Friday, June 5, 2020
Every spring, the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara bestows four special honors upon graduating seniors. Read below to find out who received the three prestigious awards and who was selected to represent the class of 2020 as the student speaker for the college’s undergraduate celebration.
Computer engineering major Boning Dong is the recipient of the 2020 Hynes-Wood Award, which recognizes students for outstanding contributions to student activities and helping others with professional growth and development. The award is named for Jacqueline Hynes, former assistant dean for academic programs in engineering, and the late Roger Wood, a beloved electrical and computer engineering professor and former associate dean for academic affairs. Dong also received a University Award of Distinction for contributing greatly to the quality of life by giving unselfish service to others within a particular area.
“The awards are an acknowledgement of my work in the university’s chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch at UCSB,” said Dong, who founded and managed an engineering club in high school. “The recognitions also provide additional motivation and encouragement for me to continue doing more activities that positively influence the engineering community.”
Dong joined the IEEE club as a freshman, becoming a project manager and president the following two years. Club membership grew from forty to nearly two-hundred students during that time.
“While I was president, I tried really hard to redevelop the club. We redesigned the website and launched Instagram and LinkedIn pages to share our work with the outside world,” said Dong. “We also introduced collaborative projects, organized the first-ever IEEE Hackathon which drew nearly one hundred registrants, and we hosted an end-of-the-year ceremony to showcase our progress to our professors and industry partners.”
With a 3.95 cumulative GPA, Dong is graduating with High Honors. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, he also minored in art.
“Art actually played an important role in me becoming an engineer,” said Dong, who showcases his artwork and project on the website, imboning.com. “I started building my first project, Tesla coils, purely because I was fascinated by the lighting they emit. I wanted to build a coil to capture the beautiful plasma corona with my camera.”
Dong will return to campus in fall as a graduate student in ECE’s master’s program.
Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research
Scott Smith, a mechanical engineering student, has received the 2020 Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research, which recognizes graduating seniors who showed excellence and promise as researchers during their academic careers. The annual award is named in honor of Matthew Tirrell, former dean of the college. Smith said the award validates all of the hard work and effort he has put into his education and research. It was Smith’s own initiative that led to his active involvement in undergraduate research.
“During my second year in college, I was really interested in what research I could do as a mechanical engineer. As a result, I self-studied the basic subject of fluid mechanics and set up a meeting with Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB,” said Smith, who transferred to UCSB from Santa Barbara City College. “He saw my genuine interest in the subject and offered me a position in his lab starting that summer in 2018. Since then, I’ve loved all of the work I have done for his lab.”
Smith’s undergraduate research has included both experimental and numerical work in microfluids. He has studied the effects of surfactants, which are substances that reduce the surface tension of a liquid, in superhydrophobic surfaces, which repel water. These surfaces contain coatings that can trap micro-scale bubbles near a solid surface submerged in water. Because air is much less viscous than water, researchers have long sought to use superhydrophobic surfaces to reduce drag on ships and other marine vessels. Smith was part of the research team that completed the first-ever three-dimensional simulations of superhydrophobic surfaces with surfactants. Those results form the basis of two papers he is writing with Luzzatto-Fegiz for submission to major publications. Last November, Smith also presented his work at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics Conference, the largest gathering in the field.
Smith, who is graduating with High Honors and a 3.92 GPA, also completed the college’s Honors Program. He will attend the University of Michigan to pursue a PhD in chemical engineering.
John and Sheila Lake Excellence Award
Electrical engineering student Jenna Bovaird is the recipient of the 2020 John and Sheila Lake Excellence Award, which is named for alumnus John Lake and his wife, Sheila, and recognizes outstanding service and academic scholarship.
“Receiving this award is an incredible honor,” said Bovaird, whose parents are both engineers. “This award recognizes my passion for leading and inspiring engineers throughout my life as I continue to learn and explore new topics. As a female in engineering, I am especially proud to set a precedent of achievement and impact in my community.”
Bovaird has been active with the university’s student branch of IEEE since her freshman year. At the time, the club had less than forty paying lab members. As a sophomore, she served as publicity chair and Smart Lamp Project Lead, teaching members how to make a Bluetooth-controlled color-changing LED board. She became internal vice president her junior year, helping launch IEEE’s inaugural hackathon. She took over as president as a senior. Bovaird said her dedication has been extremely rewarding in light of the fact that the club now has nearly two hundred members.
“My time in IEEE has been even more rewarding from the personal relationships I’ve gained,” she said. “I am also very passionate about being a role model for other women in my field. I’ve had multiple undergraduate women in STEM tell me that my actions in IEEE helped them feel more comfortable.”
Bovaird also received a University Award of Distinction for contributing greatly to the quality of life by giving unselfish service to others within a particular area. She will return to UCSB in the fall as a graduate student in the electrical and computer engineering’s Bachelor of Science/Master of Science (BS/MS) Degree Program. Her emphasis will be in electronics and photonics.
“Saying I’m proud to graduate from UCSB is an understatement. I couldn’t imagine a better place to earn an engineering degree,” she said. “This is exactly why I’m continuing in the master’s program, to advance my career while still keeping the roots with an incredible school and community that I’m very invested in.”
Class of 2020 Student Speaker
Michelle Nguyen was selected to represent the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering’s class of 2020 during the undergraduate celebration. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Throughout her time at UCSB, Nguyen has been active in the campus community in a number of fronts. She was a founding member of UCSB’s chapter of Phi Sigma Rho, a sorority for women STEM majors, with a mission to empower and support women in engineering and technical fields where women are historically underrepresented. She was also part of a group of students whose work culminated in the installation in October 2017 of a full chapter of the sorority known as the Alpha Xi Chapter, recognized by both UCSB’s Panhellenic and the Phi Sigma Rho national organization. In addition, she was a founding member of Women Hacks, a group that organized the first all-female hackathon at UCSB in 2019. In the summer and fall of 2018, Nguyen participated in the UC Education Abroad Program at Lund University in Sweden. She plans to continue her career as a software engineer at Capital One Financial Corporation in Dallas, Texas.