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Outstanding Student Recipients

School of Engineering

Outstanding Student Award Recipients

Spring 2021


Environmental Engineering - Arianna Tariqi

Arianna has always been drawn to the environment. Ever since she was little, her favorite past times were working in the backyard pulling weeds and gardening. As she got older, she started working on bigger projects with her dad such as the planning and building of a retaining wall and a water irrigation system for the garden. This is when she noticed she loved engineering. The planning, designing, and execution of a project was exciting and the added element of the environment made it that much more of a perfect fit.


During her sophomore year of college, she became part of Dr. Colleen Naughton’s lab where she developed her own research plan to study nitrate contamination in drinking water in relation to thyroid cancer and environmental justice.


Community engagement motivates Arianna to give something back as a repayment for the opportunities she had, but also to honor her family for all they have taught her and continue to teach her. She has seen how much her parents had to struggle to get her to this point and is appreciative of all the work and adversity they overcame.


The exceptional and encouraging faculty at UC Merced have been integral to her growth as an Environmental Engineer; specifically the mentorship of Dr. Colleen Naughton. Dr. Naughton was a prominent figure that helped guide Arianna through her academic journey, and is one of her role models.


Arianna plans to take all her experiences from UC Merced and implement them in graduate school on her path to pursue a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Arizona.


Materials Science & Engineering - Anthony Rodriguez

Anthony Rodrigues is a graduate in Materials Science and Engineering, and a first generation college student with lots of ambitions.  College was no easy task but three factors that helped him greatly was the guidance of Professor Viney since he was a freshman, the career center, and the support of his clubs/organizations: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Merced Nanomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing (MACES), the Solar Energy Association, the Materials Research Society and Bobcat Boxing Club.  All which have prepared him professionally, academically and have made his time at UC Merced a great one.

While at school, Anthony has conducted research with MACES and has published papers with his Professor, Mehmet Z. Baykara, and his mentor Ogulcan Acikgoz.  All whom have taught him a lot about Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Nanoscale friction measurements, 2D Materials, and who have nurtured Anthony’s growth in the research field.  Outside school, Anthony likes to volunteer at Castle Air Museum in the restoration hangar and lend a helping hand whenever he has time.

If there is one thing that he is most grateful of during his time at UC Merced is the support of his friends, mentors, professors, Baykara Lab, clubs/organizations, and his family; but in particular, his mother who has sacrificed much for their family growing up.  Anthony hope to repay his mother one day for all her carino y apoyo.  Now, arriving to the end of his journey at UC Merced, Anthony prepares to begin his next journey as a Materials Engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Lancaster, in the Rocket Propulsion Division!


Mechanical Engineering - Lucio Moreno

Lucio Alfonso Moreno is a first-generation college student that attended UC Merced because he really wanted to make his abuela proud. Everything he learned about being a hard worker and showing kindness, came from her. He is grateful for everything his family has done for him. 

Lucio got into mechanical engineering through his high school robotics club, where he spent countless nights designing, prototyping, and building these machines to perform basic, sometimes complicated, tasks. He really enjoyed the whole process of learning how things work, that, and being good at math, made engineering a good fit.

Lucio’s years in Merced were full and remarkable. He worked as a PALS tutor in mathematics. He enjoyed teaching his peers and seeing them succeed in their courses. During his undergraduate career he was able to participate in two internship. The first with E&J Gallo Winery and the second with John Deere after being speaking to a recruiter at a NSBE conference.

He even studied abroad in London during spring 2020 and highly encourage others to take part in it as well.

After graduating Lucio plans on travelling a bit to other States and then getting a job focused on 3D modelling software to create or manufacturing products. He intends to complete a master’s degree in the future.  


Mechanical Engineering - Julian Gonzalez

Julian would like to thank the University of California, Merced for recognizing his efforts in school, and providing another first-generation college student with a UC education.  He would like to highlight that none of this would have been possible without the support from friends, family and department faculty. 

He enjoyed taking Thermodynamics from Professor Palko and Fluid Mechanics from Professor Rice and sends a shout out to Professor Brokowski for challenging him the most as an engineering student.

Professor Martini had the largest impact on his future.  As a fresh transfer student, he met with her after studying her research publications extensively and formulating a sheet of questions to ask. She agreed to add Julian to her research group right then and there during their meeting and he thanks her for the valuable research experience he gained.

He is going to miss crossing Scholar’s Bridge to get to class and having picnics by little lake, and above all else, working on problem sets with friends on the SRE whiteboards.  Nonetheless, Julian looks optimistically towards the future as he prepares to pursue his master’s degree developing novel cooling strategies at Stanford University.


Bioengineering - Deniz Akpinaroglu

Deniz credits her curiosity in biophysical phenomena for her decision to study Bioengineering.

She has participated in several research opportunities over her undergraduate career.

In 2018, Deniz joined the Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines and Dr. Arvind Gopinath’s lab to mimic spermatozoa motility using Brownian dynamics simulations.  She identified canonical deformation states and used these phenomenological categories to perform computational experiments that successfully mimicked the observed instability patterns.

In 2019, Deniz participated in the Stanford Summer Research Program and joined Dr. Jessica Feldman’s lab to study the localization and function of a Partition abnormal protein in the intestine of C. elegans embryos. Utilizing confocal microscopy, she identified PAR-1 to localize in the apico-basolateral junctions based on fluorescence signals. Deniz concluded that PAR-1 contributes to the maintenance of the intestine after depleting it to observe function.

In 2020, she participated in the Rosetta Commons Summer Research Program after becoming interested in studying proteins. As a scholar in Dr. Jeffrey Gray’s lab at Johns Hopkins University, her main goal was to improve antibody structure prediction using deep learning. She implemented a network for side chain predictions based on DeepH3. With this opportunity, Deniz discovered my passion for protein engineering and solving complex biomolecular problems.

In March 2021, Deniz decided to join the UC Berkeley – UC San Francisco Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering. Her ultimate goal is to lead a team of scientists on cutting-edge protein engineering and drug design research as a professor.


Computer Science & Engineering - Armaan Kapoor

Armaan Kapoor is graduating with a major in Computer Science and Engineering with a minor in Management Analytics and Decision Making. He would like to thank his family for always supporting him.

Armaan completed his degree in three years. He always knew he had potential and the ability to accomplish big things. As an evolving cybersecurity enthusiast and a 2x intern, he spent most of my free time catching up on the latest tech news. Also, at the same time, he led teams of students to develop large-scale community service-oriented projects, being the treasurer and Cyber Division Lead of an interdisciplinary, homegrown organization known as Q Project.

He thinks his best accomplishments included a weekly cyber workshop series that he hosted alongside a team, which formed a growing cyber presence at UC Merced. It is also an official security campaign on the IT’s website.

Armaan has been featured on RSAC writing Other and has led Virtual Academies teaching high school students various STEM topics such as Cyber, Robotics, and LoRA. Also, by deploying a LoRA network across the Central Valley, IoT sensors running a specific LoRA network can now visit the internet through Q Project’s internet gateways.

Armaan has set the foundation for UC Merced undergraduates to learn hands-on skills such as 3d printing, drone building, cyber hygiene, and even network skills through the FIRST CCNA lab at UC Merced. He has established a student-led tech space so that everyone from any major can gain any hands-on skill with no obstacles. He hopes that students will continue to fight for the projects that they are passionate about and deliver results that follow industry standards.


Computer Science & Engineering - Devanshu Kumar

Devanshu Kumar came into the University of California, Merced as a B.S Computer Science and Engineering major. Upon completing his first year, he was inspired by various topics in the field of Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence from the Cognitive Science perspective. Hence, Devanshu also pursued a minor in B.S Cognitive Science along with his major in Computer Science and Engineering.

Devanshu was involved in a diverse range of experiences at UC Merced.

He worked as an Undergraduate Assistant – Data Quality for Stefano Foresti at UC Merced School of Engineering since 2018 where he assisted the transition of most processes into automation for the Innovate to Grow team using software and data. Furthermore, he took the responsibility of serving as a client for a capstone project and guided 3 CSE 120 teams to build a Minimum Viable Product for Veracruz Ventures.

In parallel, he also worked on a research project under the guidance of Dr. Tao Ye in creating an application to simulate electric field on the nanoparticle surfaces and he helped scaled the existing simulating software to MERCED Cluster. His research project was approved to be presented in the SACNAS 2019 research conference.

Lastly, Devanshu also worked on another research project under the guidance of Dr. Alberto Cerpa, which comprised of building a classification model to detect sensor faults in building HVAC systems. Devanshu attributes his success to his Principal investigators, work mentor, and professors who consistently posed challenges that allowed him to get out of his comfort zone and let him express himself through unfamiliar environments, thus allowing him to learn invaluable skills in research, technical, and professional development.

In his free time, Devanshu likes to play sports such as Cricket and Tennis and he likes to take spontaneous trips in the nature or in the city to unwind. He also likes to spend time learning about stock markets as Devanshu will be joining Vanguard as a Software Developer in Malvern, PA upon graduation. Finally, Devanshu shares gratitude towards the UC Merced faculty and his friends and family for making his undergraduate experience a memorable journey towards the next phase of his life.