UCLA Engineering 2021 Award Recipients
Every year, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering selects and recognizes outstanding achievements by a number of its alumni, faculty members and students who have excelled in various fields. These awardees are honored at a formal school ceremony. Due to the pandemic, the in-person award presentation and public recognition of the 2021 honorees were rescheduled for May 2022. Below are profiles of the three recipients of the 2021 Edward K. Rice Outstanding Student Award.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Doctoral Student
Ahmed M. Alaa Ph.D. ’19
Ahmed M. Alaa joined the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering for his graduate studies in 2015, focusing on how to leverage artificial intelligence to improve the practice of medicine. While completing his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, Alaa saw the computational models he developed help doctors in the U.S. and the U.K. make critical life-changing decisions.
Alaa has designed AI-based algorithms that use millions of patient records to discover hidden patterns in clinical data — information that doctors and health care professionals can use to tailor specific treatment plans for individuals.
Advised by UCLA Samueli professor emerita Mihaela van der Schaar, Alaa also collaborated with doctors and researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine across several disciplines — radiology, cardiology, and pulmonary and critical care — on how to best comb through mountains of data to improve the outlook for patients in their care.
Alaa came to UCLA after earning two degrees from Cairo University in Egypt: a bachelor’s degree in communications and computer engineering, and a master’s degree in telecommunications engineering. He also spent part of his doctoral studies as a visiting student at the University of Oxford in England, where he made academic and professional connections that have had a major impact on his professional career.
Alaa has published more than 45 papers in peer-reviewed journals and conferences during his graduate studies. In one of his research projects, Alaa devised a machine-learning model that outperformed previous ones to analyze 473 variables across more than 400,000 patient records in a U.K. health database to help better predict people at risk for cardiovascular diseases.
As he worked on completing his Ph.D. during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaa created a model, which was used by U.K. public agencies to guide national health policy, analyzing how ethnicity and other factors might influence the progression of the disease among patients.
After earning his doctorate, Alaa joined the University of Cambridge for a postdoctoral appointment at its Centre for AI in Medicine. In September, Alaa became a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which specializes in genomic medicine research.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Master’s Student
Camille H. Le ’18, M.S. ’19
After earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from UCLA, Camille Le made a move to environmental engineering for her master’s degree.
Le was advised by Sanjay Mohanty, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, for her graduate study. Her research interests centered on wastewater and stormwater reuse and designing built environments and infrastructure to achieve water sustainability.
For her thesis, Le designed and built 24 different biofilters for roadside stormwater runoff and evaluated how they performed. Composed of charcoal and sand, biofilters can remove E. coli bacteria and other pollutants that build up on roads and would otherwise get into water systems when it rains. Le examined the optimum initial pollutant size, how it breaks up into smaller particles and the concentration levels for each component.
Le authored three research papers during her time as a master’s student, including one based on her master’s thesis of which she is the lead author.
In addition to her academic accomplishments, Le served as an event coordinator for the graduate student division of the Society of Women Engineers at UCLA. She was also a graduate advisor to an American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) environmental design project team on wastewater treatment system.
After graduating with a master’s degree in civil engineering, Le worked at UCLA as a junior development engineer, managing a Caltrans-funded project designing roadside soil materials to treat stormwater runoff.
Most recently Le was an associate engineer at Fuscoe Engineering. She also serves as a liaison for the ASCE Environment & Water Research Institute’s Orange County Branch, promoting sustainable water use practices in Orange and San Diego counties.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Bachelor’s Student
Richa Ghosh ’20
Richa Ghosh earned many feathers in her cap during her stellar undergraduate career, exemplifying the university’s three-part mission of education, research and service.
As part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at UCLA, Ghosh continually stepped up her contributions over her four years on campus. She helped with peer mentoring, led the institute’s participation in the Chem-E-Car competition and chaired the organization’s K-12 outreach efforts. Most prominently, Ghosh was the organization’s president in her fourth year, leading a board of 31 student officers and expanding the group’s offerings.
Ghosh conducted research in two different laboratories in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department. In assistant professor Dante Simonetti’s group, she helped develop sorbents to remove hydrogen sulfide from gaseous streams. With assistant professor Carlos Morales-Guio’s research group, Ghosh modeled transport phenomena for electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction on electrodes.
Ghosh’s impressive resume helped her earn a prestigious graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
Despite her busy academic and extracurricular schedule, Ghosh still found time to help develop and teach two undergraduate E96A classes — Soap Synthesis and The Design of Coffee — each introducing engineering students to hands-on design-and-build projects.
At graduation, Ghosh received a host of honors, including the schoolwide Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award and the Chancellor’s Service Award, for her many contributions while at UCLA.
Ghosh is currently studying for her doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.