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School of Engineering

Outstanding Student Recipients

Outstanding Student Award Recipients Spring 2020


BioEngineering - Kurtis Brent

After a diagnosis in high school of Type 1 Diabetes, Kurtis initially struggled to manage his chronic health condition with daily insulin injections and finger pricks.  He eventually obtained an insulin pump and glucose sensor which greatly improved his standard of life.  Kurtis’s personal experience motivated him to learn the fundamentals of producing medical technology which led to him to major in Bioengineering at UC Merced.


During his time at UC Merced, Kurtis was involved in research in the labs of Professor Anand  Subramaniam and Professor Changqing Li.  In the summer of 2019 he participated in the Frontiers of Bioimaging REU at the University of Illinois.


This fall he will join the UC Berkeley – UC San Francisco Joint Bioengineering PhD Program and explore various opportunities related to developing biotechnological advancements in cases of chronic conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes.



Computer Science & Engineering - Juan Gonzalez




Juan is a first generation CSE student with an Applied Math minor.  While he came to UC Merced with little programming experience, he has enjoyed the chance to explore common and specialize languages.  He recommends new and current student to join clubs on campus and attend events such as game nights and mixers to meet new people and gain exposure to company recruiters.





Computer Science & Engineering - Franz Anthony "Tony" Varela



Tony originally planned to become an artist but came to UC Merced as a CSE student and challenged himself to take as many classes as he was interested in.  The result was that he completed his degree in three years.  Originally he thought he would pursue a career right out of college but instead has decided to deepen his knowledge by joining the Computer Science Master’s program at University of Washington Bothwell this fall.






Environmental Engineering - Spencer McDermott


Spencer transferred from Modesto Junior College in fall 2017.  He joined the Yosemite Leadership Program his first semester and met many motivated students with a passion for preserving and protecting the environment for the benefit of communities.  Spencer will graduate from the YLP program with a certificate of leadership.  As an Environmental Engineering student he looks forward to making an impact.  He has found a passion for water resource management through his Hydrology and Climate course taught by Professor Mohammad Safeeq.  Spencer plans to obtain his Engineering in Training Certificate and eventually his Professional Engineering Certificate in the field of water resource management.



Materials Science & Engineering - John Misiaszek



John attributes this enthusiasm for materials science from his mentors and instructors:  Professor Jessica Wang, Professor Christopher Viney, Professor Sarah Kurtz and Professor James Bernard.  John has worked in Professor Wang’s conductive polymer group during his time at UC Merced.  He has been awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and GEM Fellowship for his graduates studies next year at Northwestern University.  After finishing his PhD he plans to work as a postdoctoral associate at a national laboratory with the intent of securing a staff scientist position.




Mechanical Engineering - Patricia Onuoha



Patricia grew up playing a game she and her siblings called “inventions” in which the objective was to enhance the functionality of common household objects.  This game served her well to imaginatively problem solve and pique her interest in understanding how ordinary phenomena works.  Majoring in Mechanical Engineering was a natural extension of this curiosity.   After graduation Patricia plans on working toward professional certification.




Mechanical Engineering - Alexander "Alex" McCollum




Alex has been admitted to the MS program in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis.  He will begin after his MACES internship this summer.  Alex credits Professor Sun for giving him the idea to consider graduate school.