UCLA Engineering 2023 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. Below are profiles of the four recipients of the 2023 Edward K. Rice Outstanding Student Award.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Doctoral Student
Shaun Tan Ph.D. ’22
While he was a doctoral student in materials science and engineering at UCLA, Shaun Tan published more than 30 research papers — either as a first author or co-author — in notable peer-reviewed publications, such as Nature and Science.
Advised by Yang Yang, a materials science and engineering professor, Tan’s doctoral thesis focused on the defect physics of metal halide perovskite materials and the long-term stability of perovskite photovoltaics. Tan is the first author on a landmark 2022 paper published in Nature that identified the reasons behind why perovskite solar cells degrade in sunlight. The same paper also introduced a theoretical framework to address the issue in manufacturing processes, paving the way for commercialization of a high-performance, sunlight-to-electricity technology.
Before joining UCLA, Tan was a student at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in materials science and engineering.
As a member of Yang’s lab, Tan’s versatility and extensive knowledge of the field led him to spearhead many of the research group’s funding and proposal processes with great success. In addition to conducting research, Tan served as a teaching assistant for lower-division chemistry courses. In 2020, while still a graduate student, he worked as a research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Tan is now a postdoctoral scholar in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Master’s Student
Xingyu “Bruce” Liu M.S. ’22
Xingyu “Bruce” Liu’s research focuses on human-computer interaction, with a particular emphasis on making visual content accessible to users who are blind and improving interpersonal communication through technology.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in statistics and machine learning as well as in human-computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Liu moved across the country to pursue his master’s degree at UCLA in electrical and computer engineering.
Liu has already published five papers, including one for which he is the lead author that was presented at the prestigious Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The paper detailed an augmented video-search interface Liu developed that improved internet video accessibility for users who are blind or visually impaired. He has received a Best Paper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and a Distinguished Master’s Thesis Research Award from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UCLA. He also holds U.S. patents related to disk failure in computers.
Beyond his academic pursuits, Liu also gained practical experience through internships at Snap and Google. Liu is now a doctoral student advised by Xiang “Anthony” Chen, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering who directs HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) Research at UCLA. He was a teaching assistant for Chen’s upper division class on blockchain programming, where he demonstrated a passion for teaching and mentoring students.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Bachelor’s Student
Emily Dunn ’22
Emily Dunn launched her undergraduate career at UCLA ready to demonstrate her multitasking abilities in juggling academic pursuits, research opportunities and extracurricular activities.
As a participant in the Chemical Engineering Innovation project during the winter quarter of her first year, Dunn worked on designing and building a coffee machine while learning skills in circuitry. That same quarter, she began working as an undergraduate researcher in chemistry and biochemistry professor Daniel Neuhauser’s lab, where she learned programming languages to assist in the lab’s computer modeling of nanomaterials.
Dunn also spent time at the biomaterial design lab of chemical and biomolecular engineering assistant professor Nasim Annabi. She worked with graduate students who were developing nanoparticles for the controlled release of drugs in the eye to treat ocular diseases.
In addition to her research activities, Dunn was also the director of academic events for MentorSEAS, a student-run engineering club designed to aid freshman and transfer students in their transition to UCLA. She helped plan and host events, such as resume workshops and class planning sessions, and facilitated student introductions to research opportunities.
As a regional advisor for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at UCLA, Dunn spent her junior and senior years developing events to help support and engage students amid the COVID pandemic.
Despite her busy schedule, Dunn managed to achieve high grades in all her classes and received an Undergraduate Research Fellowship at UCLA. She completed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at California Institute of Technology where she also participated in the Amgen Scholars Program.
Dunn graduated summa cum laude and was selected as the school-wide Outstanding Bachelor of Science at the 2022 commencement. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Caltech and was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Edward K. Rice Outstanding Bachelor’s Student
Griffith Hughes ’22
Throughout his time as a bioengineering student at UCLA, Griffith Hughes showed passion, dedication and diligence in both his academic pursuits and extracurricular activities.
While working as an undergraduate researcher in the Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology at UCLA Health, Hughes participated in a study on the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. He developed a software program that organized scanned pathology slides and was involved in the design and 3D printing of several laser jigs used in the center’s research.
Hughes also worked for UCLA Emergency Medical Services as an emergency medical technician and a field training officer. A member of UCLA’s honors engineering society, Tau Beta Pi, he held several leadership positions in the Biomedical Engineering Society at UCLA, including serving as the student club’s mentorship program chair and academic program chair.
In 2022, Hughes was awarded the Williams L. Martin Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship for his service and leadership. At graduation, he received summa cum laude honors and won several awards, including the school-wide Harry M. Showman Prize for communicating research, the Bioengineering Department’s Outstanding Bachelor of Science Award, a Chancellor’s Service Award and an Engineering Achievement Award in Student Welfare.
Hughes is continuing his studies at UC San Diego, pursuing an M.S. in bioengineering.