2019 Award Winners
Mohammadreza Khani — Ph.D. candidate
Mohammadreza Khani is a doctoral candidate at the University of Idaho. He completed a B.S. in mechanical engineering at the University of Mazandaran in 2010, and received an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Iran University of Science and Technology in 2013. As an expert in the field of computational fluid dynamics, Mohammadreza has been working as a research assistant under supervision of Dr. Bryn A. Martin at U of I since 2016. Mohammadreza’s research in this area is of great importance because it provides much-needed modeling technologies that allow scientists to understand fluid flow within the central nervous system and design better drug delivery systems. Due to the prevalence and high mortality rates of neurological diseases, finding effective treatment mechanisms is a top global health priority.
Mohammadreza’s value to the scientific community is affirmed by his publication success. He has eight peer-reviewed articles to his name. It is unusual for papers in engineering to be highly cited, and so the more than 20 citations Mohammadreza’s collective publications have received since 2017 have set him apart as an influential researcher with a laudable commitment to real-world needs. Mohammadreza was also awarded for his presentation in the Summer Biomechanics, Bioengineering and Biotransport Conference.
Outside of the academic space, Mohammadreza is committed to fitness and martial arts. He has been to many national and internal competitions since he was 16 and he is always trying to brush up his skills by practicing every day. Photography is also his favorite form of art. He believes Idaho is a great state for landscape photography and on his Instagram @_mr.khani_, you'll find a list of the best places in Idaho. He likes to travel around the world to experience things and places that are completely unknown or different to him. Even though he has been away from home for four years, he believes family is always a No. 1 priority.
Parker Hill — Mechanical Engineering
Parker Hill is a master's student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Parker was raised in the small town of Nezperce, Idaho. With his siblings and friends, Parker enjoyed the perks of a rural north Idaho town by spending his time playing sports and being outside. He grew up working in a family-owned manufacturing business, and his experiences there piqued his interest in mechanical engineering. Once at the University of Idaho, Parker enjoyed the problem-solving challenges offered by the engineering discipline. After working on a medical device for his senior project, he knew he wasn’t ready to be finished at the U of I and joined the Blue Sabino team to design and build a stroke rehabilitation exoskeleton. Since then, he has had the pleasure of working extensively with Dr. Joel Perry, Dr. Eric Wolbrecht, and the rest of a great team to reach this goal. After graduation, Parker hopes to pursue a career in the engineering of medical devices and knows his time at U of I will be a great asset. He will always reflect fondly on the memories made here and continue to be a proud Vandal.
Morteza Soltani — Electrical & Computer Engineering
Morteza was born and raised in the second largest city of Iran, Mashhad, in 1991. From a young age, Morteza displayed a keen interest in mathematics and physics, and since then, smart problem-solving has always been a great source of fun. As a token for his appreciation for his hobby activities in mathematics, he was admitted to the electrical and computer engineering undergraduate program at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran (second best school in Iran) on August 2009, and he graduated with an honors B.S. degree in August 2013. Soon after his graduation, Morteza decided to pursue his education abroad and was admitted to Istanbul Medipol University, Istanbul, Turkey, in September 2014 for a M.S. degree in the electrical and computer engineering program. There, he worked on one of the most challenging yet interesting topics in electrical engineering, namely secure wireless communications. During his master studies, Morteza successfully published four research articles in the Proceedings of the IEEE flagship conferences and the IEEE Access journal. After defending his master's thesis on November 2016, Morteza’s thirst for a deeper understanding of the fundamental limits of wireless communications led him toward a doctorate at U of I. Currently, Morteza is a graduate research/teaching assistant at U of I, where he is actively involved in a number of research topics, including optical wireless communications, fifth generation of cellular phones, and applying machine learning to wireless communications. He also has published six IEEE flagship conference papers along with two IEEE Transactions on Information Theory (the most prestigious IEEE journal) articles.
Jett Murray — Biological Engineering
Jett Murray was raised in Preston, Idaho, and spent most of his childhood in the mountains of Cache Valley. During this time, he developed a love for nature and spent many of his summers camping, boating, and hiking with his family. As time progressed, he discovered a fascination with a variety of subjects including prosthetics, healthcare, and medicine. After furthering these interests in high school and becoming an Emergency Medical Technician, Jett came to the University of Idaho to pursue a degree in biological engineering with a pre-health emphasis. Longing for a way to contribute to the development of new treatments for patients experiencing injuries, he began conducting tendon tissue engineering research in Dr. Nathan Schiele’s laboratory in the Department of Biological Engineering during the spring of 2019. As a Beckman Scholar, Jett will continue his research over the course of the next two years in Dr. Schiele’s laboratory. His project aims to understand the role of specific cell signaling proteins in the biochemical regulation of stem cell differentiation toward the tendon lineage. Results of his research have the potential to advance tendon tissue engineering strategies.
McKenzie Walquist — Biological Engineering
McKenzie grew up on a small hobby farm outside of Jefferson City, Missouri. With a deep passion for nature, she knew she would want her career to positively impact the planet. McKenzie moved to Florida to attend Eckerd College for majors in environmental studies and political science. She soon realized she could be more hands on in problem solving, which led to her choice to transfer to the University of Idaho to study engineering. Joining the small Biological Engineering department and taking advantage of the excellent opportunities within the College of Engineering were very influential in helping her succeed in college. Her passion for science grew, as she became extensively involved in research throughout her time here. She was also president of a biological engineering club, a College of Engineering Ambassador, and will be graduating from the U of I Honors Program. She has truly enjoyed her time at U of I and thanks all the faculty and fellow students who inspired and supported her along the way. She is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in biological engineering and a minor in pre-health. After graduation, McKenzie will begin a career in biopharmaceutical development, and plans to later pursue a Master of Business Administration.
Kasey R. Peach — Chemical Engineering
Kasey Peach was raised in Post Falls, Idaho, just north of Moscow. He grew up playing competitive hockey and attributes much of who he is to his involvement with hockey and the valuable teamwork, leadership and character-building lessons it provided. Prior to beginning his undergraduate education at the University of Idaho, Kasey considered following in his father’s footsteps to pursue a career in orthodontics. He eventually realized that his passion did not lie in the dental field, as he quickly developed an interest and aptitude for math and chemistry, which led to his decision to study chemical engineering at U of I. While attending school full time, Kasey also participated in extracurricular activities ranging from academic club officer positions to captaining the U of I men’s hockey team for three of his four years at the university. Kasey expresses his gratitude and appreciation for the relationships he formed with his equally outstanding classmates and the exceptional faculty in the chemical engineering department. He has accepted a full-time process engineering position with British Petroleum at the company’s Cherry Point Refinery in Blaine, Washington, where he will begin work after graduating in May. Aside from hockey, Kasey enjoys trail running, cycling, weightlifting and playing the guitar.
Dylan Lamberton — Civil Engineering
Dylan was born and raised in Eagle, Idaho. From a young age, he had a passion for math and science that led to his enrollment into the University of Idaho’s civil engineering program. Uncertain on which sub-discipline he wanted to focus on in college, he eventually found his passion on the construction side of engineering after his experience as a field engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California. Here, he received the NASA Group Achievement Award for overcoming significant issues on a project he was involved with during his first rotation. In addition, Dylan was involved and contributed to many extra-curricular, community service, and leadership activities outside of engineering. He served three terms on the Interfraternity Council’s Judicial Board, where he spent time giving back to the university by helping with freshman orientation and Greek life activities.
Dylan will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and is taking a position with Mortenson in their renewable energy department in Minneapolis.
Hailey Johnson — Computer Engineering
Hailey Johnson was raised in Stanwood, Washington. From a young age, Hailey displayed an interest in mathematics, but did not consider engineering as a career path until she applied for college. She is a first-generation college student and was provided little opportunity to explore engineering during grade school. When she arrived at the University of Idaho, she surveyed the different programs within the College of Engineering and eventually chose computer engineering.
During the last four years, she was awarded multiple leadership and research opportunities. In her first semester, she and Bethany Kersten pulled together an interdisciplinary team to write a proposal for a $200,000 research grant through NASA. Their team was awarded the money, and she continued as the project manager for two more years. From this experience, she gained leadership and research skills, an internship at the NASA Ames Research Center and field work with NASA researchers. She interned at Hewlett-Packard in their low-level printer division the following summer and continued working through her last year of college.
Her last year in college, she was the vice president of the U of I Society of Women Engineers, the director of training for the College of Engineering Ambassador Program, and the project manager for her senior design team. She is very grateful for all the encouragement and support from the faculty members and fellow students at U of I.
Samantha Heck — Computer Science
Samantha grew up in Post Falls, Idaho. After taking a web design class in high school, she became fascinated by the possibilities of computer programming and began learning how to program on her own. This interest in technology developed further as she spent two summers as a high school intern for the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene’s Dig’nIT program. After graduating from high school, she chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in computer science at U of I’s main campus. Since then, she has spent three years working as the lead programmer for the campus-run game studio Polymorphic Games, where she not only got to create evolutionary video games and co-author academic papers relating to them, but had the opportunity to travel all across North America for academic conferences, STEM fairs, and research visits. She also worked as a programmer for the Institute of Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies, where she helped to support the efforts of researchers on campus. Samantha was the recipient of the 2018 Alumni Award for Excellence. In her free time, she enjoys listening to audiobooks, cooking, and learning new skills (currently French, piano, and ukulele). She is incredibly thankful for all of the opportunities provided to her at U of I and for the support she received from the faculty and staff, most especially her mentors Dr. Terry Soule and Dr. Barrie Robison. After graduating with highest honors in the spring of 2019, she will be working as a software developer for Commerce Architects in Spokane, Washington.
Animesh Pattanayak — Computer Science
Animesh Pattanayak first developed an interest for computer science in high school when he joined the engineering club and became the software team lead. With this new found passion, he decided to major in computer science at the University of Idaho. Shortly after arriving, Animesh learned about the CyberCorps (R) Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. During his junior year, Animesh joined the SFS program and began a trajectory to focus on cybersecurity. During his time at U of I, Animesh was actively involved in many student organizations, including the Cyber Defense Club, International Soccer Club and Residence Hall Association. His hobbies include music, video games and sports. He was also a regular member on the competitive cyber defense team, which placed second at both the Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and the Department of Energy's CyberForce Competition. Taking on opportunities with open arms, he has held three internships with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. After graduating in December, Animesh stayed at U of I, where he is currently pursuing his Master of Science in computer science.
Avery Brock — Electrical Engineering
After getting his start in electronics by tearing apart his family’s fax machine in elementary school, Avery knew he wanted to become an engineer. While competing in Science Olympiad and MATE underwater robotics in junior high, he realized either mechanical or electrical engineering was his calling, but had a hard time picking one over the other. However, when he found himself helping form a FIRST FRC robotics team at his high school in Woodinville, Washington, he found himself regularly working on the electrical side of things, going above and sometimes around competition regulations to cover his team’s robot in hundreds of LEDs to make it stand out from the competition. After touring over fourteen colleges across the country, graduating from high school, and earning his Eagle, Avery decided that he wanted the University of Idaho to be his home for the next four years so he could become an electrical engineer.
Avery immediately threw himself into the opportunities he was hoping to have at a university, becoming a section lead on a research project seeking to develop an in-home device to refuel hydrogen fuel cell vehicles his freshman year, via the Engineering Scholars program. After his work on the project gained the attention of SpaceX’s Tom Mueller, he turned towards aerospace, joining a NASA ISGC funded research team his sophomore year. As part of the group, Avery helped design high-altitude balloon payloads designed to track astronauts on Mars and image landing sites to determine their geologic structure. He also began his time as a lab instructor for the ECE 101 introductory course his sophomore year, in addition to becoming a tutor for the engineering department. He took a break his junior year, applying for the national Goldwater Scholarship, and was awarded an honorable mention for his work on wireless technology development for space exploration.
Not slowing down his senior year, Avery led a capstone design team tasked with designing a module that could give satellites in low Earth orbit internet access, in addition to developing a small payload return device for use aboard the space station. Avery also co-led another Engineering Scholars research project, this time looking to develop an automated, Wi-Fi connected flower pot able to keep houseplants alive despite neglect. He also helped re-write the ECE 101 curriculum, designing and running a project to teach incoming students circuit board design. Avery’s plan is to take a much-needed break after graduating with honors and a BS in electrical engineering to tour graduate schools, and to finally finish his own personal projects.
LeeRoy Jones — Industrial Technology
Leeroy was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and moved several times as his dad served in the army, moving to Texas and California. Eventually, in the summer of 1988, the family settled in Grace, Idaho. Leeroy attended Grace High School and worked for local farmers and with Idaho Fish and Game. During his high school years, he participated in activities such as FFA, wrestling and debate until graduation in 1992. After graduation, he attended the University of Idaho for two years, eventually leaving to support his extended family where he resumed farming and ranching, as well as custom work for JR Simplot in Grand View, Idaho.
In 1998, Leeroy began working at Envirosource at the rail transfer facility, located in Grand View, where his job was unloading and treating heavy metals and other hazardous materials. In 2001, he moved to Ririe, Idaho, where he attained employment with Environmental Quality Management as a subcontractor to the EPA. His duties included activities such as mine reclamation, yard remediation, plating shop closures, and many other hazardous material cleanups in the Western 11 states and the Pacific Islands. In July 2005, Leeroy gained employment at the AMWTP with Bechtel at the Idaho National Lab. He spent a little over 12 years completing the retrieval of buried waste at AMWTP, achieving a major milestone for the Idaho Settlement agreement. Recently, he has transferred to the Calcine Retrieval Project under Fluor Idaho also at the INL, located at INTEC.
In 2008, Leeroy decided it was time to complete his education. He went back to college in the fall of ’08 at U of I, working toward a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology. During this time, he and his wife Tonya raised 7 kids (one a foster child they had for a couple of years). The couple still has 3 children still living at home. Leeroy coaches soccer during the summer, actively involved with the Boy Scouts for the past 10 years and serving as head Scoutmaster for over 5 of those years. This includes startup/completion of approximately 15 Eagle Projects to date, serving several church callings/activities, attend whatever school activities his kids are involved in and traveling several times to support his daughter and son-in-law, who is currently serving in the Navy. Leeroy and his wife are proud grandparents of four grandkids. Work keeps him busy supporting Idaho settlement milestones. Another proud accomplishment was his industrial technology senior capstone project, where he led a team to complete a safety manual for Diversified Metal Products to support their evolving safety program. Leeroy is currently working toward a master's degree in technology management at the U of I and recently achieved certification as a Certified Technology Manager.
Emily Chambers — Mechanical Engineering
Starting her life in Meridian, Idaho, Emily was raised by a family of Vandals. From an early age, she enjoyed tearing things apart and putting them back together, which was encouraged by her family as she usually got things working again. In particular, she remembers working with her father on his 72’ Chevelle in their garage as a critical project in nurturing her love for engineering. When entering high school, she originally intended to pursue architecture; however, engineering spoke to her more clearly due to her love for hands-on work and artistic design tendencies. After graduating from Rocky Mountain high school, the combination of being a lifelong vandal fan, the engineering program at UI, and the university’s Honors program led her to become a Vandal.
While completing her degree at U of I, Emily took advantage of many opportunities offered by the university. Wanting to help her younger peers, she spent several semesters as a student mentor for introductory ME classes. She also became involved with undergraduate research her junior year, participating in an Engineering Scholars DeVlieg Innovation project involving robotics. She then went on to lead her own project designed to reduce water waste by actively irrigating crops based on soil moisture her senior year. As one of her core passions is encouraging young women to also pursue careers in STEM, she was an active member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), serving as chapter Treasurer her senior year. Additionally, she helped her team win second place in the international PepsiCo Design Challenge at the national SWE conference in 2018, thanks to her innovative designs for a reusable bottle. In an effort to retain her sanity among her diverse math, science, and engineering courses, she played flute in the Vandal Marching Band for four years and was selected to be a part of the Vandalizer pep band in 2019. Emily will be graduating this spring as an Honors Presidential Scholar and having achieved the Honors Core Award.
Nicholas Sentieri — Mechanical Engineering
Nicholas was born in Idaho Falls to Paul and Dionne Sentieri. From a young age, Nicholas was always fascinated with the way mechanical objects worked and would frequently be found playing with LEGOS when he was not occupying his time bothering his younger sister Sydney. Additionally, subjects like math and science came naturally to Nicholas over the years, so when choosing a discipline to study at a university, he felt engineering would be the best fit.
After graduating high school, Nicholas knew he wanted to study engineering, but was unsure specifically what discipline. After initially choosing mechanical engineering because of the broad applications, he soon fell in love with the material, and by the end of sophomore year knew he made the right choice. While at University of Idaho, Nicholas was involved in various ways, including serving as the president of the College of Engineering Ambassador Program and president and active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He had an opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Torino, Italy, and upon returning served as ASME’s Study Abroad Ambassador.
Classes dealing with solid mechanics were always the most interesting throughout his undergraduate degree and because of this, Nicholas chose to add a minor in materials science and engineering with and emphasis in metallurgy. This interest in solid mechanics and material science led Nicholas to decide to continue his education abroad in pursuing a Laurea Magistrale (M.S.) in materials and production engineering at University of Trento in Trento, Italy. Nicholas would also like to extend his sincerest gratitude to all teachers, professors and mentors who have played a role through his life in his education and have taken the time to facilitate and instill a love of learning over the years. Without these special people, he could not have gotten this far.
Taylor Spence — Mechanical Engineering
Not far from home, Taylor grew up in the small town of Garden Valley, Idaho. Taylor’s skill in math and love for design led him to pursue a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, which he graduated summa cum laude in December of 2018. Taylor has used his creativity and talents to not only excel here at U of I but has used skills learned here to assist him at his current internship with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Taylor has found particular joy in focusing on prototype development during his education here by selecting projects such as his senior project in which he designed and built a custom lightboard for teachers to utilize for classes. In the summer of 2018, he conducted research under Dr. Robertson and plans to continue that research to obtain his master's degree here at U of I. After getting his master’s, he hopes to develop his prototyping skills in industry for a while and then one day return to academia as a college professor. Taylor and his wife recently welcomed a new son, Roran, born on Pi Day.
Alen Korjenic — Materials Science & Engineering
Alen Korjenic was born in Twin Falls and raised in Boise, Idaho, where from a young age he was always curious about the world around him and loved building things. Evident from an early age, Alen began questioning the world around him and how things appeared before him. Displaying an interest in mathematics and physics, Alen began pursuing a technical career that sparked from an inquisitive mind. Not even being aware of the field of materials science and engineering, Alen became intrigued and fascinated by the necessity of knowledge of mathematics, physics and chemistry that it required. During the last 4.5 years, Alen has completed his degree in materials science and engineering while taking on multiple research roles over the years and successfully publishing a paper to a peer reviewed scientific journal. After graduation, Alen will be pursuing a Master of Science in materials science and engineering with an emphasis in electrochemistry and corrosion of materials.
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Michael Anderson — Mechanical Engineering
Michael Anderson is a long-time faculty member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, arriving at U of I in 1989. He is a Pacific Northwest native, completing a BSME at Oregon State University in 1983 and MSME and Ph.D in mechanical engineering at Washington State University in 1987 and 1989. In a 30-year career at the University of Idaho, Michael has worked in various research areas, including micro-machined acoustic transducers and heat engines, non-destructive evaluation, manipulation of small particles with acoustic radiation pressure, and applications of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV’s) and outdoor terrestrial robots. These activities have been documented in over 100 articles and 5 patents. Michael has taught a wide variety of courses in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, ranging from sophomore to graduate level. He greatly enjoys watching the growth and development of young adults, and becoming aware of their successes in later life.
Daniel Robertson — Mechanical Engineering
Daniel Robertson is a multidisciplinary scientist with expertise in biomechanics, plant science and interdisciplinary design. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor in fall of 2017 after spending 4 years in Abu Dhabi as a senior research scientist and a U.S. Department of Agriculture NIFA-AFRI Fellow. His teaching and research efforts are focused on using engineering principles to accomplish what the White House has called the great challenge of the 21st century: sustainably providing food, fuel and fiber for the world’s growing population. Much of his current research is focused on working with local agronomists, scientists, and industry partners to develop solutions to the long-standing problem of stalk lodging (i.e., corn, wheat, barley and canola plants breaking in wind and rain storms). His unique interdisciplinary background, global network of colleagues, and supportive staff members have enabled him to attract over 6 million dollars in external research funds and his work has been supported by the USDA, NSF and NASA. Since arriving in Idaho, Dr. Robertson has developed three new courses, founded the AgMEQ laboratory, acquired a professional engineering license and directed the design and development of the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program, which has been a magnet for recruiting outstanding students to the College of Engineering. Under his leadership, the Grand Challenge Scholars Program has quadrupled in size and outcomes produced at the University of Idaho have been recognized in national meetings for the directors of NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program.
Timothy Morgan — IT Manager, CDA
Tim Morgan first came to the U of I in February 2016 as an IT Technician for the U of I Coeur d’Alene Center. Later that year, the Idaho State Legislature funded the third and fourth year of the bachelor’s degree program for computer science in Coeur d’Alene, and he was the first person hired in this new department as the IT Manager in August of 2016. He’s spent the formative years of the new department working to build out video conferencing infrastructure and assisting with any projects needing done, including the department’s move into the Innovation Den in the summer of 2017. He has his Associate of Science from North Idaho College and is pursuing his bachelor’s at U of I.
Tim enjoys gardening, reading and hiking around the beautiful outdoors of North Idaho.
Linda Moser — Civil & Environmental Engineering
Linda Moser was born here in Moscow, Idaho. She grew up among the rolling wheat fields of Genesee Valley where her father farmed land his Norwegian immigrant grandparents homesteaded in the 1890s. After moving to Spokane to attend Kinman Business University, where she received a medical administrative assistant diploma, she worked for four years at a medical practice there. Over the years, she’s lived in Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and in 2003 she moved back to Moscow where she lives with her husband of 9 years. She has four adult children who make her very happy and proud! When she's not busy doing the job she loves in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, she can be found working on her two favorite hobbies, gardening and making jewelry.