2014 Commencement Awards

Jun 15, 2014

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

2014 UCLA Engineering Award Winners at Commencement

Several students at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been honored with school-wide and department awards for 2014. Below, a few profiles of this year’s school-wide winners, including Shannon Wongvibulsin, the Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award winner; Faiz Malik, the Student Commencement Speaker; Yu Chen, the doctoral student winner of the Harry M. Showman Prize; Tandré Oey, the undergraduate winner of the Harry M. Showman Prize; and Norris Tie, the Russell R. O’Neill Distinguished Service Award winner. Also profiled is this year’s National Anthem singer and engineering Ph.D. student, David McCoul. The winners of the school-wide awards were selected by committees comprised of students, faculty, and staff. To see a complete list of this year’s winners, click here.

The school-wide Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award recognizes an exceptional UCLA Engineering student who has demonstrated the highest accomplishments in the classroom, research, and community service.
Shannon Wongvibulsin, B.S. Bioengineering, Biomedical Research Minor
Wongvibulsin is a 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar and a member of the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Program. She conducted research in the lab of Dr. Benjamin Wu, professor and department chair of bioengineering, on the 3D printing of scaffolds for use in tissue engineering. In addition, Wongvibulsin served as the director of UCLA’s Total Wellness Magazine for the past three years and has been editor-in-chief for the past two years. After graduation, she will attend the Johns Hopkins University Medical Scientist Training/MD-PhD Program.

What was your favorite class, and why?
The Bioengineering Capstone Design taught by Professor Dino DiCarlo. This course was particularly exciting because we had the opportunity to work in teams to tackle current research and medical problems as well as utilize the knowledge we obtained from the bioengineering curriculum to design novel solutions. With our colleagues and faculty advisors, we had the chance to develop a project through its major research stages – from writing a mock-NIH proposal and conducting experiments to presenting at the design symposium for the UCLA community as well as guests from biotech industries.

What was your most memorable UCLA experience?
When I came to UCLA Engineering Open House as an admitted high school senior and made the decision to attend UCLA at the conclusion of the event. At the open house, I had the chance to talk to the professors as well as current students and obtain a glimpse into how amazing it would be to come to UCLA as a bioengineering student. I have many fond memories of that day including playing the bioengineering bingo game (B-E-n-g-o) led by Dr. Dan Kamei as well as having the privilege of learning about Dr. Wu’s research and discussing with him potential research opportunities in his lab.

Best part of being a student at UCLA?
The best part of being a student at UCLA is the incredible amount of support and opportunities you have. The guidance and mentorship I’ve obtained from the faculty here has been phenomenal and has enabled me to grow enormously from the time I came here as a freshman. Furthermore, because UCLA offers a diverse range of opportunities, it is an amazing place to explore your interests and develop your passions.

What was it about an MD-PhD program that appealed to you?
I am interested in obtaining both a deep understanding of medicine as well as strong research training. I am excited to utilize the knowledge I will acquire from this dual degree training in order to become a physician-scientist and serve as both a researcher and medical doctor to advance science and medicine to improve the delivery of healthcare and the technology available to treat, cure and prevent diseases.

2014 Student Speaker
The student speaker represents all 2014 graduates at commencement and is selected through a competitive process.
Faiz Malik, B.S. Civil Engineering.
In addition to carrying a full course load in his senior year, Malik also held a full-time job over the past year as construction inspector for the City of Los Angeles. He will continue with the city following graduation with the long-term goal of becoming a licensed engineer in structural engineering.

Besides being a full-time student, you also hold a full-time job, what do you do and how to you manage your time?
I realized that in order to do well and manage both my job and school responsibilities I would have to step up my game. I knew I would have to work harder and that is exactly what I did. During the weekdays I would go to school and work, and during the weekends I would get my schoolwork and studying done. Since time was of the essence I would follow an equation that went like this: work done is the product of the amount of focus put into the work and the amount of time spent working. In order to spend less time on any task, I would just be more focused when I’m doing the task. This applies in almost everything in life from doing school work to doing the laundry. The more focused you are, the faster you’ll get done.

What’s been your favorite class and why?
CEE 143: Pre-stressed Concrete taught by Professor Kenneth Bondy. I enjoyed this class not only because the material was interesting but because the professor taught it really well. In the class we learned how to design a two-span beam both by hand and software. We could design the beam by software in under five minutes but designing the beam by hand took over 50 pages of calculations and many hours. But it’s in the hand calculations that I really began to understand what the program was doing and what I am supposed to understand as an engineer. This class wasn’t easy, but along the way I not only learned a lot about pre-stressed concrete but also about what it is like being an engineer in the real world.

What are you plans following graduation?
I plan to work as a structural engineer either for a design firm or the City of Los Angeles. This will allow me to gain experience which will eventually allow me to sit for my Professional Engineer (PE) and Structural Engineer (SE) exams to become a licensed engineer. Apart from building my career, I also want to enjoy life and do the things I like to do, such as sailing and hiking.

Briefly, what’s the message you’re hoping to convey to your fellow graduates?
I am hoping to convey to my fellow graduates what being an engineer really means and how as engineers we can achieve success.

Most memorable UCLA experience?
It occurred before I even got accepted to UCLA. As a junior in high school, my class went on a college tour to all the UCs and that is when I first stepped onto UCLA’s campus. From the second I saw Royce Hall, the green grass, and all the other famous buildings I knew that I wanted to spend the next four years of my college career here. Unfortunately, I had no idea that as an engineer I would never really have a class in Royce Hall, but still just being a part of this beautiful campus was enough.

2014 Harry M. Showman Prize winner, Graduate Student
The Showman Prize is awarded to one undergraduate and one graduate student. The prize recognizes students who have effectively communicated the achievements, research, results or social significance of any aspect of engineering.
Yu Chen, Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering
Chen is a member of Professor Yu Huang’s Functional Nanostructures Lab and is on track to receive his Ph.D in the summer. His thesis is on “synthesis, characterizations and kinetic behaviors of silicides nanowires from solid state reactions.” Chen received his B.S. and M.S. from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, before coming to UCLA. Chen is looking to work in the semiconductor industry following graduation.  He has received a first prize in the Science as Art contest at the 2014 Spring Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting; and a best presentation award while giving an invited talk at the 2013 meeting of the Southern California Society for Microscopy & Microanalysis.

Why did you decide to come to UCLA Engineering  for your doctoral studies?
UCLA is one of the top engineering schools worldwide. I came here for its great reputation, faculty, close connections with colleagues and abundant resources. Here, I am surrounded by talented and hard-working people and I can always receive help I need in my work and personal life.

What is the best part of being a graduate student here?
The multicultural experience. People here have learned to respect the differences among races, nationalities, religions, genders and ages.  I hope UCLA can always be as friendly and open to all kinds of people as it is now.

Most memorable UCLA experience?
SPRING SING!!!!!!!!!

2014 Harry M. Showman Prize winner, Undergraduate Student
Tandré Oey, B.S., Civil Engineering
Oey was an Undergraduate Research Fellows Program scholar in the lab of Gaurav Sant, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering. Oey was a mentor in the school’s High School Summer Research Program as well as a participant in Cal Teach for elementary school-level earth sciences. He is also a member of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. Oey will remain at UCLA, and will pursue a Ph.D. in civil engineering materials.

What was your favorite class and why?
There have been a great number of classes I enjoyed. I have found that the ones I like the most are those which I took from other departments, like chemistry, geology, or materials science. If I had to pick one, though, my favorite class was elementary German. What made it really stand out was the way that the class was taught. For one thing, we only spoke German from day one, even thought we barely knew it, and the T.A. was great at getting the class excited about the subject.

What was your most memorable UCLA experience?
The winter quarter of freshman year. On top of enrolling in five classes, I had recently broke my right arm, so I learned how to write left-handed. The hardest part was probably writing out all of the chemistry lab reports. Despite how hard it was initially, I still was able to find time to play board games and go adventuring to other parts of L.A. with friends. The experience taught me that no matter how daunting the task, I can achieve anything with hard work.

What was the best part of being a student at UCLA?
The first things that come to find are UCLA’s excellent library system and its extensive research facilities. The best part however, has been my faculty advisor, Professor Sant. He is the best mentor I could have asked for, and is constantly inspiring me to push my limits and strive for excellence in everything that I do.

Named after the former engineering school dean, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to the undergraduate student body, student organizations, the school, and to the advancement of the undergraduate engineering program through service and participation in extracurricular activities.
Norris Tie
, B.S. Aerospace Engineering
Tie was recognized for several successful efforts to enhance student life and open more cross-campus connections. He founded the UCLA Entrepreneurship Council, a collective of 16 student groups and professional organizations, and he served as the president of TEC. He also reestablished the MAE Town Hall Meeting and MAE Student Council. The council focused on providing resources and promoting collaboration between students, clubs and faculty members. Following graduation, Tie will join Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems as a propulsion engineer.

What motivated you to found this organization and to connect with other entrepreneur groups across campus?
I was motivated to found the Entrepreneurship Council because I saw that all the entrepreneurship groups were disconnected and rarely communicated with each other. We cornered ourselves to different portions of campus (business school, medical school, engineering school, etc.) and did not collaborate in events often nor support each others’ projects. I believed that by bringing our groups together and begin collaboration, we could better stimulate and foster UCLA’s entrepreneurship culture, starting with the existing infrastructure. Once we were all on the same page, we could have fewer conflicting events, coordinate larger events like the Fall Innovation Week, and provide campus-wide resources like www.bruincubate.com, a one-stop shop website for all of UCLA’s entrepreneurial resources.

What are your thoughts now that entrepreneurship seems to have firmly taken root here in the school and across campus?
Entrepreneurship is still growing within the university and can have a much firmer root within the school of engineering. There are many groups that support entrepreneurship but unfortunately there is not as much institutional support. However, there are a couple resources, like the Blackstone Launchpad program and Startup UCLA, to promote undergraduate entrepreneurship. Other groups like TEC nurture entrepreneurship at a more grass-roots level. As these resources continue to exist, more students will realize that entrepreneurship is a viable career path. More importantly though, these resources foster a sentiment within students that they are not limited by knowledge, but by their imagination. As long as students dream to change the world, they can. Of course, the institution can support them in these endeavors, either through technical or moral support.

Your most memorable UCLA experience?
Meeting my girlfriend Lydia Ann, who will become a medical student next Fall. Most importantly, I value people above all else and I cannot think of anyone who supported me in my endeavors more than her. She was quite an integral part of my UCLA experience for the past three years. Her encouragement, counsel and friendship have been invaluable to my success.

Your favorite class and why?
Communication Studies 1: Principles of Oral Communication. This class, even though it did not count at all towards graduation, was very inspirational. I had the opportunity to share with the class my passions for commercial space transportation. Surprisingly, the class was very supportive, which encouraged me even more to pursue my ambitions and not give up. In addition to that, I learned to be a more competent and confident communicator. Every year, alumni come back talking about how engineers need to improve both verbal and written communication. This class definitely helped me work on that.

2014 National Anthem Singer
David McCoul MS ’12, Ph.D. student in Material Science and Engineering.
McCoul is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering. He earned his B.S. in biomedical engineering at Northwestern University. While there, he studied vocal performance over a five-year period. David has starred in the opera “La Bohème” and holds first place awards in state-wide and international singing competitions. Notably, David recently signed a recording contract and will be releasing his solo album “Time Stands Still” this year. This is the third time McCoul has been selected to sing the national anthem at UCLA Engineering’s commencement.

After your Ph.D. what are your plans, and will they involve materials science?
I plan to work in industry, and eventually start my own company. It may involve materials science, or possibly also medicine since my research relates to biomedicine. Later, I may consider becoming a professor because I love to teach. My father is a teacher, so I guess it’s in my blood. I also plan to pursue singing when I am able.

What is your dream opera role?
My favorite baritone aria is “Si può” from the opera “I Pagliacci,” sung by the character Tonio. I also wouldn’t mind playing Escamillo since I’m a fan of “Votre toast…” from “Carmen.”

Is it difficult to juggle two disparate interests?
It can be a challenge at times, but I still somehow manage to find a way to pursue both interests. For example, in my free time I’ve spent the last year writing music, making demos, landing a recording contract, and working with musicians to complete my debut solo album “Time Stands Still.” I’m really looking forward to when it’s released this year.

Are you looking forward to singing in legendary Pauley Pavilion? The last two times, were you in Drake Stadium.
Of course! It will be interesting to hear how the acoustics compare to Drake Stadium’s. Still, both are enormous spaces, so I’d imagine Pauley Pavilion will sound equally magnificent. It will be a lot of fun, and as always, a tremendous honor.

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Photos by Matthew Chin

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