2022 Award Winners
Nick Guho — Civil & Environmental Engineering
Christine Page — Electrical Engineering
Christine is a Department of Defense SMART scholar working on small satellites to send into orbit. Her Master's thesis involved developing a power supply to improve the performance of onboard instruments on cube satellites. Christine plans to continue her research pursuits in space exploration at MIT's Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering department this fall.
Yuan Yuan — Chemical and Biological Engineering
Yuan Yuan joined the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering for his Master’s study in January 2020 and entered the Ph.D. program in spring 2022. Before joining the University of Idaho, Yuan has been trained in biotechnology and bioengineering, focusing on microbial growth and the regulation of microbial metabolites. Yuan's current research focuses on the design, optimization and improvement of plasma technology for water disinfection and food processing. His research interests include the effects of microbial inactivation techniques on microorganisms and changes in the physical and chemical properties of drinking water and food.
Georgios Michail Makrakis — Computer Science
Georgios Michail Makrakis received the B.Sc. degree in Information and Communication Systems Engineering from the University of the Aegean, Greece in 2018, specializing in cybersecurity and software engineering. He holds commercial experience as a software engineer. Currently, he is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in computer science at the University of Idaho. His research areas of interests involve the Intrusion Detection Systems for IoT, Industrial Control Systems cybersecurity and lightweight cryptography.
Kaitlyn Harvey — Biological Engineering
Kaitlyn grew up in the rainy city of Bellingham, WA. With her mother working as a registered nurse, she quickly developed a love for biology and a passion for helping others. Kaitlyn excelled in both math and science, providing her with the foundation she needed to eventually pursue a degree in biological engineering.
For a large portion of her undergraduate experience, she was involved in biomedical research seeking to better understand tendon tissue engineering, and was able to present her research at both the Idaho Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Undergraduate Research Symposium.
Near the end of her college career, Kaitlyn was fortunate to be one of two undergraduate students working to complete a research project for the NASA Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS) program. This experience allowed her to help build and test an experimental payload to evaluate the bacterial resistance of polymer coatings on the International Space Station (ISS).
Kaitlyn received the unforgettable opportunity to represent the team on the live NASA pre-launch broadcast, as well as watch their project launch on-site. It was during this experience that she was able to flourish, showcasing everything she had learned during college and continuing to grow her engineering and soft skills, as well as guide her passion and future pursuits towards aerospace.
Outside of research, Kaitlyn has been an active member of the Engineering Ambassadors team, as well as a tutor for the Student Athlete Success Services program.
Sara Murphy — Chemical Engineering
Being born in Boise, ID, Sara Murphy was raised only steps away from the Idaho State Capital. From an early age, Sara was engaged in political activism, however, it was not until her time at the University of Idaho that she developed a deep passion for the interplay between engineering and public policy.
Her professors from all disciplines encouraged this passion which empowered her to earn a minor in political science in addition to her B.S. in engineering. She has worked on several research projects during her undergraduate career with one involving bio-jet fuel and the other working to improve the performance of lead-acid batteries.
In addition to her research, Sara has also worked as an energy engineer intern for the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program and served as a Legislative Research Scholar for the McClure Center for Public Policy Research. Sara has also served as the President of the Vandal Clean Energy Club and is a member of both the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.
Upon graduating, Sara will be attending the University of Michigan to pursue dual M.S. degrees in chemical engineering and sustainable systems.
Willow J. Crites — Civil & Environmental Engineering
Willow was raised in Moscow, Idaho before coming to the University of Idaho for Civil Engineering in 2018. She has been an active member of the University of Idaho Humanitarian Engineering Corps and been involved in the research lab of Dr. Erik Coats ever since her freshman year.
Willow has focused on water and wastewater engineering throughout her degree and was able to work in the water and wastewater consulting industry at Mountain Waterworks in 2021. After graduation, Willow will continue pursuing her education as a master’s student researching water reclamation and wastewater treatment with Dr. Coats.
Parker Piedmont — Computer Engineering
During high school, Parker became fascinated with computers, disassembling and reassembling those of his family to figure out how they worked (much to their chagrin). He also competed in web site design events and worked a summer job in information technology, exposing him to software and hardware alike. His budding interest in both software and hardware led him to major in computer engineering at the University of Idaho.
As a student at U of I, Parker has participated in many musical ensembles, and he will graduate with a degree in saxophone performance alongside his engineering degree. He spent a year working for the university’s game studio, Polymorphic Games, fusing his skills in programming and music to create an adaptive soundtrack. Parker is eager to see where else his combination of skills takes him.
Seth King — Computer Science
Seth King is a software and literature enthusiast originating from Pasco, Washington. After spending the first two years of his academic career at the United States Naval Academy, Seth transferred to the University of Idaho, where he completed degrees in English and computer science.
While at U of I, Seth spent two years supporting work within Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's National Security Directorate, where he currently works as a data scientist. In his career, Seth aims to leverage cloud capabilities and artificial intelligence to support the national security mission.
Alejandro Pena — Computer Science
Alex Peña is a computer science major who grew up in Fruitland, Idaho. With inspiration from his father, who works in IT, and alongside a fondness for video games growing up, Alex had the idea to pursue a degree in computer science. He had the opportunity to remotely intern as a software engineer at Millennium Corporation the summer after his junior year. And, in his junior and senior years of college, Alex also served as a tutor in the computer science lab on campus. In his free time, Alex enjoys tinkering with software and playing guitar and ukulele.
Kevin W. Russell — Electrical Engineering
Kevin Russell is a graduating senior majoring in electrical engineering. Kevin will be graduating with honors, having achieved a 4.0 GPA during his college career. He is originally from Olympia, WA.
Having grown up in a family of engineers, it was a natural choice for Kevin to pursue a degree in engineering. His passion for troubleshooting and problem solving, specifically in electronics applications, made the electrical engineering degree the best fit. During his time at U of I, Kevin has developed a passion for the power applications of electrical engineering and has emphasized his education on courses in this field.
In addition to electrical engineering, Kevin also has a passion for theatre arts. This started several years before college with audio engineering at his local church, growing into a love for theatre arts during high school. In December of 2021, Kevin completed a minor in theatre design and technology. Kevin was most recently the audio designer and engineer for Into the Woods, directed by David Lee-Painter. He has also done audio, lighting, and videography work for the U of I dance program.
At the University of Idaho, Kevin has worked as a teacher’s assistant for the ECE 101 course and for ECE 211, the first circuits laboratory class that undergraduate electrical and computer engineering students take. He is also an active member of the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES), most recently serving as the treasurer for the U of I chapter. He was privileged with receiving the PES Region 6 John W. Estey Outstanding Scholar Award.
Kevin is currently completing and internship with Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, WA. There, he is part of Avista’s Student Engineering Development Program and works closely with the energy efficiency group to help customers save energy and provide adequate incentives to perform energy efficiency upgrades. Upon completion of is bachelor’s degree, Kevin will be continuing with Avista in their Engineering Development Program where he will be able to start his engineering career. He also hopes to continue spending time working in the theatre industry and eventually melding his two passions of engineering and theatre together.
In his free time, Kevin enjoys spending time outdoors doing various activities, including cycling, hiking, and camping. He also enjoys landscape and nature photography. When not outside, Kevin will spend his time playing piano, bass guitar, audio engineering, or volunteering at his local church.
Stormie Winterbottom — Industrial Technology
Stormie Winterbottom was born and raised in Idaho Falls. She has been working at the Idaho National Laboratory since 1997. Prior to that, she worked in different places with different companies. She had an associate degree in 1996 and she always wanted to return to school. She became a mother in 2002 and put school on hold until her daughter got a little older. She figured working full time and raising a wonderful daughter alone was enough until 2017, when she decided to return to school. She has an enormous, wonderful family that has helped her make this possible.
She started with one class to get her feet wet. She felt like she could handle adding school to her life and decided to go for her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology. She found out that her brother was also doing the same program. It turned out that they only ever had one class together, because he seemed to have had completed all the classes she needed and vice versa.
She felt like she has chosen the right degree. She has enjoyed learning all the different topics the classes offered. It was demanding at times, but it has been well worth it. Since she has obtained her degree in fall 2021, she has started her master’s program and was promoted to certification manager with the Idaho Environmental Coalition.
Jadzia Graves — Materials Science and Engineering
Jadzia Graves was born and raised in Kuna, Idaho. She decided to become an engineer in seventh grade after researching different STEM careers in a physics class. In high school, Jadzia was able to take engineering classes and participated in an aerospace manufacturing camp at North Idaho College, which led Jadzia to double major in materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering.
During her time at the University of Idaho, Jadzia held various leadership positions in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Vandal Atmospheric Science Team, and Materials Advantage while also working as an engineering tutor and grader.
Jadzia was a Grand Challenge Scholars student who participated in multiple research projects, resulting in co-authoring two publications. Attending the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (TMS) in 2019 allowed Jadzia to present her research on microstructures and mechanical properties, compete in the bladesmithing competition, and receiving the TMS Structural Materials Division scholarship in 2020 and 2021.
She has attended multiple SWE conferences and is presenting at a conference in London at the end of May 2022. Her capstone project, Nuclear Fuel Pin Jacket Production, worked to extrude metallic sodium into nuclear fuel pins for analysis, which will result in a first author publication.
Jadzia had the opportunity to take part in an international internship at General Drones in Valencia, Spain, along with two domestic internships at NASA Ames Research Center and the Naval Nuclear Laboratory. While Jadzia originally wanted to pursue a career in the aerospace industry, her experiences helped Jadzia shift her focus to materials for nuclear applications.
After graduation, Jadzia will be working for the Naval Nuclear Laboratory in the structural materials performance group while attending Carnegie Mellon University for a Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering.
Alexander Chambers — Mechanical Engineering
Alex Cambers was born and raised in Meridian, Idaho. After spending years taking things apart and attempting to put them back together with his father and grandfather in the garage, an interest in engineering was sparked. A legacy of the University of Idaho, Alex committed to a degree in mechanical engineering.
In his time here, he found a passion for aerospace fluid dynamics and tailored his education and experiences around this field. Working with the Vandal Atmospheric Science Team (VAST) for three years allowed him to develop carbon fiber scientific payloads, to be launched 15 miles into the atmosphere each semester, along with becoming the lead for the aeromechanics division.
This project gave opportunity to intern for the Idaho Space Grant Consortium for two summers and turned into undergraduate research. While the project was focused on atmospheric gravity waves from a total solar eclipse, Alex focused on the atmospheric thermodynamic response. This research yielded the development of a complex algorithm in quantifying and categorizing the response, of which he presented at a national conference (AGU) in 2021 and is currently working on a first author publication.
In his senior year, he worked on designing a wind tunnel force balance plate instrument, created a complex mechatronic control system to operate a solid metallic sodium extrusion press, and is currently developing a Finite Element Analysis simulation to quantify the curvature effect of sodium micro extrusion with the goal of publishing soon.
Alex has been accepted to the University of Washington Master’s program and is currently discussing options for positions at multiple NASA Centers. He is grateful for the many hands-on experiences, helpful faculty, and peers who made his time at U of I an amazing experience.
Andrew Stucker — Mechanical Engineering
Ever since I was young, I have been captivated by the world around me. When I was little, I looked at airplanes, spaceships, and computers like they were magical. As I grew older and learned how the “magic” works, I only became more enamored with how our beautiful world works and the possibilities within it.
I knew going into high school that I wanted to be an engineer, and my experience with FIRST robotics pushed me toward a mechanical degree. As I began taking introductory engineering classes at the University of Idaho, my interests became more defined. My introductory fluids and computer‐aided design were easily my favorite classes. These courses, and my passion for finding clever solutions to physical problems, shaped my desire to go into mechanical systems design after I finish my undergraduate degree.
Throughout my college career, I was heavily involved in the University of Idaho's Agricultural Mechanics, or AgMeq, Laboratory. This work gave me real‐world experience in system design and product development. I also had the chance to work with older, more experienced, cross‐disciplinary engineers on several projects.
My biggest achievement at AgMeq was authoring an extensive paper outlining a device for measuring the transverse stiffness of maize stalks that I designed, built, and validated. I was also the co‐inventor of a U.S. patent describing a device for meaning the rind penetration resistance of maize stalks.
After graduation, I am moving to Coeur d'Alene to work for Advanced Input System (AIS). AIS is an established company that specializes in human‐machine interface equipment in harsh environments. I am looking forward to applying and sharpening the knowledge and tools that I gained at the University of Idaho in my career.
Sophia Wieber — Mechanical Engineering
Sophia grew up in Boise, Idaho and has always had an interest in STEM fields. She decided to attend the University of Idaho after becoming a National Merit Scholar finalist, but originally planned to pursue physics. At the last minute before freshman registration, she switched to mechanical engineering on a whim right and never looked back.
Thanks to classes with Dr. Maughan and Dr. Perry, she discovered a passion for working on practical projects and learning about SolidWorks. She even had a chance to become a Certified SolidWorks Expert.
Sophia enjoyed taking all the opportunities she had to share what she learned by becoming a mentor. She mentored the ME 223 class (Mechanical Engineering Analysis), ME 301 class (Intro to SolidWorks), and even helped young Invent Idaho students develop their designs for competitions.
Sophia was a member of the honors program and will graduate Magna Cum Laude with minors in math and physics. After graduation, Sophia will return to Boise to work as a Hybrid Diffusion Process & Equipment Engineer at Micron Technology.
Grand Challenge Scholars
View online portfolios of all our Grand Challenge Scholars Program students.
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Matthew Bernards — Chemical and Biological Engineering
Dr. Matthew Bernards is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Idaho, where he has been a faculty member since 2016. Since August 2019, he has also served as the Director of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium and Idaho NASA EPSCoR programs.
Bernards graduated with his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington in 2008. The Bernards research group is focused on computational and experimental investigations into the interactions that occur between biological entities and material interfaces to directly target challenges in the biomedical and space fields.
Bob Stephens — Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Robert (Bob) Stephens is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Idaho and is completing his 30th year as a faculty member. His research is in the area of fatigue, crack growth, and material characterization of advanced materials at elevated temperatures. Recent research grants include Department of Energy (DOE), Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), Energy Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Wagstaff.
He has taught over 15 different classes that include freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate level. His two favorite classes are ENGR350 Mechanics of Materials and ME461 Fatigue and Fracture. He enjoys the students in ENGR350 because they have developed some good math and engineering fundamentals from their earlier classes but are still green and eager to learn and apply the concepts to real world situations.
Bob also enjoys the students and interaction in his ME461 fatigue and fracture class because he gets to bring lots of broken pieces he has accumulated that students have brought him over the years for show and tell where everyone in the class can relate and has a similar experience. Dr. Stephens’ approach in the classroom is to show sincere respect to the student, expect the same in return, have fun, be relaxed, be human, and let the students know they are genuinely important to him.
Michael Maughan — Mechanical Engineering
Michael Maughan is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering, and a Ph.D. in materials engineering from Purdue University.
Prior to joining the academic ranks, Michael worked in industry at both Fortune-50 and startup companies as a mechanical designer and engineering manager. His research expertise is in material behavior and properties, particularly microstructure-properties relationships for advanced manufacturing processes.
To continue his work on manufacturing with renewable materials, in 2021 he was awarded a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation focused on developing new technology for additive construction of affordable housing using entirely bio-based materials. This four-year grant engages 13 faculty in two states.
At the University of Idaho, he developed a popular new course on manufacturing, and has been active in reimagining several existing courses for the digital learning era. Since 2015, he has been the faculty advisor for the U of I ASME student section and has led numerous infrastructure projects within the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
David MacPherson — Chemical & Biological Engineering Research/Instructional Associate
I received a Bachelor of Physics from the University of Idaho in 1981 followed by a Ph.D. in Physics at Montana State University in 1989. I did laser related work in atmospheric sensing, LASIK eye surgery, precision surface measurement and the propagation of shock waves before joining the University of Idaho in 2005.
At the University of Idaho Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, I have maintained and upgraded undergraduate laboratory equipment as well as assisted many graduate students with their research projects. I mentor students for their senior design projects and help them locate pumps and fittings, instruct them in electronics for computer interfacing and in control software development.
I assist the faculty with the instruction of numerical methods, process control and partial differential equations. I have a deep appreciation for mathematics, especially the theory of Lie Groups. I am doing theoretical research to develop mathematical methods for calculating the electron-electron repulsion energy in Quantum Chemistry models. The goal of this research is to develop a computation method with a complexity that scales linearly with the number of electrons included in the model.
Judy Vandegrift — Chemical & Biological Engineering Management Assistant
Judy Vandegrift has been part of the University of Idaho family since October 1999, remaining within the same department (give or take a few changes) since. Throughout the changes, she has remained dedicated to serving the needs of the faculty and fellow staff members as needed. However, if you were to ask, she will iterate the best part of her job is her interaction with the students. Whether the need is class scheduling assistance, chocolate from the candy dish, or just someone to talk to, she is available with an open door. She loves that many still keep in touch with news of their lives after graduating. Her time away from the office will find her painting landscapes, quilting, exploring new backroads or planning time to see her grandkids.
“The best part of my job is the students, both present and past…they make the days so enjoyable.”