Article adapted from content provided by May Lim
Photos by Ryan Hoover
Each year, UW ECE holds an award ceremony to honor students, faculty, and staff for their outstanding contributions to the Department. Award recipients represent exceptional achievements; embody UW ECE core values such as leadership, mentorship, collaboration, and teamwork; and foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year’s UW ECE Awards ceremony and social was held June 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Paul G. Allen Center Atrium. The event was hosted by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins.
“I’d like to congratulate all award recipients and nominees,” Klavins said at the award ceremony. “You help to make UW ECE an exceptional Department, and we are lucky to have you!”
It was also the first year for a new honor, the Outstanding Mentorship Award in Electrical and Computer Engineering. This award recognizes any member of the UW ECE community whose exemplary mentoring and advising activities made important contributions in building a supportive culture in the Department.
Read on to learn more about this year’s award recipients.
Outstanding Teaching Award
UW ECE Associate Teaching Professor Tai-Chang Chen received several enthusiastic student nominations for this award, which recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding teaching abilities. Students spoke of Chen’s exceptional teaching skills, his inspiring character, his care for student learning, and his humor and personality. According to his students, Chen provides exemplary mentorship and exhibits creative approaches to teaching, with a clear commitment to student success.
One of Chen’s nominators shared, “He truly cares about the longevity of an ECE student’s passion for a subject. It is inspiring to learn from a person who is so invested in a student’s experiences in the classroom, and I am reinspired every time I walk into one of his lectures.”
Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
Kim stood out as the top contender for this award, which is in recognition of a student who demonstrates an outstanding contribution to teaching. The award was presented by UW ECE Associate Professor Payman Arabshahi, who is the Department’s associate chair of education and industry liaison. Arabshahi noted that Kim’s work has been notable as a teaching assistant, pre-doctoral instructor, and course development teaching assistant both in electrical and computer engineering and in physics. Nominators spoke of Kim’s passion for teaching and education, his ability to create meaningful and effective lab materials and assignments, and his deep concern for student success.
A nominator for Kim stated, “His presentations are elegant, instructions are clear and his approach to students is highly engaging. Jimin has established a great reputation as a mentor and teacher to students. He is devoted to fostering in the students strong scientific knowledge and reasoning, with emphasis on understanding the process of problem solving. With this type of teaching, students believe in their ability to succeed in the class.”
Yang Research Award
The Yang Research Award recognizes a UW ECE doctoral student in their final year of study who has conducted outstanding research in the field of electrical and computer engineering, as evidenced by their publications or recognition by outside researchers in their field. This year, three outstanding doctoral students were finalists for the award: Devon Griggs, Zerina Kapetanovic and Yue Sun. These three finalists presented their research to a faculty panel, who selected Kapetanovic as the recipient of this year’s award.
The award was presented by Milton and Delia Zeutschel Professor in Entrepreneurial Excellence Joshua Smith, who was Kapetanovic’s faculty adviser at UW ECE. Smith noted that while a member of his group, Kapetanovic was an extremely productive doctoral student while maintaining a separate, but complementary, research identity at Microsoft in their FarmBeats project. Kapetanovic’s most recent work in low-power communication methods, “Communication by Means of Modulated Johnson Noise,” demonstrated for the first time the possibility of communicating by modulating the thermal noise that occurs naturally in an unpowered resistor at room temperature. Kapetanovic will be starting as a tenure-track assistant professor in Stanford’s electrical engineering department next year.
One of her nominators shared, “I believe this groundbreaking work presents a novel approach to communication, with the potential for significant real-world impact in areas such as implanted medical devices and digital agriculture. I think that Zerina’s Ph.D. research will be remembered for many years as extremely innovative and impactful.”
Outstanding Mentorship Award in Electrical and Computer Engineering
As mentioned above, this inaugural award, made possible by a generous endowment from a donor, recognizes any member of the UW ECE community whose exemplary mentoring and advising activities made important contributions toward building a supportive culture in the Department. This year, there were two award recipients representing the impact our faculty and staff have on students. The award was presented by UW ECE Assistant Professor Sam Burden, who is the Department’s associate chair for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As Director of Professional Student Programs at UW ECE, May Lim develops strategy, travels around the world to sell the program to prospective students, sets the teaching schedule and advocates for program participants. Burden noted that she has also served as the PMP student adviser for the last six years.
One of Lim’s nominators stated, “I usually do not talk to my adviser a lot unless I need advice about taking courses or anything on the administrative level. She is the first adviser I met that I really want to talk with and be friends with. Along with my two-year master’s life, she has always been the person encouraging me and endorsing me. Without her help, I would not have been able to receive the graduate staff assistant position, and I would not have been brave enough to apply for my Ph.D.”
Eve Riskin’s nominators spoke of her impactful research, her excellence in teaching and curriculum innovation, and most of all, her long history of advocacy and mentorship. During her time at the UW, Riskin has brought her passion to the goal of bringing more underrepresented students and faculty into STEM careers. She has served as the associate dean of diversity and access in the UW College of Engineering, the faculty director of the UW ADVANCE program and as the creator of the STARS program at the UW. Her nominators discussed Riskin’s extraordinary impact not only within the UW and UW ECE but also across the United States.
One nominator shared, “She has changed the lives of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members who without her mentorship would likely have suffered, but with her mentorship have thrived. Eve is a force of nature.”
Vikram Jandhyala and Suja Vaidyanathan Endowed Innovation Award
Francisco Luquin Monroy
This award recognizes a UW ECE undergraduate or graduate student who has demonstrated entrepreneurial potential. It was presented by Milton and Delia Zeutschel Professor in Entrepreneurial Excellence Joshua Smith. Smith noted that Monroy’s graduate thesis research was on developing a computer-assisted stoma management visualization system. Monroy’s adviser for this work was UW ECE Associate Teaching Professor Rania Hussein.
Monroy is in the process of commercializing his project, and he has led a team through the 2021 UW National Science Foundation I-Corps Site Program, placed third in the GIX Innovation Competition and has advanced in the Dempsey Startup Competition. Additionally, Monroy is committed to equitable access to biomedical devices and has been building partnerships with insurance companies to provide coverage for his product.
A nominator for Monroy shared, “Francisco works tirelessly on all aspects of the project, which shows very solid steps towards commercialization. He is a business-savvy student, who combines a strong technical background with solid entrepreneurial skills and who also provides an excellent leadership model to his team.”
Student Impact Award
This award recognizes a student who shows an exemplary commitment to UW ECE and whose service has made a lasting impact in the Department. Kalavakonda is a doctoral student and graduate staff assistant with the UW ECE graduate advising team. The award was presented by UW ECE Director of Academic Services Stephanie Swanson, who noted that Kalavakonda, in her GSA role, has sought to decrease barriers and make the admissions process more accessible to first generation and underrepresented students. Kalavakonda created the UW ECE Graduate Applicant Support Program and Virtual Graduate Student Office Hours, where current doctoral and postdoctoral students provide information and mentorship to prospective students. She has also played a key role in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the Department, working closely with Sam Burden on collecting data and co-leading Department-wide DEI meetings and town halls.
As one of Kalavakonda’s nominator’s shared, “Nivii is someone who seeks to improve the world around her. She leaves a positive impact in the choices she makes and the things that she chooses to do. We are so lucky to have her!”
Chair’s Outstanding Collaboration / Teamwork Award
Stephanie Swanson, Chris Overly, Katherine Sykes,
Wayne Gillam, Ryan Hoover
This award recognizes exemplary collaborative work, and this year it went to members of the UW ECE Curriculum Reinvention Team, which included UW ECE staff from Advising and Public Relations. Klavins, who presented the award, noted that although the new electrical and computer engineering curriculum is straightforward, the transition from the EE to the ECE degree was anything but simple.
This team of academic advising and public relations staff worked closely together on messaging for a large variety of stakeholders including prospective, incoming, and current students, as well as other departments and community colleges. With a new set of web pages, presentations and information sessions, this team ensured that UW ECE students would be well informed about their options and excited about the possibilities of the new degree. Klavins said that he was extremely impressed with how well the team communicated with each other, creating a shared vision for rollout of the new degree, and cheering each other on along the way.
Once again, congratulations to all award recipients. Thanks for all your outstanding efforts and contributions to the University and UW ECE!