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College of Engineering honors nine students

Mare Payne, News Bureau
(217) 333-0567;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nine College of Engineering students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were honored April 19 at the 38th annual Engineering Awards Convocation for their achievements in and out of the classroom.

The winner of the Harvey H. Jordan Award, which recognizes an outstanding senior:

orange dot Ann-Perry Witmer, a civil and environmental engineering major, has accepted a position as a water-quality engineer with a consulting firm in Madison, Wis., where she plans to use both her technical and communications skills to develop professionally. A mother of three, Witmer spent many years as a newspaper reporter and columnist and as a free-lance writer before returning to school for an engineering degree. She plans to gain some practical experience before possibly pursuing her master’s degree in environmental engineering. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

The winner of the Lisle Abbott Rose Memorial Award, given annually to a senior who most nearly approaches the ideal of technical excellence combined with cultural breadth, depth and sensitivity:

orange dot Stephen Kohen, has worked hard to expand his horizons with travel and extracurricular activities while balancing the demands of his academic workload. Kohen, an electrical engineering major, has spent every summer abroad in a different country, traveling to Israel, Russia and India. This past winter he went to Lijang, China, in the foothills of the Himalayas, with 11 other students to help with English-language instruction and other educational programs at an orphanage. Stateside, Kohen has coordinated volunteers for numerous activities, including the local and state Science Olympiad, ushering at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and tutoring of college students. He has maintained a 3.9 (out of 4.0) grade-point average, while serving as an undergraduate research assistant in two laboratories. He intends to continue on in a MS/PhD program in electrical engineering, focusing on either quantum electronics, solid-state physics or nanotechnology.

The winner of the H.L. Wakeland Undergraduate Leadership Award, given annually to a student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership ability:

orange dot David A. Nickell, a junior in civil and environmental engineering, thinks the value of student activities are endless. As a freshman, Nickell served as president of the Engineering Freshman Committee, and as a sophomore was elected Academic Programs Director. This year, he was elected president of Engineering Council. With the help of the executive board, the council redirected its role to be a service organization for the students of the college, implementing many programs to help the engineering organizations and their members. Nickell also is one of 12 members of the campuswide Tuition Advisory Board, which advises the provost. He has maintained a 3.8 (out of 4.0) grade-point average and recently was named the National Scholar of the Year by the American Council of Engineering Companies after having received the top award for the state of Illinois.

The winner of the William R. Schowalter Award, which recognizes leadership skills, creativity, encouragement of others through activities and dedication to the College of Engineering:


orange dot Sophomore Jiaxiao Zhang, a mechanical engineering major, has shown initiative, leadership, creativity and enthusiasm in all her activities. She has worked to involve others in engineering by serving as student coordinator of a high school career day for girls and is a co-leader of Engineering Advocates, an outreach program that serves middle and high schools. In this capacity she makes presentations at schools about what it is like to be an engineer. She is active in Engineering Council, serving as director of the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee and as the Midwest president of the National Association of Engineering Student Councils. Zhang is an outstanding student with a 3.5 (out of 4.0) grade-point average who participates in the campus honors program. She has received almost a dozen awards or scholarships in less than two years, including being named a University Achievement Scholar, a Ford Distinguished Scholar and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Outstanding Student.

The winner of the first Ben Jay Rosenthal Award, which is given to the most promising student in the Technology Entrepreneur Program:


orange dot Chris Harbourt, a graduate student in agricultural engineering, has a passion for historic aviation, a background as a private pilot and a rating as an aircraft power plant mechanic. He has united these diverse skills and interests by pursing the formation of a company to manufacture and market authentic replacement parts for the antique airplane restoration industry. In a second venture, he and another graduate student are in the award process for several Small Business Innovation Research grants for their startup business, TRI Inc., which develops software and hardware to support a full range of remote-sensing applications, from spacecraft attitude control to image data handling.

The winner of the Honeywell Award, which recognizes a junior for distinguished individual performance and leadership, including unusual scholastic accomplishments, professional qualifications or participation in technical and professional societies:


orange dot Andrew Honegger, is ranked first in the junior class for the college. A mechanical and industrial engineering major, he has achieved a perfect grade-point average while actively participating in numerous extracurricular activities. Honegger is a technology and management minor, which is a highly selective program in which engineers and business students learn as a team to strategically manage technology-based businesses. He is a James Scholar and an Illinois State Scholar. His extracurricular activities include being an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers since he was a freshman. Honegger was team captain for a group that built and entered the winning robot design in the 2001 Engineering Open House and is a member of the Tau Beta Pi honor society. He received the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Freshman Award, Pi Tau Sigma Sophomore Award, Ford Outstanding Achievement scholarship, and Harold and Ruth Hayward Scholarship.

The winner of the Stanley H. Pierce Award, which honors the undergraduate student who has done the most to develop student-faculty cooperation:


orange dot Junior Sarah E. Lowe, has strived to improve student-faculty relations, particularly in her home department of civil and environmental engineering. She is marshal of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. In this role, she has worked hard to involve faculty members in the social events of the organization and the initiation ceremonies each semester. As part of last fall’s initiation, for example, she convinced a faculty member to give a tour of Newmark Lab to the initiates and their families. She met with faculty members individually and, through her enthusiasm, faculty involvement in Chi Epsilon and other student organizations is higher than ever. Her academic adviser wrote that she has added something substantial to the department through her special efforts to increase the interest of the faculty in student activities.

The winner of the Ross J. Martin Award, given annually in recognition of outstanding research achievements by a graduate student:


orange dot Working in environmental and water resources management, Patrick Reed, has combined geostatistical methods with multiobjective genetic algorithms to aid in developing long-term monitoring designs. Reed is a mentor to the other students, explaining the technical complexities of geostatistics and genetic algorithms clearly and succinctly. His research adviser describes him as highly creative and inquisitive and says that he is the kind of doctoral student all assistant professors wish they could find. Reed will publish six journal papers as a graduate student, placing him well on his way to a successful career.
The winner of the Henry Ford II Scholar Award, which is given annually to an outstanding first-year graduate student entering his or her second year of study:


orange dot Svetlana Lazebnik, has written in just one year of research two excellent papers on two topics within the field of computer vision. The first one solved a significant problem by showing how a visual model of a solid object can be constructed from a few photographs without explicit camera calibration. The second area of research addresses the fundamental problem of recognizing curved 3-D objects from their silhouettes. Lazebnik’s work presented a novel method for recognizing a solid bounded by a smooth surface in a single photograph by comparing its perspective silhouette to model silhouettes acquired from a few images. Her adviser says that she is the best student he has directed in his 12 years at the university.