Engineering school honors top graduates and distinguished faculty

June 07, 2006

Members of this year’s class of graduating engineering students are leaving Princeton with impressive records of accomplishments and ambitious plans for the future, Dean H. Vincent Poor told students and their families during the engineering Class Day ceremony Monday, June 5.

"This is a very broad class of students," Poor said. "We have students who played intercollegiate athletics, performed in dance and musical events, served communities around the world, studied abroad, developed new technologies and made scientific discoveries - all the things we cherish here at Princeton."

The 172 students graduating with degrees from the School of Engineering and Applied Science are heading toward equally diverse endeavors, Poor said. Some are pursuing graduate degrees in engineering - at schools including MIT, Caltech, Berkeley and Cambridge - while others are joining Merck, Google, Goldman Sachs, Boeing and other companies. Still others are starting their own companies, going into professional sports and enrolling in medical school, law school or military service.

Classday 2006

"I’d just like to congratulate the parents here for raising such a talented group of people and also thank you for sending them to us to educate," Poor said.

The Class Day ceremony was part of this year’s graduation ceremonies, which concluded with the University’s commencement on Tuesday, June 6. In addition to the 172 undergraduates, 81 students received doctoral degrees, and 23 received master’s degrees in engineering fields during the 2005-2006 academic year.

At the University Class Day celebration June 5, chemical engineering major Claire Woo won one of the University’s highest undergraduate honors, the Harold Willis Dodds Achievement Award, which recognizes "qualities of clear thinking, moral courage, a patient and judicious regard for the opinion of others and a thorough devotion to the welfare of the University and the life of the mind."

Woo, who is from Hong Kong, is a former president of the Pride Alliance and organized the University's first "Pride Month." She has been active as a peer educator on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and has won many awards for her leadership in gender identity and expression issues on campus. She also has been an officer in Students for Progressive Education and Action.

At the engineering Class Day ceremony, Woo also won the James Hayes-Edgar Palmer Prize in Engineering, which honors excellent scholarship, a marked capacity for leadership, and promise of creative achievement in engineering. Woo achieved an outstanding academic record with 11 grades of A+ among her 39 courses. She received the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and the Donald Othmer Academic Excellence Award from AIChE. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. Her independent research on multiphase flows has resulted in at least one published paper and promises to prove valuable for the fuel cell industry.

Princeton Engineering also honored 12 other students for special achievements in engineering scholarship and service at Class Day:

  • John Barry IV, who majored in electrical engineering, and Michael Henchen, Jr., a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, received the J. Rich Steers Award, given by the New York City Post of the Society of American Military Engineers to reward scholastic performance that demonstrates potential for further engineering study and practice. Barry completed a senior thesis in which he developed computer models of spin-polarized alkali metal atoms. He is a native of Riverside, Conn., and will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Yale. Henchen helped to develop cookers that will be used to improve life in a rural village in Kenya. He is from Geneseo, N.Y. and will soon join the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
  • Catherine Kunkel, a physics major from Woodstock, Md., with a certificate in engineering physics, received the Jeffrey Kephart ’80 Prize in Engineering Physics for outstanding work in engineering physics. She investigated the role of coral reefs in protecting against tsunamis.
  • Daniel Recht, a physics major with a certificate in materials science and engineering, won the PRISM-Newport Award of Excellence, which is awarded to the graduating senior who has demonstrated high scholastic achievement and also has shown potential for leadership in the field of photonics, electro-optics or optoelectronic materials. Recht conducted research on glass films with unique optical properties and presented his findings at a professional conference where he won the best student poster award despite competition from graduate students. Recht is from Mount Kisco, N.Y.
  • Sarah Moore, a chemical engineering major, won the Tau Beta Pi Prize, which is awarded to the member of the senior class who contributed a major part of his or her time to service of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She has served as awards chair and president of the Engineering Council. Moore also served as a peer adviser and was active in the Society of Women Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers student chapters. Next year she will pursue a Ph.D. in bioengineering at Stanford with a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship. Moore came to Princeton from Raleigh, N.C.
  • Michael Gottlieb, a civil and environmental engineering major from Falls Church, Va., and Curtis Ross Ohlendorf, an operations research and financial engineering major from Austin, Texas, received the George Mueller Award, which honors the graduating senior who, during his or her four undergraduate years, has most evidently combined high scholarly achievement in the study of engineering with quality performance in intercollegiate athletics.

    Ohlendorf was a member of the Princeton baseball team before being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004. His thesis, highly praised by his advisor, Prof. Rene Carmona, examined the rationale of the baseball draft and the actual value of signing bonuses.

    Gottlieb was a member of the heavyweight crew team, which was undefeated in its regular season this year. His senior thesis examined the potential role of cuts in levees as a means of flood protection along the lower Mississippi river.

  • Allen Hsu, who majored in electrical engineering, and Margaret Soroka, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, were awarded the Lore von Jaskowsky Memorial Prize, which is given to the senior who has "participated with noticeable élan in research that has resulted in a contribution to the field" and whose interactions with other students, faculty and staff has added to the quality of the University life and who intends to pursue a career in engineering or applied science.

    Hsu began independent research before his junior year, culminating in a paper on synthetic biology that was submitted to a professional conference. His senior thesis involved work on quantum cascade lasers. Hsu will attend graduate school at MIT with National Science Foundation and National Defense Science and Engineering graduate fellowships. Hsu came to Princeton from Bethlehem, Pa.

    Margaret Tekla Soroka, from Stevens Point, Wis., by way of Japan and Australia, plans to attend Keio University in Japan for a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering with a fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture.

  • Mechanical and aerospace engineering majors Sebastien Douville and Nathan Lowery and operations research and financial engineering major Jacqueline Ng received the Calvin Dodd MacCracken Senior Thesis/Project Award, which recognizes the senior independent work that is most distinctive for its inventiveness and technical accomplishment.

    Douville, from Lac-Beauport, Quebec, and Lowery, from Mukilteo, Wash., invented a more efficient method of producing biodiesel fuel, an alternative to traditional diesel fuel that is made from plant matter. They incorporated a startup company to commercialize their research.

    Ng completed a research project on "crash options," which are financial instruments that protect a buyer against market crashes. She then applied this work to a study of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and also to the U.S. economy. Next year Ng will work for Morgan Stanley. She is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • Douville also won the Joseph Clifton Elgin Prize, which is awarded to the graduating senior who, in the judgment of the dean and the department chairs, has done the most to advance the interests of the engineering school in the community at large. In his freshman and sophomore years, Douville worked with SPARKS International to help establish a multi-ethnic school in Kabul, which opened in November 2003. He then became the founding president of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a humanitarian organization that brings sustainable solutions to communities around the world.