The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Four College of Engineering Seniors Being Honored at Commencement and Senior Recognition Day

fireworks in the night sky

Four outstanding College of Engineering undergraduates from two different departments are being honored with assorted awards at Commencement on May 10 and the College of Engineering Senior Recognition Celebration on May 11. Awardees from our college include three 21st Century Leaders and one Welch Scholar. The college also has one junior designated for the prestigious Goldwater Scholar.

The 21st Century Leaders are being honored for their exemplary achievement, initiative, and leadership. Three of these honorees are from the College of Engineering.

Aiste Balciunaite of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, is a Commonwealth Honors College student who is a double major in chemical engineering and biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in mathematics. Balciunaite showed leadership in her courses, her research labs, and on the water as a member of the rowing team. She is the co-author of two papers based on her work with Professor Maria Santore in her polymer science and engineering lab. In 2018, the athletic department honored her with the Spring Scholar Athlete Award, and she led the rowing team as co-captain. After graduation, she plans to return to her native Lithuania to work at a biotech firm and later pursue her doctorate in chemical engineering.

Bryan Chua of Singapore is a Commonwealth Honors College student with dual degrees in chemical engineering and environmental science. Chua was deeply involved in sustainability issues. He traveled to the Dominican Republic to distribute water filters as part of the Filter of Hope campaign and later co-founded Sustainability Projects Abroad, a student organization providing environmentally conscious ways to improve water quality in developing countries. The group traveled to Puerto Rico to distribute water filters after Hurricane Maria. He also organized the first Sustainathon at UMass competition. After graduation, he will work as an automation engineer at Bristol Myers Squibb, programming robotic systems to manufacture life-saving biopharmaceutical therapeutics.

Mahdiar Edraki of Iran is a Commonwealth Honors College student graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. As a first-year student, Edraki began working in Professor Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi’s fluid-structure interactions lab and went on to present his work at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting. Edraki and Modarres-Sadeghi also published their work in the Journal of Experiments in Fluids. As a student, Edraki volunteered with the UMass Supermileage Vehicle Team, which each year designs and constructs a highly fuel-efficient vehicle for competition. He also was one of two students representing UMass at the Engineering Innovation for Society Student Design Competition, during which teams designed and prototyped a wheelchair-accessible dental chair within 48 hours. After graduation, he plans to pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering, focusing on robotics and human-machine interaction.

One of the two graduating seniors recognized for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars is Andrew Metz of Longmeadow, an industrial engineering major with a minor in classical piano performance. Metz plans to pursue a career in the wind energy industry, and in the long-term he wants to look for careers that combine his interests in teaching and technical problem solving.

In addition to the seniors being honored, Kwan Yoon, a chemical engineering junior, is one of the four Commonwealth Honors College students awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship for their outstanding research and achievements in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering. Kwan’s career goal is a Ph.D. in Biomolecular Engineering.

The Goldwater Scholarship is a highly competitive, nationally-recognized award for sophomore and junior students pursuing research careers in the STEM fields. The Goldwater Foundation reports that 1,223 natural science, engineering, and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater scholarships. (May 2019)