May 15, 2009

At LSU's May 2009 Commencement eleven undergraduate engineers were honored with the LSU's Distinguished Communicator Award, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Along with the engineering eleven, 14 additional students representing accounting, geography, geology, interior design, landscape architecture, mass communications, microbiology, physics and political science majors earned the distinction.

All 25 LSU students earned this honor by meeting high standards set by faculty in various colleges and by the LSU Communication across the Curriculum (CxC) program. The students earned high grade-point averages (GPA) in communication-intensive courses - based on written, spoken, visual and technological communication - and have built digital portfolios, displayed as public Web sites that include their communication projects from courses, internships, leadership roles and public service.

The LSU Distinguished Communicator award recognizes students who demonstrate exemplary levels of communication skills during their undergraduate years. Recipients are selected on the basis of completing 12 hours of approved courses, submitting a digital portfolio, participating in internships or co-ops, demonstrating leadership, and maintaining a GPA of 3.0 in Communication Intensive courses. Upon completion, students have their transcripts annotated to reflect their Distinguished Communicator designation.

"In an increasingly global economy, it has become obvious that an engineer must be not only technically competent, but must also be able to communicate with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering," said Warren Hull, Engineering Communication Studio Manager. "The campus-wide Communication Across the Curriculum program provides opportunities for students to enhance their communication skills while taking designated communication-intensive courses, many within their own discipline. The May 2009 engineering students receiving this award join a list of 58 students who have received this honor since its inception in 2007. We are proud that 26 of the 58 awardees have been engineering graduates."

The 2009 LSU Distinguished Communicator Award recipients from the College of Engineering include chemical engineering majors Akinyanju Adeyanju and Adebola Coker, biological & agricultural engineering majors Christopher Arauz, Sarah De Leo and Samantha Vallette, electrical engineering major Yunan Yuan, and mechanical engineering majors Santhana Balaji, Christopher Brown, Lance Brumfield, John Dykes, and Alciades Velasquez.

Akinyanju Adeyanju earned a degree in chemical engineering after two internships at Kimberly‐Clark Corporation in Paris, Texas, and Roswell, Georgia. One of his many internship projects was entitled "SOCCER," ("Stretch Outer Cover Can Expand Rewards") and involved developing expandable covers. While at LSU, Adeyanju actively participated in and served offices in the National Society of Black Engineers, the Nigerian Student Organization, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He received the Academic Excellence Award and the Torch Bearer Award from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Advisor: Dr. Harold Toups, Cain Department of Chemical Engineering.

Christopher Arauz received a degree in biological engineering with a 3.6 GPA in his major. A fluent reader, writer, and speaker of English and Spanish, Arauz has used his bilingualism in many settings, including medical mission trips to underdeveloped villages in Mexico. One of his academic projects, "Kinematic Analysis of the Parallax Crawler Using an Integrated Wii Tracking System," combines the popular game technology with robotics. He and his peers received a $2,300 grant for a project to reduce waves in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. Arauz has worked as a research assistant in the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and as an emergency room volunteer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Advisor: Dr. Marybeth Lima, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

Santhana Balaji completed his degree in mechanical engineering (ME) with a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA, earning him the LSU University Medalist and College of Engineering Edward McLaughlin Dean's Medal of Excellence. His honors thesis was based on building an 80‐foot portable tower for hurricane data collection, including power systems, instrumentation, programming, and real‐time communications. He has served as an undergraduate research aide in the ME department and has held internships at Intralox, L.L.C., and Occidental Petroleum. He served as the captain of LSU's teams as they competed in the NSBE Tech Bowl - which placed 3rd nationally, and the TREC engineering design competition. Balaji has worked in the Center for Academic Success, where he has coordinated over 5,000 student visits. He is certified as a "Collegiate Reading and Learning Associate" and has used his communication skills and talent for tutoring in his work with engineering and chemistry students. Advisor: Dr. Shengmin Guo, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Christopher Brown, a graduate in mechanical engineering, has used his communication skills to represent the College of Engineering as a Student Government Senator, the Treasurer of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and on the Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board. His awards include a national Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant and a second place award at the Texas A&M Regional Engineering Conference. Advisor: Dr. Michael Murphy, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Lance Brumfield served as an undergraduate researcher at the LSU Center for Biomodular Multi‐Scale Systems while he worked to complete his degree in mechanical engineering. He has held a College of Engineering Alumni Scholarship and received Academic and Research Honors at graduation. He was team captain for LSU's entry in the Formula SAE Collegiate Design Competition, which involves designing, building, and racing a racecar. "LSU is becoming perennially competitive in this competition because previous teams are coaching upcoming teams and sharing their knowledge and experience," according to Brumfield. Before he came to LSU, Brumfield was a LHSAA Academic All‐State Football Player (2003). Advisor: Dr. Eyassu Woldesenbet, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Adebola Coker has grown up with a passion for engineering that came from her father who is an engineer in oil‐rich Nigeria. After completing three internships and her degree, she plans to pursue a master's degree in chemical engineering with a focus on clean engineering so she can insure a better future for the world. Coker has held many leadership positions at LSU, serving as the vice president of the Society for Women Engineers, as a senator of the National Society for Black Engineers, and on homecoming committees for the Residential Life Community Council. Advisor: Dr. Karsten Thompson, Cain Department of Chemical Engineering.

Sarah De Leo served as a research assistant for Dr. Todd Monroe where she worked to separate single and double‐stranding DNA. She received her degree in biological engineering with honors. Her knowledge and experience have been expanded by internships and research opportunities at Columbia University where she worked with a Nobel Laureate, at Wake Forest University where she studied nerve regeneration, and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she co‐authored a published research article with her supervising professors. Recently, she was awarded Graduate Research Fellowship Program, or GRFP, fellowships from the National Science Foundation, or NSF. These are among the most prestigious awards available for graduate study, consisting of an annual $30,000 stipend plus tuition and generous discretionary funds for three years of support. She has received a long list of awards while serving as a Senator for the College of Engineering, advocating for the Honors College, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, and working as the Emergency Room Scribe at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. Advisor: Dr. Marybeth Lima, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.

John Dykes achieved his degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics with an overall 3.8 GPA and research honors. He held an internship at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in 2008. His projects included designing and testing a tidal energy capture device and building a remote controlled aircraft for the SAE Aero Design competition. He serves as President of the student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and won third place in the 2008 AIAA Student Writing Contest (2008) for his report on the High Altitude Student Payload Project (HASP). His service includes organizing a database of refugees in Baton Rouge for the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and coordinating an annual "Eggstronaut" Competition for high school students interested in aerospace and other science fields. He also plays classical masterpieces on the piano and considered majoring in piano performance. Advisor: Dr. Keith Gonthier, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Samantha Vallette received her degree in biological engineering with a minor in biological sciences. She has designed an environmentally safe playground for a local elementary school, analyzed safe practices in the processing of orange juice, and completed a team project to optimize ethanol production. She holds multiple scholarships, has been inducted into Tao Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and serves as the web designer for the Biological Engineering Student Organization (BESO). Advisor: Dr. Marybeth Lima, Biological Engineering.

Alciades Velasquez completed his degree in mechanical engineering. He served as the treasurer of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and secretary for the Millennium Volunteers of LSU. His internships and co‐ops have taken him to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands (Hovensa, L.L.C.), Venezuala (Sisteca Consultores, CA), and back to Baton Rouge with Jacobs Engineering. He is a fluent reader, writer, and speaker of Spanish and English, with experience in policy debate and impromptu speaking. Valesquez also served as a member of the University‐wide CxC Advisory Council. Advisor: Dr. Eyassu Woldesenbet, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Yunan Yuan completed her degree with a major in computer engineering and minors in computer science and mathematics, with a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA, earning her the LSU University Medalist and College of Engineering Edward McLaughlin Dean's Medal of Excellence. She was one of the early volunteers who helped CxC design the first digital portfolios for communication skills, and is now a recipient of the distinction for which they were designed. Her thesis was entitled "Intelligent‐navigating, Maze‐mapping, and Maze‐solving Robot Equipped with Sensors, Compass, and GPS." Yuan has translated for the Chinese Law Digest at Harvard and worked for Microsoft, Chevron, Halliburton, LSU's Center for Computation and Technology, and the LSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. She has presented papers at Harvard's Asian and International Relations Conference and at the Argonne National Lab Symposium for Undergraduates in Science. Advisor: John Devlin, J.D., LSU Law School.

Article by Akilah Taylor, Article by Akilah L. Taylor, Development & Faculty Programs, LSU College of Engineering, 225.578.0092,

Student biography information excerpted from the LSU Distinguished Communicators Spring 2009 Event Program

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