New Mexico Tech Commencement 2010

SOCORRO, N.M. May 17, 2010 – New Mexico Tech officially awarded degrees to 250 students during the commencement ceremony Saturday, May 15.

[Watch the video of 2010 Commencement ceremony here. ]

 Graduation 2010 at New Mexico Tech.
 The Tech campus looked its finest for commencement 2010, which was held at a new location near Macey Center.

 Kaoutar "Coco" Abbou Oucherif, a December 2009 graduate in chemical engineering, won the university's highest annual student award at graduation, the Brown Award.

Photos by Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech

A total of 363 graduates – all those who completed their degrees in the past year were eligible to walk in commencement, including 200 bachelor’s, 140 master’s and 23 doctoral degrees.

As President Lopez announced during his remarks, the average GPA of the 2010 bachelor’s students is 3.145. About 61 percent have GPA’s of 3.0 or greater and 13.2 percent have GPAs lower than 2.5. plus, 42 percent of the members of the Class of 2010 have received at least one F.

The youngest graduate was 19 years old. The oldest graduate was 53 years old. The male-to-female ratio of this year’s graduates is 2.33 to 1.

In the institute's history, Tech has awarded 6,789 bachelor’s degrees, 2,466 master’s degrees and 354 PHDs.

The university also bestowed an honorary doctorate to local business and engineer Stan Bryn. For more about Bryn's contributions to the Tech community, click here.

In addition to degrees, several awards for students, faculty and staff were announced during the event. The chemical engineering department swept the three top undergraduate awards.

Kaoutar “Coco” Abbou Oucherif won the Brown Award, given to the university’s top student, based on scholarship and citizenship. Clay Beevers and Caitlin Allen won the Cramer Awards, given to the top engineering students.

Premchandar Nandhikonda won both graduate awards – the Langmuir Award, for an outstanding research publication, and the Founders Award, for excellence in scholarship and contributions to the community.

The faculty award winners are Distinguished Researcher Dr. Rick Aster and Distinguished Teacher Dr. Paul Arendt. Both awards include a framed certificate and $1,500. Click here for more on the faculty awards.

The Student Association gave appreciation awards to a student (Jared Duffy), staff members (Melissa Begay and Annine Gabaldon) and a faculty member (Dr. Bert Kerr). The Graduate Student Association gave its appreciation award to retiring Graduate Dean Dr. Dave Johnson.

The Alumni Association gave Distinguished Service Awards to McKay Pugmire and Michael Fitzgerald and a Distinguished Achievement Award to Robert Blakestad. (Separate articles will include profiles of the winners later this week.)

The academic departments also announced their award winners in the Commencement 2010 program. Click here to see the list of winners.

Brown Award

The Brown Award is named in honor of Mr. C. T. Brown, who was for many years a member of the Tech Board of Regents.  It is presented to the member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the Faculty Council, ranks highest in scholarship, conduct, and leadership. The Brown Award includes a framed certificate and $500.

A native of Morocco, Coco transferred to Tech as a junior. Her short undergraduate career at New Mexico Tech was full of national research awards and campus honors, including designation as a Macey Scholar.

Coco demonstrated extraordinary leadership through her involvement in student clubs and academic groups, fundraising and volunteer work. In 2009, she earned a prestigious internship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Coco completed her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in December 2009 and immediately started a doctoral program at Purdue University. Unfortunately, she could not attend commencement – but she watched it live on the Tech website.

Cramer Awards

The Cramer Awards were established to honor Tom Cramer, an engineer and a member of the Tech Board of Regents for 26 years. They are awarded to the male and female seniors graduating in engineering who rank highest in scholarship. The Cramer Awards include a framed certificate and $200.

 Caitlin Allen accepts the Cramer Award from university president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez.
 Clay Beevers accepts the Cramer Award from university president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez.

 Premchandar Nandhikonda accepts the graduate student awards from Dr. Dave Johnson.

Caitlin Allen earned her bachelor’s in chemical engineering. Her career at New Mexico Tech has been marked with many honors, awards and achievements.

She has won research awards at national conferences and earned New Mexico Tech’s highest undergraduate designation as a 2009 Macey Scholar. She was also named the New Mexico Tech Engineering Student of the Year by the Society of Professional Engineers. She is also the first New Mexico Tech student selected as honorable mention for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

For the past five summers, she has worked at Sandia National Laboratories facility in her hometown of Carlsbad. Working with her advisor Dr. Michaelann Tartis, she has been active in biomedical research and is known as a leader within her department.

Next fall, Caitlin will begin her doctoral studies at Princeton University.

Clay Beevers graduated from Tucumcari High School four years ago as the valedictorian. Since then, he has excelled in the classroom and the laboratory at New Mexico Tech.

He has been an integral part of the team researching biodiesel at New Mexico Tech, earning the respect and adulation of his professors and his fellow students.

He earned a highly competitive internship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2009. He has volunteered for outreach projects at local schools and the state Science Olympiad.

Clay completed his bachelor’s studies in chemical engineering in four years. Remarkably, Beevers will finish his master’s degree in materials engineering later this summer.

Prem Nandhikonda

The Langmuir Award honors an outstanding scientific research paper by a student or recent graduate of New Mexico Tech. This award consists of a plaque and two hundred dollars.

The Founder's Award honors the people responsible for founding the New Mexico School of Mines in Socorro in 1889.  It is given to the person graduating today with an advanced degree who is judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the Institute through scholarship, research, and involvement in campus affairs. The award consists of a plaque and four hundred dollars. 

This year, both awards are being presented to the same student. Prem was the overwhelming winner of the Langmuir Award for his research publication on dual-flourescent dyes, which first appeared in the academic journal, Chemical Communications. The initial impact of Prem’s research led to several other articles in popular science magazines.

As a research in Dr. Michael Heagy’s group, Prem is doing groundbreaking work in identifying patterns that characterize dual fluorescent dyes. This work has applications in the biomedical field and in the energy fields such as solar power generation and biodiesel.

As for the Founder’s Award, Prem separated himself through scholarly excellence and strength of character. He has been involved in a wide range of areas, including community service projects, volunteerism, fund-raising. Of course, Prem has also distinguished himself in academics, research and teaching. 

As Dr. Heagy’s right-hand man in the lab, all chemistry students benefit from Nandhikonda’s research acumen. Heagy wrote that he counts on him to train undergraduate students in lab routines. Since every Tech student takes chemistry, nearly the entire student population benefits in some way from Prem’s hard work and leadership.

Since coming to Tech in 2006, he has helped in fund-raising efforts for the Chemistry Club and the Socorro Cooperative Nursery. On campus, he regularly mentors senior level chemistry majors. He works with visiting researchers during the summer REU program, effectively serving as a recruiter for the university in some cases.

Student Association Awards

Robbie Blakney, Student Association president, introduces staff award winners Melissa Begay (left) and Annine Gabaldon.


Every year, the Student Association gives three awards: one to a student, one to a staff member and one to a faculty member. President Robbie Blakney, who earned his degree in petroleum engineering, presented the awards.

The student award winner for 2010 is Jared Duffy. Jared has served as the SA Chief Financial Officer for the past two years, and has done an amazing job. 

“He is always available to answer any students’ questions and has definitely made my job, as SA President, a lot easier,” Blakney said.

Jared is graduating with two bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics and a minor in Hispanic Studies. He is pursuing a master’s degree in physics at New Mexico Tech. “On behalf of the entire student body I would like to say thank you for all your hard work and present you this award,” Blakney said.

The staff award was presented to Melissa Begay and Annine Gabaldon of the Tech Gym.

“Melissa and Annine work tirelessly to improve student extracurricular opportunities,” Blakney said. “They also serve as advisors for the student activities board. They work double-time behind the scenes to make sure all student events go well, and they are always willing to go above the call of duty to see that events proceed without a hitch."

Dr. Bert Kerr, math professor, won the faculty award from the S.A. Jared Duffy, SA financial officer, won the student award from the S.A.

Begay has been with Tech for 11 years and Gabaldon has been with Tech for 10 years.

“These two are truly unsung heroes of the school, and I’m happy to present them this award,” Blakney said.

The winner for the faculty award is Dr. Gilbert “Bert” Kerr, a mathematics professor at Tech for 16 years.

“Whether he is making fun of a student, mentioning what is actually is his bottle of Pepsi, or working problems on the board, Dr. Kerr does a great job of making his math classes enjoyable,” Blakney said. “He has the rare ability to take a complex subject like differential equations and explain it in terms simple enough for us non-math majors to understand.  Dr. Kerr was one of my favorite professors at this school, and I’m privileged to present him with this award.”

Kerr is a past winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award from the university.

Graduate Student Association

Dr. Dave Johnson accepts the appreciation award from the Graduation Student Assocation past president Shasta Marrero.

The Graduate Student Association appreciation award is given to someone on campus who has gone above and beyond to help graduate students.

Past president of the association Shasta Marrero presented the award to retiring graduate dean Dr. David Johnson.

“In between his regular duties as graduate dean and professor, Dave has offered invaluable advice to numerous graduate students as well as the Graduate Student Association as a whole for many years,” Marrero said. “We will miss Dave when he retires this summer, but his contributions will live on.” 

[May 2009 graduation list. ]

[December 2009 graduation list. ]

[August 2009 graduation list. ]

-- NMT --

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech