Engineering Alumni Association Awards honor outstanding achievements

By: Patrick Gillespie

At the 41st annual Cornell Engineering Alumni Association awards banquet held on April 26 in Upson Hall, members of the Cornell Engineering community were recognized for their work in optical material characterization, investigating water system contaminates, and inspiring young engineers, among other areas.

Association president Matt Windt ‘09, M.Eng. ’10, MBA ‘15 gave the opening remarks and spoke of the association’s mission – to provide financial sponsorship to project teams, give alumni opportunities to mentor current students, and support current students, faculty and staff through their annual awards.

Alan Zehnder, associate dean for undergraduate programs, emceed the awards banquet and stressed that the five awards given acknowledge excellence outside of the classroom, and represent the high value Cornell Engineering places on service, mentoring and experiential learning.

The five award categories and winners are:

Tau Beta Pi Professor of the Year: Damien Helbling, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering

Tau Beta Pi Professor of the Year is awarded through the Cornell Engineering Alumni Association, but elected by engineering students in recognition of exemplary teaching. Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, oversees the selection process. Helbling’s research focuses on understanding the fate and transport of contaminants in water systems. He previously received James and Mary Tien Excellence in Teaching Award from Cornell Engineering in 2016 and the Emerging Investigator Award from Royal Society of Chemistry in 2017.

Academic Achievement Award: Celia Evans, associate director of Engineering Learning Initiatives

The Academic Achievement Award recognizes non-tenure staff and lecturers who go well beyond their job duties for advising, teaching and giving general help to students, and who enhance undergraduate education outside of the classroom. Evans continues to be extremely proactive in applying her expertise to the improvement of student learning through her work with the teaching assistants and peer educators. The academic excellence workshops she coordinates have special impact for first- and second-year students – providing welcoming and supportive learning communities prior to students’ entry into their major program.

Student Organization Award: American Indian Science and Engineering Society

This award is given to a student organization based on its outstanding service to the college or community. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society spearhead and support efforts to increase American Indian and Indigenous participation in STEM fields at Cornell in cooperation with university admissions, engineering admissions, and the American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program. The group hosted the society’s Region 6 Conference and Orange Shirt Day to build awareness and demystify access to indigenous students and communities.

Student Organization Award: CBE Graduate Women’s Group

CBE Women is a student organization that aims to develop leadership skills and provide opportunities to female graduate students and postdoctoral research associates. The group initiated a program to invite Cornell alumni to conduct workshops on careers outside academia. Additionally, representatives of CBE Women gave high school girls from rural areas around New York state the opportunity to experience science and learn about possible career paths in engineering at the Women's Outreach in Materials, Energy, and Nanobiotechnology outreach event.

Undergraduate Research Award: Joshua Tensuan ‘25, double major in electrical and computer engineering and in applied and engineering physics

The Undergraduate Research Award recognizes an undergraduate student who has made outstanding research accomplishments. Tensuan joined Karan Mehta’s research group as a freshman and has an uncanny ability to clearly and concisely communicate his work, demonstrated in the summary reports he has produced both for his own purposes within the group and for communication of his work to the undergraduate research office at Cornell. He has also been involved in experimental work in the group – expressing particular interest in getting familiar with cleanroom processing – and has learned certain techniques for optical material characterization.

Albert R. George Student Team Award: Engineers in Action

Named in honor of Professor Al George, the John F. Carr Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus, this award recognizes student project teams that have exhibited the highest level of professional skills, attitude and growth during the current academic year. Engineers in Action empowers today's students to become tomorrow's global leaders by building bridges with underserved communities. Team members envision a world in which global citizens connect across cultures to improve quality of life and ensure geography does not determine access to opportunity.

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