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2020 College of Engineering Tau Beta Pi and Department Awards

April 27, 2020

Despite the cancellation of the annual UK College of Engineering Awards Banquet sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, each department and Tau Beta Pi have named awardees. 

Due to the University of Kentucky moving all courses online and students departing from campus, the annual UK College of Engineering Awards Banquet sponsored by Tau Beta Pi was canceled. However, each department and Tau Beta Pi has named awardees.

We will update this article as we reveal winners through social media.


Due to the University of Kentucky moving all courses online and students departing from campus, the annual UK College of Engineering Awards Banquet sponsored by Tau Beta Pi was canceled. However, each department and Tau Beta Pi named awardees, nonetheless.

Tau Beta Pi representatives honored this year’s winners with written tributes.


2020 Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Professor Award: Dr. Douglass Kalika

Dr. Douglass Kalika has an impeccable pedigree. His bachelor’s degree is from the best engineering school in the world: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His Ph.D. is from the University of California at Berkeley, which is renowned not as just an outstanding graduate program but also a leading institution in terms of innovative undergraduate education.

Since coming to the University of Kentucky, Dr. Kalika has distinguished himself as the consummate leader and teacher of engineers. His impressive administrative record includes being an associate dean, acting dean, chairman, and, currently, director of the College of Engineering First-Year Program.

His teaching record is equally distinguished. He has received the Outstanding Teaching Award as voted by the students in Chemical Engineering a total of seven times. Our Tau Beta Pi Kentucky Alpha Chapter has named Dr. Kalika the Most Outstanding Professor a total of four times including this year. Dr. Kalika is also a past recipient of the highest teaching award possible in our college, which is the Henry Mason Lutes Award for Undergraduate Engineering Education. Perhaps the best tribute to Dr. Kalika’s teaching comes from his own students who have said the following about him:

“I have taken 3 to 4 courses from Prof. Kalika and wished that I could take all the chemical engineering courses from Prof. Kalika! “

“Dr. Kalika is the best professor I have yet had at UK. I will take another class with him purely because he is so good.”

“I wish Kalika would teach every CME (chemical Engineering) class.”

From his record and these laudatory comments, it is clear why Dr. Douglas Kalika is Tau Beta Pi’s 2020 Most Outstanding Professor.


2020 Tau Beta Pi Dr. Bruce L. Walcott Most Outstanding Service Award: Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith

The Dr. Bruce L. Walcott Most Outstanding Service Award was established five years ago as the Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Service Award. The inaugural recipient was Tau Beta Pi’s Chief Advisor, Dr. Bruce L. Walcott. The Tau Beta Pi Chapter then renamed the award in his honor with the proviso that he could never, ever, ever win it again. It is given to the faculty member who best embodies the spirit of service and outreach of the Tau Beta Pi Chapter. This year’s winner is Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, professor of mechanical engineering and director emeritus of the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium and NASA EPSCoR Programs.

Dr. Smith joined the University of Kentucky faculty in 1990. She has been recognized numerous times not just for her outreach and service but also for her teaching and her research with such distinctions as receiving the National Science Foundation Young Investigator and two-time winner of the UK College of Engineering Henry Mason Lutes Award for Engineering Education. In her role as the director of the NASA Kentucky Space Grant Consortium and Unmanned Systems Consortium at UK, she contributed to our campus community with her excellent service.

In 2016, Dr. Smith received the College of Engineering Excellence in Service Award because she is widely known for as a generous leader and collaborator who is dedicated to education, service and outreach particularly in the area of space and unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2017, Dr. Smith led a team of students that used weather balloons to gather data from the 2017 Eclipse—in addition to three other student teams she mentors.

Recently, as the statewide director for NASA KY, she helped organize an outreach event, “Engineering Beyond Earth,” in collaboration with the University of Louisville. This event brought speakers—namely, Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton—and hands-on aerospace-themed engineering activities, including the University of Florida Rocket Team, into an under-served school district in downtown Louisville. In addition to helping teach and excite young people about space and UAVs, Dr. Smith has helped many young faculty members start their careers through Space grants.

In the past year, Dr. Smith has been inducted into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame and been elected as a fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).


2020 Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Staff Award: Ilka Balk

Ilka Balk was named director of Engineering Career Development in the fall of 2013. Engineering Career Development comprises the Cooperative Education Program, career preparation services and helping students transition from college to professional life.

Ilka has been involved in the Co-op program as well as international programs in the College of Engineering since January 2006. Although not a faculty member, she is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and has served as the secretary, chair-elect, chair and past chair of its Cooperative and Experiential Education Division. She recently chaired the Conference on Industry and Education Collaboration. Ilka is also a staff advisor for Engineers Without Borders-UKY.

She truly embodies the career development team’s mission of helping students develop the professional skills that allow them to have successful careers after they leave UK. Ilka is passionate not only about the outcome, but about the college journey itself, and leaves no stone unturned to help students explore opportunities while at UK. She never shies away from making her German accent heard to advocate for and get in front of students. Without questions, Ilka is passionate about supporting the university in their mission to “promote self-discovery, experiential learning, and life-long learning.


Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Senior: Alex Nguyen

The Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Senior award is given to the University of Kentucky College of Engineering graduating senior who best embodies the spirit of liberal culture and excellence through engineering tenets of our organization.

Alex is the current Vice President of Tau Beta Pi. As such, Alex is responsible for organizing and executing our most visible events including Monte Carlo Night and the Tau Beta Pi Awards Banquet. In addition to his leadership and service in Tau Beta Pi, Alex was Vice President for Alpha Phi Omega—the national co-ed service fraternity. Alex led the fellowship program for his Alpha Phi Omega chapter. As such, Alex took the lead on any event that had a social aspect such as dances, picnics, etc. He is also finance chair for UK Alternative Service Breaks. In this capacity, Alex raises funds so that like-minded UK students can travel and do service projects over our winter and spring breaks.

Despite devoting his leadership and energy to these worthwhile endeavors, Alex has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA in the challenging major of Computer Engineering. He was awarded the prestigious Otis A. Singletary Scholarship upon entering UK—the highest scholarship that the institution bestows on incoming freshmen.

Alex even found time to intern during his tenure at UK. He spent his past two summers at Lexmark where he was responsible for maintaining a rigorous test apparatus to ensure that no power systems were faulted during crucial new product development. Alex’s latest internship involved using Javascript-automated testing on Lexmark’s current automated testing platform. It is clear why the members of Tau Beta Pi have elected him to be the 2020 Most Outstanding Senior.


2020 Tau Beta Pi Most Outstanding Graduate Student: Lauren Mehanna

As a rising senior in high school, Lauren Mehanna attended the noteworthy Governor Scholars Program and selected engineering as her major. Since that time, she has excelled at both the undergraduate and graduate level at in chemical engineering. She served Tau Beta Pi in the critical role of initiation chair in 2018 and was responsible for a record number of new members that year.

Perhaps Lauren’s crowning graduate achievement to date is being one of only seven UK graduate students to be awarded the 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. NSF Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees for a research-based master's or doctoral degree in a STEM field. In terms of selectivity, consider that NSF awards only 1,500 fellowships from an applicant pool of over 12,000.

When asked about this honor, Lauren stated "Receiving a GRFP award from NSF is an incredible honor. The GRFP gives me more independence with my research project, as I will not have to rely on outside funding for support. It also gives me access to numerous other resources provided by NSF. I am looking forward to guiding my own research project in the direction of where my interests take me that hopefully will lead to significant discoveries in the chemical and biomedical engineering realms."


Tau Beta Pi Initiates

Fall 2019

Tyler Brian Burkett, Logan Draffen, Madison Paige Giltner, Billy Joe Hamlin, Ian Neil Harrington, Danielle Ray Hockensmith, Michael Thure Johnson, Daniel Jeffrey Kolpek, Katherine Rene Kopytek, Ashley Rose Murray, Briana Maria Phelps, Michael Wayne Renfro, John William Ronkainen, Kourtnie Dawn Ruber, John David Spivey, Ronald Justin Vogler

Spring 2020

Quinn Hailey Andrews, Cohen Archbold, Zachary Daniel Baker, Seth Andrew Baunach, Dina Igorevna Birioukova, Bobby Bose, Sarah Claire Caldbeck, Jacob Thomas Concolino, Allyson Taylor Douglas, Melanie Christine Duckworth, Hayden O’neal Fentress, Alexander William Fields, Matthew Riley Gilbert, Maya Hope Hillis, Lauren Ruth Judy, Andrew Phillip Lin, Mitchell Paul Maddix, Matthew Lee Morse, Mathew David Munsterman, Chad Michael Nelson, Garrison Cleavland Page, Kyle Scott Ressler, Jack Michael Riordan, Andrew Bartlett Schofield, Elizabeth Rose Scoma, Kyra Leigh Seevers, Anicah Lynn Smith, Dawson Pike Spraggins, Benjamin Layne Stone, Rachel Renee Walker, William Zheng

Fall 2019 Eminent Engineer Initiates

Dr. Michael Thure Johnson and Dr. Michael Wayne Renfro


Tau Beta Pi Officers

President: James Obute

Vice President: Alex Tri Nguyen

Treasurer: Caylee Elizabeth Scott Marshall

Secretary: Gerald Whitney Bankes

Initiation Chairs: Skyler Trenton Hornback, Jonathan Paul Pernosky, Jeremy Franklin Keys, Sam Walter Keys

Events Chair: Daniel Allen Dailey

Alumni Chair: Madalyn Jae LaDue

ESC Rep: Alison Rachel Bomkamp

Tutoring Czar Fall: Thomas Julian Barber

Web Master: Daniel Blaine Dopp

Chief Faculty Advisor: Bruce L. Walcott

Other Advisors: Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Wendy Harper

UK Paducah Advisor: David Silverstein 



Henry Mason Lutes for Excellence in Engineering Education Award: James F. Fox, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Dr. James Fox consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations for his courses, which include a challenging, required undergraduate civil engineering course—Introduction to Fluid Mechanics—that requires students to apply newly learned principles from calculus and physics. Dr. Fox’s average overall quality of teaching score for the course is 4.9 over the past five years. 

A particularly noteworthy teaching contribution has been Dr. Fox’s ability to effectively teach Introduction to Fluid Mechanics as an interactive video course that is taught to students at UK and at the same time is projected and taught to the joint civil engineering program students at Western Kentucky University.

In his 15 years at UK, Dr. Fox has strongly impacted many students through his teaching activities. He summarizes his teaching philosophy as characterized by patience, commitment and enthusiasm. Students appreciate his balance of seriousness and encouragement and many have personally or anonymously thanked him for learning their name and showing passion for the subject matter.

Dr. Fox’s outstanding teaching abilities has resulted in him being selected by the civil engineering students as the Outstanding Faculty in Civil Engineering eight times and being elected as the Faculty Advisor of the civil engineering honorary Chi Epsilon.  


Lou Takacs Engineering Co-op Award: Rachel Monroe, Marathon Petroleum 



Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Outstanding Sophomore in BAE: John Wesche

Outstanding Junior in BAE: Rachel Rohrer

Outstanding Senior in BAE: Cynthia Arnold

Woeste Award – Danielle Hockensmith  (recognized at Tau Beta Pi)

Outstanding Instructor in BAE: Alicia Modenbach and Joe Dvorak (tie)


Alpha Epsilon Initiates 

Toby Adjuik, Staci McGill, Yuxuan Zhang, Drew McGill, Abuchi Okeke, Tucker Sheffield, Bo Smith, Makua Vin-Nnajiofor, Madhumathi Sekar, Karla Ladino


Alpha Epsilon Officers:

President: Rilwan Oyetunji

Vice President: Danielle Hockensmith

Web/media Manager: Gabriel Abdulai

Treasurer: Jameson Hunter

Assistant Web Manager: Abuchi Okeke

Advisor: Jian Shi 


F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering

Outstanding Graduate Student (Ph.D.): Mohammad Javad Mollakazemi

Outstanding Graduate Student (MS): Maeve McDonald

Joyce M. Evans Excellence in Service Award: Lauren Bell

Excellence in Teaching Award: Babak Bazrgari 


Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering Outstanding Junior: Skyler Hornback

Honorable Mentions: Maggie Campbell, Maggie Carpenter, Andrew Lin, Matt Morse

Chemical Engineering Outstanding Senior: Hannah Dvorak

Honorable Mentions: Mariah Bezold, Kelly Lynch, Rachel Monroe, James Obute

Omega Chi Epsilon Outstanding Senior: Patrick Ryan

AICHE Senior Award: Rollie Mills

Outstanding Teacher: Douglass Kalika


Omega Chi Epsilon Officers

President: Patrick Ryan

Vice President: Kelly Lynch

Secretary: Nate Morgan

Treasurer: Mitchell Stokan

E-Day Chair: Yuhan Long 


Materials Science & Engineering

MSE Outstanding Junior: Heidi Hanes

Honorable Mention: Christopher Long

MSE Outstanding Senior: Isabella Ritz

Honorable Mention: Thomas Chaney

MSE Outstanding Teacher: Matt Beck


Department of Civil Engineering

Outstanding Junior in Civil Engineering: Natalie Fields

Outstanding Senior in Civil Engineering: Logan Westmoreland

Outstanding Masters Student in Civil Engineering: Amanda Melendez

Outstanding PhD Student in Civil Engineering: Erika Hernandez

Outstanding TA in Civil Engineering: Nabil Al-Aemery

Vincent and Roxanne Drnevich Award for Undergraduate Excellence: Ashley Hall

CE Outstanding Faculty and Lutes Teaching Award Nominee: Jimmy Fox


Chi Epsilon Initiates

Fall 2019: Cole Oldfield, Leonie Bettel

Spring 2020: Jared Jeffers, Gabrielle Dice, Morgan Baumann, Jacob Mattingly, Ashley Hall, Jennifer Kisabeth, Steven McGowen, Natalie Fields 


Department of Computer Science

Selected by the ACM UK Student Chapter

Outstanding Graduating Senior: Raiffa Syami

Outstanding Teaching Assistant: William Bailey

Outstanding Teacher: Raphael Finkel
Selected by the Department of Computer Science

Thaddeus B. Curtz Memorial Scholarship: Esther Max-Onakpoya

Outstanding Graduate Student (PhD): Gongbo Liang

Outstanding Graduate Student (MS):  Armin Hadzic

Outstanding Academic Performance: Tyler Burkett, Joseph Cecil, David Gallivan, Chad Nelson, Tej Patel, Eura Shin, Peter Bifone, Jr 


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

EE Outstanding Junior: Savannah Lewis

EE Outstanding Senior: Joshua Hayes

CompE Outstanding Junior: Jed Mijares

CompE Outstanding Senior: Samuel Keys

Robert L. Cosgriff Award: Ben Luckett

Alex Romanowitz Memorial award: Rosemary Alden

ECE Outstanding Teacher: Janet Lumpp 


Department of Mechanical Engineering

Pi Tau Sigma Outstanding Sophomore in Mechanical Engineering: Chloe Porter

Outstanding Junior in Mechanical Engineering: Kirsten Ford

Outstanding Senior in Mechanical Engineering: Kaitlyn Kearns

ASME Bluegrass Section Outstanding Scholars in Mechanical Engineering: Elijah Arterburn, David Beyerle, Nathan Mason, Jack Riordan, John Schmidt, Evan Sullivan, Jacob Whitmore

Outstanding Teaching Assistant in Mechanical Engineering: Mohammad Khaleel

Outstanding Master’s Student in Mechanical Engineering: Adnan Darwish

Outstanding Ph.D. Student in Mechanical Engineering: Keyu Chen

ASME Bluegrass Chapter Outstanding Faculty in Mechanical Engineering: Farzad Taghaddosi
Pi Tau Sigma initiates 

Kenton Desmond, John Ronkainen, Alex Sarver, Jack Singleton, Halley Burge, Kourtnie Ruber


Pi Tau Sigma Officers 

President: Andrew Roach

Vice President: Rachel Crigler

Treasurer: Caralyn Collins

Initiation Chairs: Jonathan Pernosky, Songcheng Lin

Advisor: Tingwen Wu


Department of Mining Engineering

Outstanding Junior: Zebulon Hart

Outstanding Senior: Dirk-Philip Van Den Berg

Outstanding Teacher: Zach Agioutantis

Academic Excellence Award: Sibley Miller

Mu Nu Gamma Junior Academic Achievement Award: Caroline Gerwig


Mu Nu Gamma Initiates 

Caroline Gerwig, Nicholas Elling, Jack Russell, Matthew Mengelburg, Zachary Wedding, Cameron Johnson, Benjamin Cachares, Tait Doeringer


Mu Nu Gamma Officers

President: Zeb Hart

Vice President: Sibley Miller

Secretary/Treasurer: Collin Sabedra


UK Paducah

Paducah Kiwanis Junior Scholars (determined by Engineering Major GPA)

Chemical Engineering: Logan Draffen               

Mechanical Engineering: Madison Giltner

Paducah Kiwanis Senior Scholars (determined by Engineering Major GPA)

Chemical Engineering: Rana Turkmani

Mechanical Engineering: Elijah Arterburn, Nathan Mason, John Schmidt (tie)


Outstanding Paducah Engineering Students

Chemical Engineering      

Junior Nominees: Logan Draffen, Donovan McKinney, Briana Phelps (winner)

Senior Nominees: Olivia Hawthorne, Rana Turkmani (winner)

Mechanical Engineering

Junior Nominees: Madison Giltner, Robert Harper (winner)

Senior Nominees: Lexi Parks, John Schmidt (winner)

Outstanding Instructor in Chemical Engineering: Derek Englert

Outstanding Instructor in Mechanical Engineering: John Maddox


Pi Tau Sigma initiates 

Stuart Boyd, Madison Giltner, Austin Haley, Joey Hamlin, John Spivey


Pi Tau Sigma Officers 

Paducah Campus President: John Schmidt

Paducah Campus Vice President: Samuel Smith

Advisor: John Baker