College celebrates outstanding students, staff and faculty

Students, staff and facultyAwards for academics, research and scholarship highlight annual Celebration of Excellence

The University of Georgia College of Engineering honored outstanding students, faculty and staff members during the College’s 2022 Celebration of Excellence on April 21.

The College presented academic awards to students in each undergraduate degree program, highlighted the work of top graduate students and recognized faculty for exceptional instruction and research during two ceremonies in the Driftmier Engineering Center.

► See an album of photos from the event

Faculty Awards for Excellence

Mable Fok

Donald Leo (right), dean of the College of Engineering, presented the 2022 Award for Excellence in Research to Mable Fok, an associate professor.


The Award for Excellence in Research was presented to Mable Fok, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Fok’s research focuses on bio-inspired and neural-inspired solutions to interdisciplinary challenges. Over the past two years, she has begun examining strategies animals use to survive, to communicate, and to make decisions. Her research group is the first to work in their emerging area of inquiry.

Mark Trudgen received the Award for Excellence in Instruction. Trudgen, a lecturer in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was honored for his creativity in developing courses, instructional materials, and instructional programs. One example is his efforts to combine separate electrical engineering design and computer systems engineering design courses into one cohort. This combined class now features a semester-long interdisciplinary project that brings an engaging, real-world design approach to the classroom.

Ramaraja Ramasamy, a professor and associate dean for academic affairs and assessment, was named Distinguished Faculty Scholar in recognition of his sustained excellence in scholarship and research. Since establishing his Nano Electrochemistry Laboratory in 2010, Ramaraja Ramasamy has developed a robust research program in the area of electrochemical engineering. His work has resulted in more than 200 journal publications and conference papers, five patents, and another five patent applications.

Luke Mortensen, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was named Faculty Fellow in recognition of excellence in scholarship across the mission areas of the college. During his tenure at UGA, Luke Mortensen has created a robust and growing research program in the areas of biomedical optics, regenerative medicine, and cell biomanufacturing. His lab is currently supported by the National Institutes for Health, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation.

The College of Engineering presented its Lowry Gillespie, Jr. Engineering Curriculum Enhancement Award to James Warnock, a professor and chair of the School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering. Warnock was honored for his efforts to employ problem-based learning in his Animal Cell Manufacturing course. This experiential learning approach reformulates the classroom power structure and places more responsibility on the student. In Warnock’s class, students acquire knowledge through self- directed learning and apply that knowledge to an open-ended problem scenario.

During the ceremony, the college also recognized X.Q. Wang on his recent election as a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The designation recognizes significant engineering achievements, contributions to the mechanical engineering profession, and a career of service to the public. Only 3% of ASME’s members receive this honor.

Staff Awards for Excellence

The Staff Award for Excellence was presented to Margaret Sapp, the College of Engineering’s graduate program administrator. The Staff Award of Excellence honors a staff member who has demonstrated a strong work ethic, commitment to service and exceptional job performance.

Katie Tiller, received the New Staff Award for Excellence. A human resources specialist, Tiller was honored for her resolve, tenacity and compassion in performing her job responsibilities. The award recognizes a staff member within their first two continuous years of employment with the college.

The college presented its Award for Excellence in Student Services to Amber Juncker, director of engagement and recruiting. Juncker is credited with establishing and maintaining effective working relationships with students, continuously working to improve student satisfaction, and demonstrating outstanding initiative and creativity in her work.

Undergraduate Student Awards for Excellence

Porsche Chen

Senior civil engineering student Porsche Chen received the Merit Award for Service at the College of Engineering’s 2022 Celebration of Excellence.

The College of Engineering’s Undergraduate Merit Awards honor students who demonstrate a strong work ethic inside and outside the classroom. Students selected for these awards exceed expectations set forth by instructors, professors, staff, and coaches.

The Merit Award for Service was presented to Porsche Chen, a civil engineering student. An active member of the Society of Women Engineers, she helped plan and coordinate the distribution of care packages for the homeless community in Athens. As SWE’s vice president of outreach, she connected the chapter with Divas Who Win, a local non-profit that supports women who have experienced addiction. Chen also serves as the inaugural co-lead of the Equity Engineers Council, a new leadership organization that assists in the recruitment, retention and success of historically underrepresented students in the College of Engineering.

Steven Binder, an electrical engineering major, received the Merit Award for Research. Working with researchers in the College of Engineering and the School of Forestry, Binder is working to develop a belowground sensor that measures root width profiles. His work has already generated two peer-reviewed international conference papers as first author. He was invited to provide a full presentation of his research at the 2021 North American Plant Phenotyping Network Annual conference.

The Merit Award for Athletics was presented to Isabella Ponzi, a civil engineering student and a starting midfielder on the University of Georgia Soccer Team. In addition to being a leader on the pitch, she was tapped by coaches to lead offseason conditioning sessions and to serve as a link between players and the coaching staff. While excelling in the classroom, Ponzi also devoted her technical skills to a non-profit organization that designs and creates sustainable and green infrastructure for villages in rural Guatemala that lack basic essentials.

The College of Engineering’s Undergraduate Awards for Academic Excellence recognize one senior student from each degree program who has demonstrated exemplary performance in upper-level engineering coursework. This year’s recipients are:

Agricultural Engineering: Matthew Bowen
Biochemical Engineering: Austin Stack
Biological Engineering: Braxton Goodnight
Civil Engineering: Jack Froistad
Computer Systems Engineering: A.J. Tuttle
Electrical and Electronics Engineering: Ashley Galanti
Environmental Engineering: Quinn O’Brien
Mechanical Engineering: Trevor Houghton

Abena Agyekum-Boateng

Abena Agyekum-Boateng (center) received one of the Chair’s Awards for Excellence at the 2022 Celebration of Excellence ceremony at the Driftmier Engineering Center. She is pictured with members of her family at the event.

The Chairs’ Awards for Excellence are presented to a student in each of the College of Engineering’s three schools in recognition of the high quality of the students’ personal statement submitted as part of their application to their major program in the college. This year’s recipients are:

School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering: Abena Agyekum-Boateng
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Muhammad Zafar
School of Environmental, Civil, Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering: Ayonica Bhattacharya

Biological engineering major Shruti Bhagat received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence in Early Student Achievement. The award recognizes a student with the highest ranked academic credentials at the time they are admitted to their major program in the College of Engineering.

The UGA Presidential Award of Excellence is presented to undergrade students in their final year of study who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, strong extracurricular involvement, and service to an involvement in their respective school or college. Two College of Engineering students were recognized this year: Grant Bilderback, an environmental engineering student, and Jessica Drewke, a biochemical engineering major.

Graduate Student Awards for Excellence

Manjyot Kaur Chug

Manjyot Kaur Chug received the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching at the 2022 Celebration of Excellence Ceremony. Left to right: James Warnock, Chair of the School of Chemical, Materials and BioMedical Engineering, Associate Professor Elizabeth Brisbois, Kaur Chug, and Donald Leo, Dean of the College of Engineering.

The College also presented several awards to outstanding graduate students including the Brahm P. Verma Award for Academic and Leadership Excellence. Baviththira Suganthan, a Ph.D. candidate in biological engineering, was honored for her work to develop biosensor platforms that could be used to quickly detect bacterial cells in clinical, food, and environmental samples. Four studies based on her research have been published in high-impact, peer-reviewed academic journals.

The Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching was presented to Manjyot Kaur Chug, a Ph.D. candidate in biological engineering. Since joining the college, Chug has served as a graduate student mentor to undergraduate researchers. In addition, she co-designed a course and mentored biological and biochemical engineering students.

The College of Engineering recognized graduate students’ outstanding work in laboratories across campus with the Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research. The award highlights students’ exceptional research and the publication of their work in prestigious, highly-cited international journals. This year’s recipients are:

Samuel Hartness
Omar El-Hajj
Clint Morris

By Mike Wooten | Photos by Mark Sorrow

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