Engineering Excellence: College of Engineering Salutes Class of 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019

The academic paths of hundreds of UC Santa Barbara students will intersect on the Commencement Lawn during the College of Engineering’s 2019 graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 15. More than 360 undergraduate students have completed the requirements to earn bachelor’s degrees in either chemical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering during the 2018-19 academic year. 

A handful of graduates will receive special commendations from the College of Engineering for outstanding academic performance and service to the university. 

Outstanding Seniors
Each year, the college recognizes as an Outstanding Senior, the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average from each degree program. This year’s Outstanding Seniors are Dorian Bruch (chemical engineering), Hyun-Bum Cho (computer science), Kyle Douglas (electrical engineering), Sayali Kakade (computer engineering), and Thomas Fork (mechanical engineering). 

Accordingly, Bruch, Douglas, and Fork will serve as student marshals, carrying the banners and leading the academic procession into the ceremony. All three students earned 4.0 GPAs, the first three-way tie for the honor in College of Engineering history. 

“Being recognized as an Outstanding Senior and carrying the banner makes me extremely proud to represent the wonderful chemical engineering program we have at UCSB,” said Bruch, who will start graduate school at California Institute of Technology in the fall. “While at UCSB, I discovered my passion for thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and theoretical and computational soft-matter physics. I also found mentors who will continue to positively impact my academic development and career path.”

Fork belongs to a team of engineering students working on FitNet, a capstone project focused on developing an in-home therapy system for infants born with cerebral palsy. Capstone pairs students with industry or academic experts to create engineered solutions for real-world problems. It’s one of seven projects Fork is juggling this spring quarter.

“I did not feel like an actual engineer until I was working on real-life problems that were inherently multifaceted,” said Fork, who plans to work a few years in industry before applying for graduate school. “I believe my willingness to go beyond my major and courses fits much better with, and was complemented by, the work I did outside of the classroom.”

Douglas and Kakade are members of the capstone project Eternal Flight, which addresses  short-term battery life in unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Douglas, a native of San Diego, will continue his education next fall as a graduate student at UCSB, focusing on control theory. 

Kakade, who completed two summer internships with Google, will begin working for the company as a software engineer after graduation. 

With a 3.98 cumulative GPA, Cho earned his computer science degree in just three years, once taking six classes in a single quarter. Cho, who interned at startups and worked as a research assistant while taking classes, says he has come a long way since his first two years of high school. He described himself during that time as a bottom-tier student, who often slept through class.

“After taking an AP computer science class during my junior year, my life took a drastic turn,” recalled Cho. “With computer science, I found something more interesting than gaming. I viewed college as a way for me to redeem my past mistakes. This award serves as validation and motivation to continue working hard and improving.” 

Cho will start his new career as a software engineer at Facebook after graduation.

Hynes-Wood Award
The award honors Dr. Jacqueline Hynes, former assistant dean for Academic Programs, and Dr. Roger Wood, a beloved electrical and computer engineering professor and former associate dean for Academic Affairs. The award recognizes students for outstanding contributions to student activities and helping others with their professional growth and development. 

Computer science major Margaret Schmit is the recipient of the 2019 Hynes-Wood Award. While at UCSB, she served four years as an officer in the Society of Women Engineers, and was an active member of the engineering sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. Schmit set up outreach events at nearby elementary schools to promote science and organized the Evening with Industry event, which united engineering students and industry representatives to network. A six-time member of the Dean’s Honors list, Schmit has accepted a position as a program manager for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. 

Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research
The annual award, named in honor of Matthew Tirrell, former dean of the college, recognizes graduating seniors who show excellence and promise as researchers during their academic careers. 

Carolina Espinoza, a first-generation college student and community college transfer, will receive the 2019 Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research. She spent the past two and a half years working on research projects with chemistry and biochemistry professor Thuc-Quyen Nguyen and graduate student Brett A. Yurash. Espinoza’s research centered on the development of organic semiconductors for applications in solar energy. One particular project she worked on focused on improving photo conversion, or the process by which two low-energy photons combine to form one higher-energy photon, in organic semiconductors. 

“I am proud of the work I accomplished in the lab, and to be recognized for my research is truly amazing. I could not have come this far without my mentors and champions,” said Espinoza. “I enjoy research for its ability to contribute to scientific advancement.”

Espinoza will receive her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and begin the PhD track at the University of Michigan in the fall. 

John and Sheila Lake Excellence Award 
Named in recognition of John Lake, a UCSB alumnus, and his wife, Sheila, the annual award recognizes outstanding service and academic scholarship. 

Mechanical engineering student Nathaniel Shankute received the 2019 John and Sheila Lake Excellence Award. After transferring to UCSB from the Los Rios Community College District, Shankute became active in UCSB’s Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement (MESA) Program, which helps educationally disadvantaged students become engineers and scientists. He served as president of the Engineering Student Council and co-president of UCSB’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). In addition, he worked as a student researcher in Professor Sumita Pennathur’s lab, focusing on nano and microfluids and the effects of asymmetric flows on particle migration. He also worked on Sonos, a water ingress test chamber, as a capstone project. After graduation, Shankute plans to work on Sonos before returning to school to pursue a PhD in fluid mechanics. 

Outstanding Faculty and Teaching Assistant Awards
The senior class in each degree program selected an outstanding faculty member and teaching assistant (TA). The class of 2019’s Outstanding Faculty are Michael Gordon (chemical engineering), Yogananda Isukapalli (computer engineering), Diba Mirza (computer science), Mark Rodwell (electrical engineering), and Elliot Hawkes (mechanical engineering). 

The 2019 recipients of the outstanding TA awards are Koty McAllister (chemical engineering), Steve Bako (computer engineering), William Eiers (computer science), Michael Goebel (electrical engineering), and Jamie Booth (mechanical engineering). 

Student Speaker at Commencement
The honor of representing the Class of 2019 as the student speaker belongs to Dana Yuen, a mechanical engineering major who also minored in science and math education.  Yuen has been an active member in the campus community on numerous fronts, receiving the 2019 University Award of Distinction for going above and beyond the call of duty in service to the university, the student body, and the community. 

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen as this year’s student speaker, especially because I know how extraordinary the Class of 2019 is,” said Yuen. “I hope my speech reminds people to not compare themselves to others and to be proud of their own accomplishments. It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and forget that what you’re doing is equally as important.”

Yuen was a founding member of UCSB’s chapter of Phi Sigma Rho, a sorority for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors, with a mission to empower and support women in fields where they are historically underrepresented. She served multiple years as an officer in UCSB’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Yuen also interned in the university’s Office of Student Life. 

“As a freshman, I wanted to find a sense of belonging within this large campus, which I was lucky enough to find. Becoming a leader in my organizations was an opportunity to leave my mark on this university by giving back and creating that same sense of belonging for others,” reflected Yuen. 

After graduating, Yuen will begin working as an aerospace systems engineer at Northrop Grumman. 

College of Engineering Commencement 
The College of Engineering’s graduation ceremony will take place Saturday, June 15, at 4 PM on the Commencement Green, which is the Faculty Club lawn by the UCSB Lagoon. The ceremony will be streamed live here

UCSB graduate Alison Bauerlein, a co-founder of Inogen, will deliver the keynote address. Bauerlein and her partners seel to improve the quality of life of people who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions, like her grandmother. Inogen later won the 2001 New Venture Competition. Their Goleta-based company, now valued at nearly $2 billion and traded on the NASDAQ exchange, produces compact and lightweight portable oxygen concentrators.  

Top row, left to right, Dana Yuen, Kyle Douglas, Thomas Fork; bottom row, left to right, Sayali Kakade, Dorian Bruch, Danny Hyun-Bum Cho, all among College of Engineering's outstanding graduates for 2019