Susan Margulies, who chairs the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, looked out at the students gathered in front of her for the BME Leadership Reception, last Friday afternoon (May 4).
The students sat there in the Gold Room of the Georgia Tech Student Center, poised between the completion of difficult degree course work and the exhilaration of college graduation (which was happening the following morning), and Margulies thought about the collective, limitless potential in the room.
“I like to think of you as pluripotent, like stem cells," Margulies said, eliciting nods and laughter from the audience of proud parents and students.
This was the fifth annual reception designed to highlight and honor the accomplishments of BME undergraduates, and first Margulies, who is completing her first academic year as department chair, wanted to leave the students three pieces of advice.
“First, we want you to engage with your community, and I don’t mean social media,” she said. “I mean face-to-face, in real time, connect with your local and global community. Second, find your purpose. What are you good at? What gives you satisfaction? Those are not necessarily the same things. The third thing is, have an impact – on your field, in your children’s lives, in your world.”
Then she thought of a fourth thing: “Also, keep in touch with us. We’re your Tech family and our greatest joy is when you reach back out to us for advice, or to tell us what you’re doing.”
Joe Le Doux, associate chair for undergraduate learning and student experience in the Coulter Department, and Essy Behravesh, director of undergraduate studies, then took turns introducing each winner and candidate, thanking the undergraduate awards committee, which includes Behravesh, as well as Balakrishna Pai (director of instructional laboratories), Bilal Haider (assistant professor), Paul Fincannon (academic advising manager), Brenda Morris (corporate relations manager), Emily Foster (academic programs coordinator), John Lau (design instructor), and two undergraduate students: Julia Woodall and Fariah Majid.
But the focus quickly shifted to the BME students (and one faculty member) being recognized. “The purpose of this ceremony is to celebrate you,” Le Doux told them. “It’s your day. Congratulations – as of tomorrow, you will be graduates of Georgia Tech. We strive to foster leadership skills at BME, and I really like the definition of leadership that’s all about creating an alternative future.”
Here are the architects of whatever future awaits, this year’s BME honorees:
National, Institute, and College of Engineering Awards
• Fulbright Fellowship: Oliver Daliet
Daliet is traveling to Iceland to help conduct sports medicine research at the University of Iceland on the effectiveness of preventative training against non-contact knee injuries in young athletes. This fellowship allows for individually designed research projects that take place during one academic year in a country outside the U.S., typically with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher learning.
• Whitaker International Program Fellowship: Blake Lash
Lash wasn’t present to be recognized because he is currently at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute in Melbourne, working in the field of immunoengineering. This award is given to young biomedical engineers who are sent to places outside the U.S. or Canada to conduct scientific research, pursue additional coursework at an academic institution, or participate in an internship at a policy institute, or in an industrial or non-profit setting.
• Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award: Mahdi Al Husseini
Husseini is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. In addition to his work in community service, his degrees in biomedical engineering and public policy, Husseini will attend Airborne School and train as a medical evacuation pilot. This award goes to a junior or senior who demonstrated extraordinary leadership and/or entrepreneurial skills while at Georgia Tech.
• Tau Beta Pi Award: Morgan Stephens (candidate)
The Tau Beta Pi Award is the College of Engineering’s highest award for graduating seniors. It is based on academic excellence, leadership, and service. Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 3.95.
• College of Engineering Honors Day Award: Sierra Copner (winner)
The College of Engineering Honors Day Award goes to the top third-year student in the College of Engineering at the end of their third year. Candidates must have a 4.0 GPA.
• Helen Grenga Outstanding Women Engineer Award: Lauren Aycock (candidate), Nancy Deaton (candidate), Morgan Stephens (candidate).
The Helen Grenga Award is the College of Engineering’s highest award for graduating female engineers. The criteria are scholarship, leadership, and service, and the recipient must have a minimum GPA of 3.6.
• Love Family Foundation Scholarship: Mi Hyun Choi (candidate)
The Love Family Foundation Scholarship is Georgia Tech’s highest award for graduating seniors. The scholarship is awarded to the student with the most outstanding scholastic record in the graduating class. Candidates must have a 4.0 GPA.
• Undergraduate Teaching Assistant of the Year: Michael Brown (winner)
Brown, who graduated in December, is currently an R&D biomedical engineer at Halyard Health working on the next generation of pain management equipment.
This award recognizes outstanding undergraduate teaching assistants for their contributions and the important part they play in the undergraduate educational experience at Georgia Tech. Each academic unit recognizes one of their own students, which then makes them eligible for the campus-wide title.
BME Leadership Awards: Academic Year 2017-2018
• Outstanding Academic Achievement Award: Mi Hyun Choi (winner).
Other candidates were Emma Blume, Anirudh Joshi, Alison Knight, and Christian Sorenson.
With a dual degree in neuroscience from Emory and biomedical engineering from Tech, Choi plans to attend graduate school. A former Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar, she showed, “great self-motivation and dedication throughout her time in my lab. Her commitment to a one-year research program, on top of an already-challenging course load, is indicative of her passion for scholarly research in itself, but she also showed the depth of her devotion by spending long hours in the lab,” said Frank Hammond, assistant professor of BME and a Petit Institute researcher.
• Outstanding Academic Service Award: Blake Lash (winner).
Other candidates were Emma Blume, Michael Brown, Cecille Canary, Raeedah Choudhury, Alison Kight, Armel Nsiangani, Christian Sorensen, Cassidy Wang, and Sidi Zhao.
Lash, a former Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar, “is extremely smart, works hard, is an upbeat and energetic leader, a gifted young researcher and is always looking for ways to give back to his community,” said Le Doux.
• Outstanding Community Service Award: Tyler Wan (winner).
Other candidates were Mahdi Al Husseini, Lauren Aycock, Haley Eskew, Francesca Lidback, and Kelly Nardone.
“Simply put, Tyler Wan truly cares about Georgia Tech, Atlanta, and the people who reside within. He is a testament to community service,” said Len Phillips, Kiwanis advisor to Georgia Tech Circle K.
• Outstanding Entrepreneur Award: Garrett Wallace (winner).
The other candidate was Olivia Lodise.
“With an InVenture prize win, an Institutional Review Board approved study, and a pending patent, Garrett is a prototypical entrepreneur,” said Le Doux. “He was a Fellow for NeuroLaunch, an accelerator program for neuroscience startups, and has a minor is technology and management. He’ll be starting at Emory School of Medicine in July to pursue an M.D, and I hope that he will continue his entrepreneurial spirit with us.”
• Outstanding Industrial Experience Award: Julie Bu (winner).
Other candidates were Asana Adams, Alyssa Jackson, Anirudh Joshi, Blake Mailhes, Bridget Nabb, Kathryn Nolan, Cristina Quintero, Alexa Schlein, and Elizabeth Stayduhar.
Bu, who is currently working R&D in Medtronic’s peripheral vascular division, “epitomizes Georgia Tech’s motto, “progress and service,” constantly striving to improve herself and the lives of others,” said Angela Mitchell, senior engineer and student contractor coordinator for Halyard Health.
• Mr. S.K. Jain Outstanding Research Award: Ananyaveena Anilkumar (winner).
Other candidates were Olivia Lodise, Kaley Parchinski, Elizabeth Stayduhar, Joselyne Umubyeyi.
A contributor and member of Susan Thomas’s lab since she was in high school, Anilkumar has been first author on two scientific publications. Her most striking characteristic is, “her remarkable drive and unmatched focus. Veena wants nothing more than to succeed as a biomedical scientist,” said Thomas, associate professor of mechanical engineering and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
• Dr. G. D. Jain Outstanding Senior Award: Morgan Stephens (winner).
Other candidates were Mahdi Al Husseini, Lauren Aycock, Emma Blume, Michael Brown, Anirudh Joshi, Argyro Kosmakos, Armel Nsiangani, and Cassidy Wang.
As a volunteer, Stephens works with sickle cell disease patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta-Hughes-Spalding Hospital, where she also tutors a high school student. Stephens, who will soon start work as an analyst with Insight Sourcing Group, “was, hands down, the best intern I have ever worked with,” according to Jim Cunningham, project engineer with Medtronic. “She is years ahead of her experience level.”
BME Department Excellence in Teaching Award
James Dahlman, assistant professor of BME and researcher in Petit Institute (presented by Anokhi Patel, chair of the BME Student Advisory Board)
The Excellence in Teaching award is given annually by the BME Student Advisory Board. The faculty recipient of this award is announced during the undergraduate leadership reception.