Voiland College names 2022 outstanding students, faculty and staff

Washington State University Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture recognized outstanding students, faculty, and staff at its annual convocation ceremony on April 15. The event was sponsored by Verizon. Honored award winners included:

Outstanding Sophomore: Katy Ayers

Ayers, a recent transfer student to WSU, is involved in a variety of activities on campus, including serving as the President of the Library Student Advisory Board and playing the viola for the WSU Symphony Orchestra. She is a member of the Society of Women in Engineering and Engineers without Borders student clubs. She is pursuing degrees in bioengineering and biochemistry, with a goal to go onto graduate school to study mycology. 

Outstanding Junior: Brooke Downing 

Downing is a motivated materials science student who has been a research assistant in the Institute for Materials Research for the past five semesters. She serves as a student ambassador, where she connects with high school students, helps give tours, and does outreach. She is the vice-president of the Materials Advantage student club, where she has helped triple the club’s membership. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school to explore the areas of semiconductors and optics.

Outstanding Seniors: Geneva Schlepp and Gunnar Sly

Geneva Schlepp is a teaching assistant for CE 442 Water and Wastewater Treatment and represents Voiland College as a student ambassador. She has served as a peer mentor for Voiland College freshman and helped developed a mental health curriculum for incoming student athletes. She has also served in several other mentorship and representative roles at WSU. A member of the winning team at this year’s Air and Waste Management Association’s “Environmental Challenge,” she is interested in wastewater treatment, and plans to pursue a career in environmental engineer. 

Gunnar Sly is a 2021 Goldwater Scholar and has received a graduate fellowship from Penn State University. He is a Voiland College peer tutor and helped design freshman courses in the Honors College. For the past four years, he has assisted the research of several School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Voiland School faculty, including Min-Kyu Song and Jean-Sabin McEwen. After graduation, he will be continuing his research in the field of computational catalysts in his graduate studies at Penn State. He is interested in pursuing a career in academia.

Outstanding Teaching Assistants: Emma Hein and Alaleh Ahmadian

Emma Hein has been a TA for two classes in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering over the last year. She has made a very significant, positive impact on the teaching program and students. She presents information in a confident and professional manner building confidence with the students in the course. Her students mention her often in their appreciation for her extra efforts, and their high exam scores reflect her commitment to help them learn. 

Alaleh Ahmadian has done an outstanding job as a TA for diverse and foundational computer science classes.  Over the past two years, she served as a TA for a wide variety of computer science courses, including Advanced Data Structures, Design and Analysis of Algorithms, and Introduction to Big Data. Her excellent background of computer science concepts and her terrific communication skills really help students learn the principles of coding. She has strong leadership and teaching skills and a clear passion for helping students in and outside of class.

Outstanding Research Assistant: Aryan Deshwal 

Deshwal is a leading expert in the general areas of probabilistic modeling and reasoning, uncertainty quantification, Bayesian optimization, and information-theoretic methods for intelligent data acquisition. His nominators say he is one of those rare and extraordinary people who combine technical excellence with strong leadership skills and a delightful and charismatic personality. He is doing exciting, novel, and high impact artificial intelligence (AI) research to solve science and engineering problems to aide environmental sustainability. 

Recently, he led the organization of several successful conferences and workshops, including the annual AAAI workshop that encouraged collaboration between AI researchers and domain area experts. 

Dissertation Award: Zhipeng Li

His nominators describe Li as an intelligent, hard-working, and self-motivated Ph.D. candidate with a great record of accomplishments in the field of sustainable infrastructure materials. 

Li is working on developing innovative eco-friendly cementitious geopolymer composites by incorporating nanotechnology and upcycling the solid waste, such as coal fly ash, which not only helps minimize the negative environmental impacts of solid waste but also benefits green and sustainable infrastructure. 

Reid Miller Excellence in Teaching Award for tenure‑track faculty:

Assefaw Gebremedhinassociate professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Since joining WSU in 2014, Gebremedhin has become one of the most valuable faculty members in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in his role as both a researcher and as a teacher.  “One of the most striking aspects of Assefaw as a teacher and mentor is how much he cares about each of his students. He doesn’t just go through the motions, but he really ‘walks the talk,’” said one of his nominators. “Students recognize when an instructor is sincere, and this is confirmed by the many letters of support he received for this award nomination.”

One of his students said, “I can say with confidence that out of all the teachers that I have had in my lifetime, Assefaw is one of the best. He is passionate about what he teaches and always seeks to make connections to the real world.”

Another student added, “It’s very rare to find a professor who will go the extra mile to ensure their students are set up for success the way that Dr. Gebremedhin has done for me and other students.”

Reid Miller Teaching Excellence Award winner for career track faculty:

Xianglong Wang, assistant professor, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Wang joined the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when all instruction was done remotely. Dr. Wang was assigned to teach some of the most challenging, impactful courses in the bioengineering undergraduate curriculum – the capstone design sequence, BioEng 410 and 411. He took up this challenge with vigor and success. He taught not only the capstone design sequence, but he also taught the bioengineering transport phenomena course, a bioinstrumentation course, and an elective course on data-driven methods in bioengineering, a new course that had never been previously taught at WSU. These courses were extremely well received. He consistently identifies needs within the bioengineering program and creatively seeks opportunities to address them. 

Junior Faculty Research Award: 

Haipeng Cai, assistant professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Cai joined WSU in 2016 and has recently received tenure and promotion to be named associate professor this fall. His research lies in the area of software systems and security, where he has used his expertise to establish an independent, extramurally well-funded, and internationally renowned program in cybersecurity, raising $2.6M as a lead PI. He has published 21 peer-reviewed journal papers and 40 peer-reviewed conferences. 

Anjan Bose Outstanding Researcher Award:

Jean-Sabin McEwenassociate professor, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

A recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, McEwen develops first-principles based, multi-scale models that link atomistic and macroscopic methods to understand the fundamental behavior of reactive surfaces and microporous materials.

Although several individuals effectively use computational tools to study molecular science and engineering, Professor McEwen through his effective collaborations with experimental scholars is clearly developing new computational models and using those models to enable new understanding of reactive surfaces and materials. 

The impact of McEwen’s scholarly contributions has been amplified by his exceptional ability to choose timely and important problems in catalysis, as well as his insistence on close connections between theoretical approaches and related experimental observations. The latter are the result of several highly productive research collaborations, which has resulted in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. He has assembled an extraordinary list of collaborators who are among the most influential experimental researchers in the field, He is passionate about research and has made significant contributions to advancing knowledge in the important and widely impactful field of heterogeneous catalysis. In so doing, he has enhanced the training of many other early career researchers by providing a supportive environment that fully integrates and respects their contributions.

Voiland College Safety Award: Philip Dodge

During the pandemic, Dodge, who is the safety officer for WSU Bremerton at Olympic College, assisted the students, staff and faculty at WSU Bremerton by establishing a safe learning environment. He coordinated efforts with Olympic College to establish a “safety start” plan for students at the beginning of the quarter, and created safe operating procedures, and signage to raise safety awareness for electrical and mechanical engineering students.

Staff Excellence awards

Lindsey Beat is the student recruiting director for Voiland College. She has developed innovative practices to help recruit and retain students within the college and tirelessly represents our college and serves our students to make Voiland THE place that prospective students want to attend.

Darlene Miller is responsible for proposals and project management for the Energy Systems Innovation Center. Her nominators say that Darlene goes above and beyond what is in her job description, and works evenings and weekends whenever needed to get the proposals submitted in time and to manage all the project accounts after they are awarded. She is always willing to take on new roles and responsibilities and learn new skills, and does so with great success. 

Employee of the Year: Paul Wilmoth

As an academic advisor in the School of EECS, Wilmoth helps nearly 600 students successfully navigate the challenges they face on their road to graduation. His knowledge and insights are highly valued by staff, faculty, and leadership throughout VCEA. He proactively shares information that helps guide departmental strategies, and his experience and perspectives are invaluable in helping EECS respond to the critical needs of parents and students.

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