Nine Students Receive Leadership Awards in Engineering

February 21, 2011

Seven undergraduate students and two doctoral students were honored at the Cockrell School's annual Student Leadership Awards in Engineering ceremony Feb. 21. The students are recognized for exhibiting professional leadership roles in the Cockrell School, and one student is presented the Marvin Wright Engineering Athlete Award.

The honorees are selected by a student committee that considers organizational leadership, school service, innovation and scholarship.

"These student leaders have motivated, guided and supported our engineering student organizations by trusting colleagues, honoring the contributions of every individual and pushing others to excel on their own while they strive to improve our engineering community," said Glynda Groth-Putnam, Engineering Student Life director and chair of the Student Leadership Awards Selection Committee.

Undergraduate Student Leadership Award Recipients

Bryse Ed  /  Senior, Aerospace Engineering  /  Waco, Texas

"The Cockrell School has transformed my experience as an engineering student by providing me with a large variety of opportunities to enhance my leadership skills. Through being an officer in student organizations and working on a student-run project, I have learned numerous skills that I might have missed by solely being a student in a classroom setting. These opportunities have helped define who I am today."


  • Volunteer, Women in Engineering Program
  • Treasurer, Society of Women Engineers
  • Founding member, Women in Aerospace for Leadership and Development

Rewarding moment
One activity that has had the most impact on Bryse during college has been the rocket payload project she worked on last year with Women in Aerospace for Leadership and Development. Through this project, Bryse helped develop each portion of the payload from start to finish, as well as visit behind the scenes at White Sands Missile Range. She said this experience greatly enhanced her aerospace engineering education, making her realize how awesome it is to be an engineer.

Post-graduation plans
After graduation, Bryse hopes to work in industry on projects dealing with outer space, specifically projects that affect astronauts' daily lives, such as astronauts who work on the International Space Station.

Joanna Fung  /  Senior, Petroleum Engineering  /  Sugar Land, Texas

"By developing both my leadership and technical skills at the Cockrell School, I feel prepared to enter into the next steps of my petroleum engineering career. I won't know all the answers, but I will know how to find a solution."


  • Officer and member, Society of Petroleum Engineers
  • President, Society of Women Engineers

Rewarding moment
Joanna said her involvement with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has been her most important engineering experience. Starting in the organization as a corporate chair, Joanna said she has grown as a team player and a leader, while discovering and developing her leadership style. Overall, she said, SWE has enriched her experience as an engineering student.

Post-graduation plans
After graduation, Joanna will be working with Shell as a completions engineer in Houston, where she is especially excited to have the opportunity to work in the field on a rotational schedule.

Omar Gomez  /  Senior, Petroleum Engineering  /  Houston, Texas

"The Cockrell School of Engineering has transformed my experience as an engineering student by making me aware of current innovations. With such a diverse school, it makes me feel that I'm getting a sneak peak of the real work environment yet to come."


  • Member, Society of Petroleum Engineers
  • Member, UT Ballet Folklorico
  • Member and officer (2008-09), Pi Sigma Pi
  • President, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

Rewarding moment
Omar said his most significant engineering experience was during his first semester at UT when he was enrolled in 17 credit hours. Being the first in his family to attend college, Omar said he was grateful that in that first year he got involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Through his connections with upper-division mentors in SHPE, he feels he learned to be a balanced, successful engineering student.

Post-graduation plans
After graduation in 2012, Omar plans to work in industry, attend law school or participate in Teach for America.

Grant Lastovica  /  Senior, Chemical Engineering  /  Houston, Texas

"The Cockrell School has exposed me to professors working on cutting edge technology in the energy industry and ensured me that I have the core tools of an engineer to succeed in my career. The experiences and relationships that I have gained will not only allow me to succeed, but go beyond expectations and act as a leader in the changing business world."


  • President, Student Engineering Council

Rewarding moment
Grant said his involvement with the Student Engineering Council (SEC) has been the most important activity during his time at UT. He believes the SEC has provided him with many learning experiences and taught him life lessons that will be invaluable in his future endeavors.

Post-graduation plans
After graduation, Grant will move to Fairfax, Va. to work for ExxonMobil in its supply and transportation organization.

Annie Mbride  /  Senior, Chemical Engineering  /  Dallas, Texas

"EOE and WEP's academic and leadership programs have helped elevate my experience as an engineering student while preparing me for my professional career. Also, I have greatly benefited from other student support services like the career assistance center, study abroad opportunities and scholarships."


  • Member, Engineering Leadership Team
  • Mentor, EOE Freshman Interest Group
  • Member and previous officer, National Society of Black Engineers
  • Member and officer, Pi Sigma Pi
  • Officer, member and mentor, Student Engineers Education Kids
  • Member, Student Advisory Committee for the Engineering Education and Research Center
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant, Women in Engineering GLUE Program

Rewarding moment
Annie said some of her best experiences were during the two summers she served as a camp counselor for the Equal Opportunity in Engineering's (EOE) MITE Summer Camp, the same camp that introduced her interest in engineering at UT. For Annie, being a counselor was rewarding because she was able to lead, guide and inspire around 100 high school students; exciting them about engineering just as she had been.

Post-graduation plans
This summer, Annie will study international engineering design in Vienna, Austria before returning back to Texas for an internship with ConocoPhillips. After graduation, Annie hopes to gain several years of experience working in the energy industry before pursuing a graduate degree.

Kristen McConnell  /  Senior, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Honors  /  Weatherford, Texas

"The Cockrell School has provided me so many opportunities that have enhanced the undergraduate experience, such as internships, volunteer opportunities and student organization involvement. It has given me a well-rounded education that definitely prepared me for the next steps in life."


  • Member and past officer, Society of Women Engineers
  • Member, Tau Beta Pi
  • Member, Pi Tau Sigma
  • Member-at-large, Student Engineering Council
  • Co-chair, 2010 Fall EXPO Career Fair

Rewarding moment
Serving as a co-chair for the 2010 Fall EXPO Career has been Kristen's most significant collegiate experience, she said. The project management aspects of coordinating EXPO allowed her the opportunity to help more than 4,000 engineering students network with 450 recruiters representing 250 companies. Along with her co-chair, Kristen worked with a committee of 25 peers to implement new technology that enabled the career fair to run more smoothly and efficiently.

Post-graduation plans
Following graduation, Kristen will work at Accenture as a systems integration analyst. After working a few years she plans to go to Penn State to earn a master's degree in nuclear engineering to help the U.S. construct and operate more nuclear plants in an effort to become more energy efficient.

Graduate Student Leadership Award Recipients

Jared Garrison  /  Doctoral candidate, Mechanical Engineering  /  Lufkin, Texas

"The Cockrell School and the faculty and staff here at UT have helped me broaden my knowledge base and further develop my analytical and communication skills. I feel very well prepared for what will come after I finish my doctorate, and I am very grateful to the people in the Cockrell School who have helped me get to where I am today."


  • Member, Tau Beta Pi
  • Member, Pi Tau Sigma
  • Member, Engineers for a Sustainable World
  • Member, Mechanical Engineering Department Graduate Student Board
  • Member and officer, American Society of Mechanical Engineers student and Central Texas chapters
  • Member and officer, Kappa Theta Epsilon Cooperative Engineering Honor Society
  • Founding member, Engineering Student Life's Engineering Leadership Team
  • Graduate and former staff member, LeaderShape-Texas

Rewarding moment
Volunteering at the Cockrell School has been Jared's most significant experience while at the university. He has participated in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, Explore UT, Encounter with Engineering, Engineering Day at the Mall, Engineering Day at the Museum and Engineering Saturdays at the Austin Children’s Museum. Jared believes these types of programs are important to help stimulate and encourage kids to think about engineering, math and science.

Post-graduation plans
Upon completion of his doctorate, Jared hopes to work in the energy industry, with a focus on renewable energy and energy storage, in an effort to get more renewable energy systems onto the electric grid without compromising grid reliability.

Reeja Jayan  /  Doctoral candidate, Materials Science and Engineering  /  Trivandrum, Kerala, India

"The facilities, faculty and students at the Cockrell School of Engineering have motivated me to believe in my dreams and helped me develop the skills and confidence needed to make them come true."


  • Participant, Women in Engineering programs
  • Member, Society of Women Engineers
  • Member, Electrochemical Society
  • President, Materials Research Society

Rewarding moment
Reeja said a rewarding moment for her was reviving the student chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), which had been inactive for several years. Reeja led the efforts to bring a small group of students together who shared similar interests, recruit a faculty adviser and then devise a plan to reinstate the chapter at UT and at the MRS national level. As a result, students and faculty have enjoyed a variety of events such as the Career Development Speaker Series.

Post-graduation plans
After completing her Ph.D., Reeja plans to continue doing research on materials for clean energy applications such as solar cells and batteries while pursuing a career in academics as a professor. Reeja wants to encourage and motivate students to pursue higher education in clean, sustainable energy and materials.

Marvin Wright Engineering Athlete Award

Leon Dean  /  Sophomore, Chemical Engineering Honor  /  Spokane, Wash.

"The Cockrell School is one of the more difficult and time-consuming schools in the university, so it has forced me to learn how to manage my time well. I believe this has helped me an athlete because time management is important during practice and during meets."


  • Member, American Institute of Chemical Engineering
  • Member, Christians on Campus
  • Member, Men's Track and Field

Rewarding moment
Leon said the research experience he had last semester under Dr. Grant Willson was his most rewarding experience so far. For the research, the students and Dr. Willson attempted to make nanostructures using new block copolymers. This experienced allowed Leon the opportunity to learn a variety of instrumental analysis and synthesis techniques and interact with several graduate students in chemical engineering and chemistry.

Post-graduation plans
Leon is interested in attending graduate school after graduation.