Ten School of Engineering and Applied Sciences students recognized for outstanding research

2018 SEAS Dean's Achievement Award winners, group photo

SEAS student award winners. From left are Reda Snaiki, Ian DesJardin, Nicholas Moscatello, Souransu Nandi, Chen Song, Kun Woo Cho, Nan Zhang and David DePauw (not shown are Kelsey Sommer and Lingxiang Zhu). Photo by Sarah D’Iorio.

by Emily Sugarman

Published August 17, 2018

Ten high achieving engineering and applied sciences students have been recognized with prestigious awards from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“These awards were highly competitive. Faculty nominated more than 30 outstanding students for recognition at the graduate level alone. It was very challenging for the faculty committee to select the top few.”
Christine Human, associate dean for accreditation and student affairs
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

New this year, the Dean’s Achievement Award was created in response to student request that the school recognize people who are doing exemplary research. Liesl Folks, the dean of SEAS, responded by setting up the award for both graduate and undergraduate students, based on nominations by faculty.

Five students, Nicholas Moscatello, Souransu Nandi, Reda Snaiki, Chen Song and Lingxiang Zhu, received the Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award for their significant contributions to the advancement of their fields through the performance of outstanding research.

Four students, Kun Woo Cho, David Michael DePauw, Ian Murphy DesJardin and Kelsey Sommer, received the Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award, which recognizes students who have distinguished themselves through excellence in research and related technical presentations or publications.

In addition, graduate student Nan Zhang received the Harold O. Wolf Award. Given by Mary Wolf, the award honors her late husband Harold O. Wolf (BA geology 1960), and recognizes high achieving students who distinguish themselves through research, academic coursework and extracurricular activities.

“These awards were highly competitive. Faculty nominated more than 30 outstanding students for recognition at the graduate level alone. It was very challenging for the faculty committee to select the top few,” said Christine Human, SEAS associate dean for accreditation and student affairs.

Meet this year’s awardees.

Nan Zhang, Harold O. Wolf Award
Pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering
Advisor: Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering

Nan Zhang, who is from the Hebei province in China, is working on the development of novel nano-manufacturing methods and their applications in optical bio/chemical sensing and water purification.

Zhang serves as president of the University at Buffalo Student Chapter of the Optical Society of America (OSA) — the first and only student chapter on optics in the Buffalo area. As leader of the organization, he helped establish the ''Day of Optics'' at UB to promote academic communication and collaboration in the Western New York area. Zhang was the recipient of the French-American Doctoral Exchange Program Grant 2016, and also won second prize at the 2017 Erie Hack All-Lake Water Innovation competition.

Zhang participated in the commercialization of his research via Sunny Clean Water LLC, a UB-based startup company aimed at addressing the global issue of scarcity of clean water. He is now working with non-governmental organizations to introduce his team’s products into underdeveloped areas of the world.

His future plans include pursuing a faculty role at a university and commercializing his research.

Nicholas Moscatello: Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award
Pursuing a PhD in chemical engineering
Advisor: Blaine Pfeifer, professor of chemical engineering

Nicholas Moscatello is involved in bioprocess engineering utilizing E.coli for the production of a metal binding compound Yersiniabactin, which is re-purposed for metal removal and retrieval from wastewater streams. He is currently testing Yersiniabactin for antimicrobial properties against other pathogens.

Moscatello, from Waterford, N.Y., is a mentor to other students and helps them with their research pursuits. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in biotechnology or a pharmaceutical company.

Souransu Nandi: Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award
Pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering
Advisor: Tarunraj Singh, professor of mechanical engineering

Souransu Nandi is from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Nandi’s research focuses on the design of control algorithms for a biomedical device called the “artificial pancreas.” He uses concepts in probability theory, control theory and estimation theory to determine the correct dosage of insulin to be administered to Type 1 diabetes patients to ensure their blood glucose levels remain within acceptable limits at all times.

Nandi plans to be a full time researcher and aims to work on engineering problems that produce a positive impact on society.

Reda Snaiki: Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award
Pursuing a PhD in civil/structural engineering
Advisor: Teng Wu, assistant professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering

Reda Snaiki is an international student from Morocco. His current research concerns wind engineering, hurricane hazard modeling, and risk assessment. The models that his team have developed for hurricane risk assessment have been integrated in a real-time cyberinfrastructure multi-hazard platform, and used in real applications.

Snaiki is a former senator in UB’s student chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and has also been involved with Habitat for Humanity projects in the City of Buffalo.

As for the future, Snaiki plans to develop advanced engineering-based hurricane risk analysis, which will serve as the foundation for risk mitigation, management and decision making in hazard prone regions.

Chen Song: Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award
Pursuing a PhD in computer science and engineering
Advisor: Wenyao Xu, assistant professor of computer science and engineering

Chen Song is from Shanghai, China. His current research focuses on smart sensing, smart manufacturing and smart health.

In addition to  his research, he has also participated in state-level innovation competitions to improve the quality of life of aging people, winning the second price in the UB Aging Challenge and entering the second phase of the New York State HeroX Challenge.

Song has published six top-tier conference papers and won the Best Graduate Research Award from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in 2018. Some of his projects have been reported by media outlets, most notably by NSF Science 360 and the National Science Foundation's News.

Lingxiang Zhu: Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award
PhD in chemical engineering (awarded in spring, 2018)
Advisor: Haiqing Lin, associate professor of chemical engineering

Together with his advisor, Lingxiang Zhu researched advanced polymeric membranes for hydrogen purification and CO2 capture. The approach he developed has opened up a new avenue for designing strong size-sieving polymers for membrane gas separations.

He received the 2018 NAMS Student Fellowship Award and his work has been published in the journal of Energy and Environmental Science.

Zhu, who is from Zhejiang, China, joined the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pa. as a postdoctoral fellow, and intends to pursue a career in academia.

Kun Woo Cho: Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award
BS computer engineering 2018
Advisor: Wenyao Xu, assistant professor of computer science and engineering

Kun Woo Cho is from Incheon, Korea and graduated this spring with a BS in computer engineering. Her research focuses on the interdisciplinary fields of digital health, mobile sensing, and emerging biometrics.

Cho was a University Honors College Scholar, teaching assistant, and undergraduate research ambassador. Her research study on a screening approach for autism spectrum disorders was reported by more than 50 public media outlets, and she has published four conference papers that have been presented at national conferences.

Cho was also selected for UB’s annual Cambridge Undergraduate Scholar Program (CUSP) and researched in the laboratory of a University of Cambridge professor.

She will pursue her PhD in computer engineering at Princeton University.

David Michael DePauw: Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award
Mechanical engineering major; minor in computer science
Advisor: Mostafa Nouh, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering

David Michael DePauw currently works in the Sound and Vibrations Laboratory, where he analyzes the frequency dependent behavior of various types of metamaterials. He is also involved with the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) micro mouse competition.

DePauw, who is from Oneonta, N.Y., plans to attend graduate school for either systems or controls engineering.

Ian Murphy DesJardin: Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award
Aerospace engineering and physics double major; minor in mathematics
Advisor: Minghui Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and John Crassidis, Samuel P. Capen Professor

Ian DesJardin works on robot arms in the lab of Minghui Zheng and satellites with John Crassidis' Nanosatellite lab. This summer, he is working on ion propulsion at Texas A&M University. He is also a member of the UB Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. 

DesJardin, who is from Buffalo, N.Y., plans on attending graduate school to earn a PhD in aerospace engineering or applied physics.

Kelsey Sommer: Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award
BS in biomedical engineering
Advisor: Ciprian Ionita, assistant professor of biomedical engineering

Kelsey Sommer, from Buffalo, N.Y., researches cardiac modeling of the coronary arteries using 3D printing and computational fluid dynamics at the Neurosurgery Department at the Gates Vascular Institute.

Sommer is involved with the Biomedical Engineering Society as well as various forms of educational outreach. She has presented in several regional conferences and has given two talks at international conferences. Sommer has co-authored more than five conference proceedings, and her colleagues have presented research based on the vascular models she 3D printed. 

She plans to earn her PhD in biomedical engineering from UB.