“These awards recognize students for their contributions to our Jacobs School community, and to the field of engineering,” Pisano said. “These awards are significant because the winners are nominated and selected by the faculty and graduating students of the Jacobs School. I know these students will take the changemaker spirit with them to their next endeavors, and I’m excited to watch what they’ll accomplish.”
Here are highlights from the impressive resumes of the 2019 Jacobs School of Engineering student award winners, recognized by the IDEA Engineering Student Center and Dean Pisano at the Ring Ceremony.
Student of the Year—Graham Martin
As an undergraduate, structural engineering student Graham Martin conducted NASA-funded research, participated in the Team Internship Program, was a javelin thrower on the track and field team, and still found time to sneak in his hobby of surfing. After graduation, Martin—who specialized in aerospace structures-- will be moving to Seattle to work as an analysis engineer at Boeing, focusing on the actuation of thrust reversers.
His favorite experience at UC San Diego? Working with structural engineering Professor John Kosmatka on a Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design To Lower Drag (PRANDTL) wing powered by a motor.
“The PRANDTL wing was originally a NASA project, and one of the first wings they built is now in the Smithsonian,” Martin said. “It’s a very advanced airfoil shape that is supposed to decrease your drag significantly. The one I’m building with Professor Kosmatka is the first one with control systems in it. Usually they’re just gliders, but this one is expected to be propelled with onboard motor, flaps and elevons to control it. I really enjoyed it.”
Martin was an avid athlete in high school, playing baseball, football, soccer and water polo, and transitioned those skills as a javelin thrower on the UC San Diego track and field team. Tendon issues from all his years of baseball led to Tommy John surgery, but Martin still practiced with and supported his teammates.
Those teamwork skills came in handy during his time on the Jacobs School’s Team Internship Program, where he and other engineering students worked together at United Technology Corporation, Aerostructures, to build a variable supersonic inlet—a system to slow down the air coming into a plane engine when traveling at supersonic speeds.
Martin is looking forward to contributing his skills to Boeing’s mission, but said he could be interested in further specializing in aerospace structures through a doctoral degree at some point in the future. For now, he’s soaking up the feeling of a job well done.
“I was very surprised to have been selected as Student of the Year, and really excited,” he said. “It’s nice to see that working really hard does pay off in the end. I know there were plenty of people that deserve this award too, and I’m honored to be the one selected. It’s special.”
Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion—Jacqueline Villalobos
Electrical engineering student Jacqueline Villalobos was awarded the IDEA Engineering Student Center award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion. Villalobos served as president of the Society of Women Engineers at UC San Diego, helped found the Anita Borg Leadership and Engagement (ABLE) outreach program, is a student worker organizing educational camps at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and is an undergraduate researcher in Professor Tara Javidi’s lab working on path optimization for drones. She’ll be working at Lockheed Martin after graduation.
For Villalobos, diversity isn’t a nicety in engineering; it’s a necessity.
“Promoting diversity is important for creating a welcoming and inclusive community but it is also a very fundamental part of engineering. Bringing together a diverse group of individuals with different skill sets, experiences, backgrounds and perspectives allows for the best solutions to be attained,” she said. “When we all come together to organize programs or discuss problems, being able to acknowledge that we all have valuable differences in opinions is essential. I believe that without diversity, the innovation occurring in the world around us would not be possible.”
Villalobos encourages students to get involved with organizations on campus to stretch their limits and find community.
“I met so many new friends through SWE and I felt so much more supported than when I was alone trying to figure out college by myself,” Villalobos said. “You just have to take that first step and get involved. If you’re just going to class and going home, there’s not much growth that will happen because you’re not getting out of your comfort zone.”
However, she also says taking time for yourself is key, too.
“You have a lot of things in your day but there’s also a time where you need to breathe and relax and take a step back,” Villalobos said. “Take a moment. I would say for me at least it was about not going for everything all at once and piling a bunch of stuff on. Little by little you take steps, but you just have to make that first one.”
Bioengineering student Surabhi Kalyan managed to co-found a startup, serve as co-president of STEM outreach organization Tritons for Sally Ride Science, conduct research in Professor Gert Cauwenbergh’s lab, learn engineering leadership principles as a Gordon Scholar, and serve as a peer educator in the IDEA Center’s education learning community’s during her time at UC San Diego. For her, college was about trying as many things as possible to figure out what she ultimately wants to do with her bioengineering degree.
“My advice is meet as many people as you can, including students, professors, mentors, really anyone,” Kalyan said. “I’ve done a lot of random things throughout my college experience-- for me it’s been helpful to do a lot of different things to figure out what I want to do. Just because you come to college doesn’t mean you know what you want to do or even know what there is to do.”
This summer she’ll be continuing to develop her startup, SoleMate, which provides a smart shoe insole that monitors a patient’s weightbearing throughout rehabilitation, and provides real time feedback through a mobile app. She’ll also be working in a 3D printing lab at Rady Children’s Hospital to develop a bone material that can serve as an alternative to cadavers for surgical training. Next year she’s moving north to the Bay Area to work in research and development for medical device company Penumbra.
Computer Science and Engineering—Barbara He and Rahul Sabnis
As a high school student, Barbara He thought she might like to be a chemical engineer. She followed the advice of a teacher who encouraged potential engineering students to take a computer science course so they’d be ahead of the curve in college, and wound up enjoying the class so much that she decided to study computer science instead. She served as president of UC San Diego’s chapter of Women in Computing (WiC), and helped develop online computer science courses to provide an introduction to teaching computer science to other students and teachers. He was also a tutor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s illustrious tutor program, and designed the 2018 CSE tutor reunion shirt.
Through WiC, He was able to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, which was a turning point for her collegiate experience. She later helped organize opportunities for other UC San Diego students to attend the conference, too.
“I loved that conference,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I really belonged in computer science, really, until I went to that first conference. It was great to hear how inspiring those female leaders were, and after that conference I thought no, I really do belong here.”
In addition to WiC, she worked with Professor Beth Simon in the Education Studies Department to develop two online Coursera courses to provide instruction for people wanting to teach computer science. UC San Diego computer science students can take the course, but many people without a computing background have taken it, as well, to better teach computer science concepts to young students.
After graduation, He will be working at Twitter on their mobile website team. Her advice for prospective or current students is to not be afraid to reach for opportunities that might seem like a stretch.
“Don’t be afraid to apply for things even if you don’t think you’ll get it,” she said. “If you meet most of the qualifications, you should go for it, even if you don’t necessarily meet every single one. And if you do end up getting an interview, know that you’re qualified. A lot of learning happens on the job, so it’s not that big of a deal if there’s one skill you don’t have.”
Rahul Sabnis is a lover of language, be it spoken or coded. A speech and debate enthusiast in high school, Sabnis decided to study computer science at UC San Diego, and will work as a software engineer on Google’s Android Bluetooth team after graduation.
On campus, he was president of the Computer Science and Engineering Society (CSES), served as a tutor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, represented the department at all kinds of activities from Triton Day to CSE Day, and was selected as the 2019 Ring Ceremony Distinguished Student Speaker.
Sabnis also held internships at CourseHero and Adobe, and spent a lot of time through CSES providing other students with the resources necessary to find similar success, but on their own terms.
“I heard this one question a lot from parents: How does my child stand out or what’s the formula for success? I have a very simple answer: there is no formula for success,” he said. “You need to be unique. You can look up to people, but I don’t think you should try to 100 percent emulate the steps someone else took because then you’re not being yourself. The most successful people get where they do by being themselves and being the best version of themselves.”
Another bit of advice?
“Software engineering and computer science recruiting season starts in late August!”
Electrical and Computer Engineering—Kelly Levick and Victor Miranda
Kelly Levick’s interest in electrical engineering was piqued during a robotics class in high school.
“The funny thing is now I’m not doing robotics at all, because I found out how broad electrical engineering is, and how many interesting fields there are within it.”
Levick decided to focus on communications and information theory, including signal processing, which also helped her earn a music minor. After graduation, she’s heading to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to work toward a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, with plans to become a professor.
“My driving goal behind all of this is to teach people. Doing research is fun also, so that’s a plus.”
She tried her hand at research through the Summer Research Internship Program, working with Professors Laurence Milstein and Pamela Cosman on cognitive radios, which can automatically detect and switch to available channels. She also worked with Professor Tara Javidi on coding and error correction.
Levick served as the president of UC San Diego’s chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), the electrical engineering honor society, and still made time to let her creative juices flow by producing music.
“I like finding overlaps between music and electrical engineering because there are actually a lot, especially with computer music. Things like filters and audio compression are all things in my music classes that I learned at a more mathematical, scientific level in ECE classes.”
She advises students to start going to office hours as early as you can to get to know the professors in your field, and to recognize the value that you bring to whatever it is you’re doing.
“As a woman in engineering, I’ve been reminded of the stereotypes people have. So I’d say if you’re a woman in engineering, or from an underrepresented minority in engineering, there are people like you, and you are valuable. Engineering should be as diverse as possible, in order to impact all people, not just a certain few people.”
Victor Miranda discovered electrical engineering at a program the summer before his senior year of high school, where circuitry, resisters and integrated circuits caught his eye. He wound up loving electrical engineering so much that he tutored for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was involved in the ECE Undergraduate Student Council, and decided to stick around to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on machine learning and data science.
In addition to tutoring for the ECE Department, Miranda also tutored for the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS), to give back to the program that helped him get his footing in college through a month-long program on campus the summer before his freshman year.
He’s still deciding whether he’ll contribute his skills to a job in industry after earning his master’s, or if he’ll get a PhD.
“I never considered even doing a master’s in the first place,” Miranda said. “Coming into college I thought I’m just going to do a bachelors and get a job. But I chose a good school to continue not only my education, but continue investing in my community here that I’m proud I was able to develop. So I’m on the fence about doing a PhD here as well—a triple major!”
Miranda’s advice to prospective and current students is to get involved in groups and organizations early on. Not only will you make friends this way, but you’ll build confidence in your skills.
“A lot of people talk about imposter syndrome after you graduate where feel like you don’t fit into your industry career-- I had that just coming into UC San Diego. There were a lot of students that would talk about their internships coming out of high school, and I had never even touched a breadboard before so I had that imposter syndrome since the beginning. That took me a few years to get over and realize that I do deserve to be here.”
“The reason why I didn’t get involved early was because I was afraid. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be involved in student organizations, but I realize that’s a wrong way of thinking,” Miranda said. “There’s always an organization or level you can start with, and move up.”
You can’t move up much higher than being selected as an Electrical and Computer Engineering Student of the Year.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering—Danielle Naiman and Hannah Munguia
Hannah Munguia is putting her earth science skills to use… on Mars. An environmental engineering major with a minor in earth sciences, Munguia received a Brooke Owens Fellowship for extraordinary undergraduate women in aerospace engineering (even as an environmental engineer), and will intern at Planet Labs after graduation as part of the Fellowship. There, she’ll be helping develop future satellites and further melding the aerospace technology behind the firm’s satellites with its use for environmental purposes such as measuring climate change patterns on a global scale and helping farmers by characterizing soil quality and moisture.
Munguia was also selected as a Gordon Fellow by the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center at UC San Diego, and helped the Students for the Development and Exploration of Space group on campus become the first collegiate group to launch a rocket powered by a 3D-printed engine.
Off campus, she’s interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for three summers, working on the MARS 2020 Rover’s camera attachment to be able to detect signs of life, and developing an X-ray fluorescence tool that could one day analyze elements on other planets.
She said she hopes she can inspire other students who might have seemingly divergent interests figure out a way to meld the two together.
“I was always interested in the environment and space and never really understood how they came together. I see that now, but a lot of people don’t realize how powerful aerospace technology is for us here on Earth, and I hope I can help change that,” Munguia said.
Danielle Naiman transferred from Santa Monica College to UC San Diego with a goal of making the world a more sustainable place. Environmental engineering, within the Department of Mechanical and Aerosapce Engineering, seemed like a good way to start down that path. Now, Naiman is graduating having developed a Solar Tree to generate more stable solar power throughout the day, bettered our understanding of ocean acidification in the Bering Sea through an internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and increased our understanding of comets through an internship at NASA JPL. Naiman will work on mechanical systems at ACCO Engineered Systems after graduation.
On campus, Naiman was part of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, and served as vice president external, helping ensure the society’s professional development programs were inclusive and representative of all engineering majors. She was also a Gordon Scholar through the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center.
She advises students to take advantage of professors’ officer hours—they’re there to help!
“Don’t be afraid to talk to professors,” she said. “They’re all really nice! And they have so much wisdom, but not that many people got to office hours.”
She also encourages students to seek out job opportunities that they’re interested in, even if their major might not sound like a 100 percent match.
“Don’t let your major define you unless that’s how you want it to be,” Naiman said. “Don’t put restrictions on yourself.”
Davina Joshuia, a chemical engineering student within the Department of NanoEngineering, traveled from Kuala Lumpur to study at UC San Diego. Once she got here, she jumped right in. Joshuia conducted research in nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang’s lab, served on the University Centers Advisory Board, was vice president of finance for her sorority, and earned a minor in economics in addition to her engineering degree.
In Wang’s Nanobioelectronics lab, Joshuia contributed to work on stretchable electronics and on a biosensors project using sweat as biofuel to power electronics.
She’s held internships with Fluor and PETRONAS, and this summer is working for HP in San Diego conducting research and development on printed electronics.
Her advice? Manage your time wisely.
“Start any work or projects early on. Don’t wait to do something if you can get it out of the way now. I learned that my first year, and never had to pull an all-nighter. Time management is key.”
Structural Engineering—Yuanqi ‘Ivy’ Wang
Ivy Wang spent her childhood on construction sites with her dad, a civil engineer. She grew up around blueprints and architectural renderings, and knew she wanted to enter a similar line of work. She decided on structural engineering because she was good at math and physics in school, and next year will further specialize through a master’s degree in Sustainable Design and Construction at Stanford.
As an undergraduate, she was part of the Architecture at UC San Diego club, which merged with the Construction Management Association of America chapter, and worked on projects like producing a proposal for the planned 7thCollege on campus. Wang was also part of the Seismic Design Group competition team, which builds a tower out of balsa wood and competes with teams from across the country to see which design can best sustain a simulated earthquake.
She also conducted research in structural engineering Professor Veronica Eliasson’s lab, using high speed cameras to better understand the shock waves caused by the snapping shrimp’s powerful claw.
Her advice for students?
“Some people will say intelligence is the key to success, but I think it depends on one’s attitude. I think effort and how to treat everything is the key.”
She also encourages students to take advantage of all the resources the Structural Engineering Department has to offer, from world-renowned faculty, to the largest earthquake shake table in the world.