-D models of building designs and matching them with databases to provide a comprehensive project management performance guide. She explored how the technology affects labor productivity in retrofit construction, using a large semiconductor manufacturing facility in Arizona as a case study – the first study of its kind for that sector of the construction industry.

Ghosh has been instrumental in developing a curriculum for teaching BIM and has helped to teach both graduate and undergraduate courses. She has published her work in leading academic journals and made presentations on the subject at major academic and industry conferences. Through her academic success, she wants to inspire more women to pursue careers in the construction industry.  After graduation, she will be using her expertise in a position with a major construction contractor in California.

“Arundhati Ghosh has been an outstanding graduate student from day one,” said her advisor, associate professor Allan Chasey. “Her unique knowledge of construction technology and ability to quickly analyze a situation and offer solutions has been instrumental in developing our construction management program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  She truly stands out among her peers.”



Nikou Hesari

Nikou Hesari, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Nikou Hesari, a native of Iran, recalls that even as a child she was driven to explore, discover and apply whatever she learned. That ambition led her to excel in school and earn her acceptance into engineering studies at one of Iran’s top universities. After completing undergraduate studies, “I wanted more,” she said. She went on to pursue graduate education, and will receive a doctoral degree in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering from ASU.

Her primary research has involved developing the use of biosensor technology to rapidly detect and monitor the presence of the E. coli bacteria in drinking water. Her progress on that project and related work, she said, “has prepared me to contribute something that can help people all over the world.”

Hesari “is the ideal candidate” for an Outstanding Graduate Student award, said her advisor, professor Morteza Abbaszadegan. He noted that she has maintained a high grade point average while achieving significant research success, as well as winning or scoring highly in several rigorous academic and conference competitions.

“From the beginning, Nikou established herself as a highly intelligent and self-motived student and researcher,” Abbaszadegan said.


Xia “Ben” Hu, School of Computing, Informations, and Decision Systems Engineering

Xia “Ben” Hu is receiving his doctorate in computer science and is making an impression with his goal to help people and society with his research.

“Hu is a proactive researcher and collaborator,” says his advisor, professor Huan Liu. “While most Ph.D. students are satisfied to complete their dissertations, he has made conscientious efforts to transfer his world-leading data mining knowledge and expertise to real-world applications.”

Among those real-world applications are projects that empower humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Hu has built innovative social media tracking/analytics systems, TweetTracker, TweetXplorer, and ASU Coordination Tracker (ACT). These systems have helped first responders make informed decisions by incorporating crowd sourced data and social signals produced during times of a disaster.

“Our systems are the first of their kind to aid first responders in making sense of the noisy and voluminous data generated on social media,” says Hu. “We aimed at creating an innovative enabler that bridges the gap between actionable information and massive crowd sourced data. We have been addressing on the challenge of focusing information and technology to produce meaningful change by creating new kinds of value and have a real impact in a critically important area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

To solve problems with high social impact, Hu will continue to actively seek opportunities of developing data mining and machine learning algorithms to help analysts in fields like education, health, energy, transportation, and more.


Mark Ison, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport & Energy

Mark Ison played football as an undergraduate at Northwestern University before his body began feeling the effects of a lifetime invested in sports. It was recommended that he retire from the game. Struggling to find a way to channel both the euphoria and pain of the lost competition into a passionate pathway for his future, he decided to enhance medical technology through Ph.D. research at ASU. Ison has generated 11 peer-reviewed publications to date, and has earned the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Scholar (2014), Graduate Dean’s Fellowship (2012) and ASU Graduate Fellowship (2012).

According to his advisor, assistant professor Panagiotis Artemiadis, “Mark brings a unique combination of experience in academics, athletics and service to my lab. In 2010, he was recognized by the Big Ten Conference as the male athlete excelling in each of these areas. He has studied abroad in Scotland, Spain, France and Austria, interned in Singapore and taught classes in rural Kenya. He also brings a multi-disciplinary, engineering-oriented academic background with a concentration in pre-medicine, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and a masters in robotics. These diverse experiences help Mark work in dynamic team settings and approach challenges with an open mind to understand the full concept, identify weaknesses and propose impactful solutions.”



James Mertens

James Mertens, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport & Energy

James Mertens is receiving his doctorate in materials science and engineering.

His research accomplishments have enabled him to present his work at three professional symposia, both nationally and internationally. Through his doctoral work under the guidance of his advisor, professor Nik Chawla, he has generated six peer-reviewed manuscripts to date while simultaneously distinguishing himself as a top student, evident in his 3.91 grade point average.  Mertens graduated Magna Cum Laude from ASU (2011), has earned the ASU Dean’s List Award Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011 and was awarded participation in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (2010).

According to his advisor, professor Nik Chawla, “James is one of the best, if not the best student that I have encountered in my last 15 years at ASU. He is the real deal. He is extremely intelligent, hard-working, independent, and creative.”


Justin Ryan, School for Biological and Health Systems Engineering

Ryan joined the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program after earning a B.A. in digital art from ASU’s Herberger School for Design and the Arts. Coming from outside of engineering, Ryan needed nearly two years coursework to get on track, but still achieved a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.91.

“The clear distinction between Justin and other students and researchers is his background in the arts,” said his faculty mentor, associate professor David Frakes. “He brings skills to engineering that simply aren’t taught in the conventional engineering pipeline. At the same time, he’s embraced the philosophy of engineering and has managed to realize the best of both worlds.”

Ryan has authored six journal articles (with three more in review), one book chapter and 13 conference papers. In terms of education, he has delivered two outreach programs (one to high school students and one to middle school students), and his work on those projects helped generate a well-received journal article in the educational field.

He has been recognized as a Science Foundation Arizona fellow, a two time ARCS Scholar and was the recipient of the 2013 Mimics Innovation Award. He has also developed curricular modules for BME 300 that have considerably enhanced the 3-D modeling content that is delivered to School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering (SBHSE) undergrads.

Ryan runs the 3-D Cardiac Print Laboratory at Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH), which is a rare SBHSE facility on campus at PCH that was realized based largely on Justin’s work. The lab has created more than 200 accurate 3-D models of patient hearts for the use of doctors during surgical planning, helping to reduce surgical time and outcomes. Ryan will join the staff at PCH full-time after graduation.

“I think it’s very telling that while most students, even the great ones, go on to take jobs that already exist in fields that already exist,” Frakes said. “Justin’s work at the graduate level was so outstanding that he literally compelled Phoenix Children’s Hospital to create a new role in their organization that did not exist before Justin. That’s a truly remarkable accomplishment and speaks to the impact that Justin’s work has already had.”

Ming Yang, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Ming Yang wants to work on technologies that are going to change the world.

“I want to make it a better place, for everyone,” he said

Yang is graduating with his doctoral degree in electrical engineering. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Beijjing University of Posts and Telecommunications in China, and chose to come to the Fulton Schools of Engineering to further his education because he considered it the “best” and “there are top research and faculty members here.”

Yang was the recipient of an ASU graduate fellowship and IEEE Phoenix section student scholarship. His research has been focused on the design of hand-held 3-D medical ultrasound imaging systems.

“The contribution of my research is that I proposed several algorithms and VLSI architecture design techniques that reduce the computational complexity of the digital front end of 3-D systems by about twenty times,” he said. “I hope these techniques will one day help to build future cost-effective 3-D medical ultrasound imaging devices everyone can afford.”

Yang earned the Best Paper Award in the 19th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture. He also has published four journal 8 conference papers. These include a paper in IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing and IEEE Micro Top Picks.

According to his advisor, professor Chaitali Chakrabarti, “Ming is one of the best Ph.D. students that I have had. He has made excellent contributions in the area of hand-held 3-D ultrasound imaging systems. Such systems are anticipated to be the stethoscope of the future.”

Yang said the most rewarding thing about his graduate education at ASU is that he “learned to think and do research.” The most challenging was that he learned to present and communicate his ideas with other researchers. He said this is a challenge, for Chinese students, because they lack training in doing presentation, “but ASU completed my training.”

Yang is now working at Qualcomm in San Diego on the next generation modem for future wireless communication devices.

“The Internet has changed people’s lives in many aspects. Now we are trying to connect common objects, like your vehicle, air conditioner, house, or event he city infrastructure to the internet,” he said. “I believe the internet of things will greatly change the world in the near future. I want to contribute to it by engineering.”

Yang said he is very proud of his parents, “who have fought through numerous difficult times in their lives and raised me in the best way they ever could. I am grateful to them for fostering my interests in science and engineering. Their unconditional love and sustained support has and will always motivate me to move forward.”



Zhuoyang Zhou

Zhuoyang Zhou, School of Computing, Informations, and Decision Systems Engineering

Zhuoyang Zhou, who is receiving her doctoral degree in industrial engineering, came to ASU in August 2009 after earning dual bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering and economics from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China.

Zhou has been an active student leader, having been the president of the Alpha Pi Mu, the honorary society of industrial engineering students, for two years, and the webmaster for a year for the ASU student section of INFORMS, the professional society for operations researchers.

She has excelled as a researcher, as well, and the dissertation committee commented on the innovative nature of the research. She is among the first, if not the first, to consider heterogeneous data from multiple sensors to estimate the traffic conditions for freeway lanes in her dissertation.

“While I was her advisor I had her work on three funded research projects, and she performed in an excellent fashion,” professor Pitu Mirchandani said. “She required very little day-to-day supervision while producing very nice research results and delivering reports as required of the projects.”

The three projects Zhou worked on with Mirchandani involved remote sensing of traffic flows, analysis of traffic data for studying freeway travel time reliability and simulation modeling and analysis of pedestrian evacuation.

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