By Nicole Capozziello
Published August 31, 2022
Ten exceptional engineering students have been recognized with awards from the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Announced annually, the Harold O. Wolf award recognizes high achieving students who distinguish themselves through research, academic coursework and extracurricular activities. The Dean’s Award for Achievement recognizes graduate and undergraduate students who are engaged in exemplary research.
“It's a pleasure to honor the achievements and impact of these award winners, who are leaders both inside and outside of the classroom. Their excellence in research, academics and extracurricular service sets the standard for our school,” says Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Each year, faculty members nominate exceptional students from across the school and they are then invited to apply. This year, 23 students applied for the Dean’s Award for Achievement at the graduate level, the largest number in the awards’ history.
Seyedomid Sajedi, a graduate student in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, received the Harold O. Wolf Award. Given by Mary Wolf, the award honors her late husband Harold O. Wolf (BA Geology, 1960).
The Dean’s Graduate Achievement Award was given to Junjie Chen and Nika Rajabian, both from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Zipeng Guo, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Homero Fernando Carrion Cabrera, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and Xiang Xi, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
This year’s Dean’s Undergraduate Achievement Award went to Achira Boonrath, Abdullah Islam, Anoop Kiran, and Max Magee, all students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Undergraduate students and their families met with Dean Lewis on July 29, while graduate students will be recognized at the SEAS graduate student orientation on August 24..
Seyedomid Sajedi graduated in May with a PhD in Civil Engineering. His research is dedicated to developing autonomous frameworks for structural inspections and monitoring.
Sajedi, who hails from Tehran, Iran, worked with Xiao Liang, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering (CSEE).
“Seyedomid poses admirable problem solving and creative thinking skills,” says Liang. “He has managed to solve several challenging problems in his field of research, such as developing data-driven frameworks for reliable and optimal damage diagnosis. For the first time in his field, his research promotes awareness of the risks of using AI and the importance of quantifying the deep learning model uncertainty for structural safety assessments.”
Sajedi's research is highly interdisciplinary between structural engineering and computer science. He is the first student in the UB CSEE department to work on modern data-driven structural health monitoring. His work has resulted in six journal articles, one book chapter, and four conference papers.
Before enrolling in the PhD program, he worked on multiple industry projects as a member of design and modeling teams. Since coming to UB, Sajedi has also been a member and senator of UB CSEE's Graduate Student Association. He strengthened community by organizing events like weekly coffee breaks and trips to local state parks, and supported graduate students during the pandemic by connecting them to essential supplies.
Sajedi’s other honors include 1st place in the 2020 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student paper competition, 1st place in the 2020 CSEE student poster competition, and 1st prize in the 2021 International Competition for Structural Health Monitoring. He is also the recipient of the 2021 ASCE O. H. Ammann Fellowship, the Mark Diamond Research Fund, and NVIDIA's Data Science GPU grant.
Homero Fernando Carrión Cabrera is a PhD student in civil engineering, concentrating on structural and earthquake engineering, and is expected to graduate in fall of 2022. He hails from Cuenca, Ecuador and came to UB in 2017 as the recipient of a Fulbright-SENESCYT Scholarship, a combined scholarship from the U.S. and the Ecuadorian government.
His research focuses on creating a new structural system to produce resilient bridges in the event of earthquakes. Working with Michel Bruneau, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Carrión Cabrera’s thesis project required him to perform thousands of nonlinear inelastic analyses while simultaneously developing a shake-table testing program for a 40-foot-long bridge spanning the two shake tables of UB’s state-of-the-art Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory. The testing results validated the proposed design, which is ready to be implemented in bridge design specifications.
Bruneau says, “Homero has been working on a research project that is probably one of the most challenging I have seen in recent years. Fortunately, his technical skills are as solid as it gets, and he is well-organized and most professional. This has resulted in optimal and productive research interactions, with positive results and outcomes.”
Carrión Cabrera’s on-campus contributions include co-founding the Latin American Graduate Student Association and serving as president of the CSEE-GSA. He was inspired to pursue research in earthquake engineering because of his experience growing up in an active seismic zone in a developing country. However, he has since seen the broader application of his work. “I hope that my studies will result in countries all around the world, particularly poor countries, being more resilient to an earthquake event.”
Junjie Chen graduated in January of 2022 with a PhD in chemical engineering. His research focused on heterogeneous catalysis, which has the potential to mitigate global warming, especially with its applications in methane emissions control and CO2 reduction. In his PhD research, he developed methods to treat automobile exhausts to meet hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emission standards.
“Junjie is not only a first-rate scientist and engineer, but he has also proven to be a first-rate educator of the next generation of researchers. During his time in my laboratory, he served as the research mentor to several master's and undergraduate students. Besides the considerable scientific training he provided, Junjie was a wonderful role model to these students,” says Eleni Kyriakidou, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering and Chen’s advisor.
Chen came to UB from Pujiang, Zhejiang, China. He is a first-generation college student and is the first PhD in his family. In addition to his research contributions, he served as a volunteer with the Science is Elementary program and a safety officer for his laboratory. He is currently a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University’s Department of Chemical Engineering.
Zipeng Guo is a PhD student in industrial engineering from Beijing, China.. His research focuses on additive manufacturing of functional materials. One of his current projects focuses on the design of 3D-printed battery cases with silica aerogel material, which has the potential to support the super thermal insulation of nanostructures for energy-critical applications. He has also done work on 3D printing tissues and organs for biomedical application.
“During his study and work in my group, Zipeng showed a great passion for research. He is extremely self-motivated, persistent in his efforts and meticulous in his thinking. Moreover, I am very impressed by his high efficiency on multiple tasks. He is a group leader and always takes the responsibility to meet junior students individually and work closely with them,” says Chi Zhou, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and Guo’s advisor.
During his three years of graduate studyr, Guo has already published 12 journal papers in manufacturing related flagship journals, including seven as first author. In 2021, he received the ISE Graduate Student Researcher of the Year Award.
Nika Rajabian is a PhD student in chemical engineering from Tehran, Iran.. Her work has been carried in conjuction with the Center for Cell, Gene and Tissue Engineering, where her main project focuses on bioengineering of skeletal muscle that accurately models muscle aging and regeneration.
“Nika’s record of 12 publications is especially impressive given that the work done in my lab spans multiple scales, from molecular to cellular, tissue and animal models, where experiments last for days to weeks and even months, rather than hours,” says Stelios Andreadis, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Rajabian’s advisor. “In addition, as a member of various projects, Nika has clearly demonstrated her ability to be a great team player who not only works well with others but makes them better.”
Rajabian received the UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award in 2022. Other honors include poster presentations at the CBE Annual Symposium, as well as first place awards in the SEAS Graduate Student Poster Competition in 2020 and 2022. She has also presented her work at several international conferences including the Biomedical Engineering Society Meeting and American Aging Association Annual Meeting.
Xiang Xi graduated with a PhD in mechanical engineering in spring 2022. His research is in the emerging field of the study of the dielectric behavior of electronic conductors, such as carbons and metals. He did his research with Deborah Chung in the Composites Materials Research Laboratory, and he worked as a teaching assistant for four courses over eight semesters.
“Xi has been instrumental in turning the idea of studying the impact of the dielectric behavior of electronic conductors into reality through his single-handed experimental work. His work has opened a new chapter in the electrical behavior of electronic conductors and a new area of basic science that is rich in both science and applications,” says Chung, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Xi’s advisor.
He has 31 peer-reviewed journal publications, including 24 as first author. He has also served as a volunteer reviewer for various academic journals in his field. Xi, who is from Lingyun County, Baise City, China, is currently working as an assistant professor at the College of Mechanics and Materials, Hohai University in Nanjing, China. He continues working on the smartness of structural materials.
Achira Boonrath graduated in May of 2022 with a BS in aerospace engineering.His research concerned validating a model for a net to capture space debris and was completed with Eleonora Botta, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE).
“While Achira's undergraduate research was initially performed remotely from Thailand because of COVID, he has been committed to his work and demonstrated his ability to work independently,” says Botta. “Together with a fellow undergraduate student, Achira presented research findings as a conference paper at the 2022 AIAA SciTechForum and Exposition. We are currently working on a journal publication based on this work.”
In addition to his research contributions, Boonrath was an undergraduate teaching assistant for multiple courses in MAE and a tutor at the Thomas J. Edwards Math Place. He was a member of the UB Pilots Association and Thai Student Association, as well as a participant in the UB Summer Innovation Academy’s Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge.
He is a recipient of the Gustav and Grete Zimmer Memorial Scholarship Fund and the University at Buffalo Experiential Learning Network Conference Funding. Boonrath was also one of the undergraduate honorees of the UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award for 2022.
Boonrath, who is from Bangkok, Thailand, will be continuing his education at UB in the fall, where he will pursue his PhD in aerospace engineering. For his graduate education, he was awarded the UB Presidential Fellowship by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Abdullah Islam, a native of Edwardsville, Ill., graduated in May of 2022 with a BS in mechanical engineering and a BA in French. During his time at UB, he was a research assistant in the UB Renewable and Emerging Nanomaterial (REN) Laboratory with Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He worked with the copper group with the goal of developing robust nanostructured copper-based ink formulations for applications in electronics. He is co-author on three publications.
“While working with Abdullah, I saw his creativity, independence and his high level of adaptability,” says Ren. “During his time in my lab, I saw him learn and apply new skills in the areas of abundant materials synthesis and 3D printing, and characterization experience in the field of additive manufacturing and functional materials like printable electronics.”
On campus, Islam was also a member of the UB Digital Manufacturing Lab, a member of UB chapter of American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) Design/Build/Fly team and vice president of the UB Wrestling Club.
His other honors include the Zimmer Research Scholarship, 2021 and 2022, and membership in the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Honors Society and Pi Delta Phi French Honors Society. Islam is fluent or conversational in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Bengali and served as an interpreter and translator with Catholic Charities of Buffalo.
Islam will be continuing onto a master’s at UB in fall of 2022 in mechanical engineering with a materials track. He will be continuing his research with Ren.
Anoop Kiran, from Nanuet, N.Y., graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering in May 2022. His most recent research took place in the DRiFTlab under Francis Lagor, where he worked on a project focused on numerical simulation of an airfoil encountering transverse gust.
He has also performed research on algorithms for guidance, navigation and control of spacecraft (GN&C) under SUNY Distinguished Professor John Crassidis. He presented research on these topics at various conferences, including the 2021 International Astronautical Congress and the 2021 Aerospace Europe Conference.
“Anoop’s research on kinematic maneuvering in transverse gust encounters has been exceptional, and it has even helped to advance the research of my graduate student,” says Lagor, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
In addition to his research contributions, Kiran was an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a physics and math tutor at the UB Tutoring and Academic Support Services, and a School of Engineering and Applied Sciences student ambassador.
He was active in the UB Nanosatellite Laboratory, the national and UB chapters of American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA), and a mentor for students at Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM).
Kiran’s other honors include an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and NASA Space Grant Fellowship in 2022, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2021, and the Leaders in Excellence Scholarship from the UB Engineering and Applied Sciences Alumni Association in 2020.
In summer of 2022, he interned at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), supporting structural analysis on Mars Sample Return and Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations for the Europa Clipper mission. Kiran will be pursuing his PhD in aerial robotics at Brown University starting this fall.
Max Magee is a rising senior majoring in aerospace engineering and minoring in law and math from Honeoye Falls, N.Y. Magee’s recent research has been on how undergraduate students engage in engineering judgment, working with Jessica Swenson, an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education. He co-authored a conference paper on this research and is working on a journal article.
“Max is a kind and hardworking research assistant. There is never any task too complicated or ill-defined for Max to take on,” says Swenson. “He has also taken on learning qualitative data analysis techniques as part of education research projects and completed data analyses and co-authorship at the level of a first year PhD student.”
Outside of his research, Magee is a tutor at the Thomas J. Edwards Math Place and a research assistant on a project with Brad Darrall, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. After graduating in May 2023, Magee looks forward to entering the aerospace industry.