Article by UW ECE staff, photos by Ryan Hoover
Every year, UW ECE holds an awards ceremony that honors students, faculty and staff for their outstanding contributions to the Department. This year, the UW ECE Awards event was held at the end of spring quarter in the Paul G. Allen Center Atrium. The event was well-attended and hosted by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins.
“Today, we honor our faculty, students and staff for their outstanding contributions to the Department,” Klavins said at the ceremony. “Award recipients represent exceptional achievements; embody UW ECE core values such as leadership, collaboration and teamwork; and foster diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The UW ECE Awards ceremony recognizes exceptional teaching, research, and entrepreneurship efforts in the Department, as well as outstanding mentorship, student impact, and collaborative work. This year’s event also included a fond farewell and acknowledgement of contributions to the Department by Associate Professor Sreeram Kannan, who has been with UW ECE for more than eight years. Kannan has been researching communications, machine learning and blockchain technology during his time in the Department. For the last two years, he has been on a leave of absence while founding Eigenlayer, a company that is making blockchains more programmable and scalable. Kannan will soon be moving on from UW ECE to focus on his company full time.
Learn more below about this year’s award recipients.
Outstanding Teaching Award
UW ECE Assistant Teaching Professor Mahmood Hameed took on the responsibility of teaching a wide array of classes in his first year at UW ECE. In doing so, he supported the Department in a remarkable way. Although he was faced with many students over the quarter, Hameed took the time to personally make an impact, joining students after class and in teacher assistant meetings to further connections and curiosity. According to UW ECE Professor Denise Wilson, who presented the award, Hameed has a unique ability to engage with a room, teaching the future generation and inspiring them to further their learning.
Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
This award recognizes a student or students who demonstrate an outstanding contribution to teaching at UW ECE. This year, there were so many exceptional nominations that the Department selected three award recipients — Xichen Li, Shruti Misra, and Lane Smith. The award was presented at the event by UW ECE Associate Professor Matt Reynolds.
Li has been a teaching assistant for classes such as “Advanced Communication Circuits” and “Analog Circuits for Sensors and Systems.” Nominators described Li’s ability to support students in a way that promoted learning and skill development. One nominator wrote, “I cannot speak highly enough of Xichen Li, who has undoubtedly been the most outstanding TA I have had the pleasure of working with. Throughout the EE 536 RFIC course, Xichen consistently went above and beyond to provide me with the support I needed to succeed.”
Misra has been a pillar of the UW ECE community for many years. To the students fortunate enough to have had her as the teaching assistant for the EE 496, 497, 498 Capstone course, known as ENGINE, they would have met an organized professional who dedicates herself to her work and takes genuine pride in seeing the success of her ENGINE students. Misra’s nomination describes her as a “role model for our undergraduates, and her empathy, work ethic and hard work are second to none. She has the imagination, intelligence, and diligence that are marks of a top researcher and TA.”
Smith has been the teaching assistant for courses EE 454 and the EE 351 labs. Smith has also gone above and beyond for the Department, taking the lead on organizing many student discussion sessions for UW ECE faculty interviews. When gaps in knowledge led to a need for an expert on the EE 351 labs, Smith spent extra time in the months before spring quarter. He not only prepared for his role, but he became the expert that the Department needed and made UW ECE a better place for years to come.
Vikram Jandhyala and Suja Vaidyanathan Endowed Innovation Award
This award recognizes a UW ECE undergraduate or graduate student who has demonstrated entrepreneurial potential. Recent graduate Mathew Varghese was this year’s recipient, and the award was presented by UW ECE Associate Professor Matt Reynolds.
Varghese had an overwhelming number of nominations for this honor. Nominators described Varghese as someone who demonstrated a commitment to innovation and empowering communities. Some quotes from his nomination included: “During COVID, Mathew’s swift response in providing face shields for healthcare workers demonstrated his ability to develop practical solutions in times of crisis,”; “Mathew told me that his goal is to positively impact one million people within the next five years through continued dedication to projects that align with his values. Our Department has been lucky to be a part of the legacy he is creating for himself and society around him.”
Yang Award for Outstanding Doctoral Student
This 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 recognized by outside researchers in their field. This year’s award recipient was Bingzhao Li, a 2022 UW ECE graduate who is now a postdoctoral scholar in the Laboratory of Photonic Systems at the UW. This lab is overseen by UW ECE and Physics Professor Mo Li, who is Bingzhao Li’s adviser and the Department’s associate chair for research. The award was presented by Joshua Smith, who is the Milton and Delia Zeutschel Professor in Entrepreneurial Excellence in UW ECE and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.
Runners-up for the award, which is considered to be an honor in itself, were Niveditha Kalavakonda and Abhi Saxena. According to Smith, both individuals performed outstanding research work and demonstrated true professionalism.
Bingzhao Li was recognized for his research in optics and photonics. An outcome of his research highlighted at the event was a new type of LiDAR he developed alongside UW ECE graduate student Qixuan Lin, with guidance from Professor Li. This new LiDAR system uses on-chip acousto-optic beam steering for high-resolution 3D imaging in the frequency domain. It is a significant improvement over existing technologies, and it achieves a 600% increase in field-of-view to 180 degrees and a 900% improvement in scanning speed. This work and others by Bingzhao Li have been published in Nature and other high-impact journals. Bingzhao Li is now working with Professor Li to commercialize this new technology.
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. This year’s recipient was Luyao Niu, and the award was presented by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins.
Niu is a postdoctoral scholar in the Network Security Lab at the UW, where his research focuses on developing scalable algorithms with certifiable guarantees to ensure security and resilience of cyber-physical systems in the presence of attacks and faults. This award recognizes his incredible mentoring contributions to other students in the lab. His nomination stated that, “Dr. Niu’s unwavering commitment, guidance, and dedication have not only profoundly impacted my personal and academic growth but have also significantly enhanced the UW ECE experience for all those fortunate enough to work under his guidance.”
Student Impact Award
This award recognizes a student who shows an exemplary commitment to UW ECE and whose service has made a lasting impact on the Department. This year’s recipient was Matt Guo, and the award was presented by UW ECE Director of Academic Services Stephanie Swanson.
Guo was nominated for his impact as a teaching assistant and researcher in EE/CSE 371 digital design courses. He demonstrated outstanding competence in technical skills and a genuine passion for promoting educational access through his work. A student mentored by Guo said, “Matt is nothing short of an extraordinary researcher. In the days I spent with him I got to know someone that is genuinely passionate about his work and the mission behind it.” As noted by Guo’s nominator, “His work has not only benefited the current cohort of students but also set a benchmark for future iterations of the course, ensuring that future generations of engineers will benefit from his dedication and expertise.”
Chair’s Outstanding Collaboration and Teamwork Award
The UW ECE front desk team
This award from the UW ECE Chair recognizes exemplary collaborative work. It was presented by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins, and this year’s recipients were members of the UW ECE front desk team — Ary Prasetyowati, Andy Xiong, Padmini Bhagavatula, Vincent Wu, and Rosita Rasyid. According to Klavins, the UW ECE front desk team is the glue that holds the Department together. The day-to-day functions they cover ensure that the Department operates smoothly. Without fail, Klavins said, they jump into action when needed and are a prime example of flexibility and performing with grace under pressure. He also said that Prasetyowati’s leadership, management, and delightful manner have helped to define UW ECE culture. Klavins noted that all members of the front desk team have demonstrated resourcefulness and a willingness to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of the Department. One quote from a nominator read, “They serve as the front lines of our Department and are often the first people that our students, visitors and guests encounter when they first enter UW ECE. We couldn’t have better people serving as the face of our Department.”
UW ECE congratulates all award recipients. Thanks for your outstanding efforts and contributions to the University and to the Department!