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2012 UCLA Engineering Award Winners to be Honored at Commencement

At the 2012 Commencement for the UCLA Henry Sameuli School of Engineering and Applied Science, several students will be honored with school-wide and department awards. Below, a few profiles of this year's school-wide winners, including the Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award winner, the Student Commencement Speaker, the Harry M. Showman Prize winners, the Russell R. O'Neill Distinguished Service Award winner, and the Chosen Singer of the National Anthem. The school-wide awards were selected by a combination of committees comprised of students, faculty, and/or staff. To see a complete list of this year's winners, click here.

The school-wide outstanding Bachelor of Science Award recognizes an exceptional student who has demonstrated the highest accomplishments in the classroom, research, and in community service.
Armin Arshi
, B.S. Bioengineering
Arshi is going to study medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He also plans to continue his research in engineering with the eventual goal of an academic career at the interface of patient care, science and engineering.
What was your favorite class, and why?
My favorite course was the two-part senior design course in bioengineering. I enjoyed working with my teammates and Professor Dino Di Carlo on tackling a biomedical problem. We worked on developing an automated, high-speed chip for imaging and screening cancerous cells in fluids like urine and blood. The course helped me develop my skills as a scientist and leader; it also taught me to design my own approach to a complex, multi-faceted problem. I am certain these skills will be very useful during future research projects and in my professional career.
What is the best part of UCLA?
I really like that UCLA's campus is very well integrated. In my opinion, having engineering, the school of medicine, CNSI, and all of the biomedical research space within walking distance of one another fosters a great deal of collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking. To have everything so localized is really rare, even among mega-research institutions like UCLA, and makes the school a great learning environment.

The student speaker represents all 2012 graduates at commencement and is selected through a competitive process.
Melissa Sue Erickson
, B.S. Electrical Engineering
Erickson will begin work at Lab126, an Amazon subsidiary, as a Software Quality Assurance Engineering Technical Lead for Kindle devices.
What is the topic of your speech and what do you hope your fellow graduates will get out of it?
My commencement speech focuses primarily on success and the man who taught us that, “ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” I hope that my speech will be humorous, inspirational and a great conclusion to this unforgettable chapter of our lives.
What is the best part of being a student at UCLA?
The best part about being a UCLA student is my Bruin Family. My peers are motivated, enthusiastic, talented and inspirational. My time spent at UCLA would not have been the same without the 2012 graduating class. I am so grateful for the experiences we have shared.

The Showman Prize is awarded to one undergraduate and one graduate student. The prize recognizes students who have effectively communicated the achievements, research, results or social significance of any aspect of engineering.

Showman Prize, undergraduate
uzair-sikora-150pxUzair Sikora
, B.S. Electrical Engineering
Sikora conducted research on rapid-diagnostic tests under electrical engineering associate professor Aydogan Ozcan. He also received the Christina Huang Memorial Prize. In the fall, Sikora will be pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University.
What is the best part of research at UCLA?
I think the best part of research at UCLA is the sheer amount of resources we have ready to pursue any idea that our researchers can possibly come up with. The best resource we have at UCLA is the expertise in thousands of different fields sitting around the corner. So, if you have a research question and you want an expert's help, all you really have to do is walk down the hall.
What is the best part of UCLA?
The best part of being a student at UCLA is definitely the vitality of our campus and student body. Even though we have the smallest UC campus, we have one of the largest student populations. With this comes the abundance of student groups and activities. In other words, it’s never a dull day at UCLA.

Showman Prize, graduate student
Neda-Jahanshad-150pxNeda Jahanshad, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering
Jahanshad conducts research on the brain's white matter and connections through the use of diffusion-based MRI at the Imaging Genetics Center in the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, under her advisors, professors Paul Thompson and Ricky Taira. After graduation, she will continue at the UCLA lab as a post-doctoral scholar.
What is the best part of research at UCLA?
What makes the research here so unique and exciting is that there are countless experts in all fields of science that can provide research support.  The collaborative and friendly atmosphere at UCLA allows for researchers to seek advice and learn from people completely outside of their own field of work, providing a more comprehensive understanding of works performed and the ideal approach to research.  Also, my faculty advisors are probably the best mentors a graduate student could ask for. They not only provided me with endless opportunities and support for research, but also allowed me to explore my own interests, and were always encouraging me to do my best.
What is the best part of UCLA?
It’s definitely not easy to try and pinpoint what it is that makes UCLA great. There is no single best part of UCLA -- the faculty is comprised of some of the most brilliant minds of our time; the students are fun, collaborative and are eager to spread their knowledge to help make a better future; the activities and opportunities, academic and otherwise, are endless. Also hailing from the East Coast, the bright and sunny campus is a nice treat!

david-mccoul-2-150pxDavid McCoul
, M.S. Materials Science and Engineering
For the second year in a row, McCoul won the contest to sing the National Anthem at commencement. He is receiving his master’s degree in materials science and is continuing to pursue his Ph.D. under Professor Qibing Pei, conducting research on artificial muscles.
What’s your favorite song to sing (besides the National Anthem, of course) and why?
This is a hard one, but I'd have to say "If Ever I Would Leave You" from the musical Camelot. I've won several talent competitions singing that song, and it's always a crowd-pleaser.
What is the best part of being a student at UCLA?
There are lots of good things about being a student at UCLA, from meeting new people, to being in a great city. L.A. offers so much, and the weather can't be beat. Also, as a grad student, I've found teaching to be very rewarding.

Named after the former engineering school dean, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to the undergraduate student body, student organizations, the school, and to the advancement of the undergraduate engineering program through service and participation in extracurricular activities.
Tammy Chang
, B.S. Electrical Engineering
In her junior year, Chang led a pilot peer mentorship program. As a senior, she continued to lead the program this year when it expanded school-wide (click here for the story). In the fall, Chang will be at Stanford University in the electrical engineering graduate program. But before that, she will spend part of summer in Beijing, on her second stint in the UCLA-Peking University Joint Research Institute in Science and Engineering.
Can you tell how freshmen and transfer students have benefited now that there’s a peer mentoring program in place?

The primary motivation behind the HSSEAS Peer Mentorship Program is to connect students who want help with students who can give it. New engineering students now have a means of getting personal peer advice about courses, professors, internships, and other insider tips for our being a UCLA engineer, simply by meeting with their mentor. Additionally, the mentorship program provides a way to get new students involved with the student engineering organizations, through projects, activities, or socials, allowing them to meet an even wider array of peers who can assist them through their academic career at UCLA.
What is the best part of being a student at UCLA?
Being a student at UCLA is the best part of being a student at UCLA!  But all joking aside, my favorite part of my experience at UCLA has been the opportunity to meet the incredibly diverse and talented student body and faculty through my job as a tutor for the Academic Advancement Program, leadership in the 2011-2012 HSSEAS Mentorship Program, and participation in Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society for Electrical & Computer Engineering and the In Christ Alone Campus Ministry.  I'm so thankful for the ways that I've been encouraged, and even challenged, by both the faculty at UCLA as well as my peers -- it's an honor to be a part of the 2012 graduating class!


Erickson's photo by Incite Photography. All others by Matthew Chin.