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Engineering sophomore wins Hesburgh Award

Sophomore engineering student Matt Wheeler is congratulated by James Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies, as he accepts the Hesburgh Award.

Annually, one student from each of the four undergraduate classes at the University of Missouri is awarded the $1,000 Hesburgh Award for academic achievement. Funded by a TIAA-CREF endowment through the General Education Program, students are either nominated by faculty members or may apply for the award, and then must write an essay.

Matthew Wheeler, an MU civil and environmental engineering sophomore, was chosen to receive the award for this academic year.

In addition to excelling in class work, Wheeler has been doing undergraduate research with Kate Trauth, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, aiding in computer modeling of precipitation run-off. He also serves as captain of the Mizzou Seismic Design Team. This summer, he will be working on a research project with Sarah Orton, assistant civil engineering professor, looking at impact damage on fiber-reinforced polymer-wrapped concrete beams.

“The College of Engineering has an excellent program with great faculty. No one is content just to do the minimum and I’m not either,” said Wheeler.

In his spare time, Wheeler is risk management chair for STRIPES, a student-operated service that gives an average of 150 students free and safe rides home each Thursday through Saturday night.

“Everybody comes to college for different reasons, but when you get together on teams, or with other organizations, that’s where you really learn leadership and communication skills, and those are the skills that empower students for success,” said Wheeler. “You learn to swim by diving in. It’s something that you just can’t get in class.”

Wheeler has plans to go to graduate school, and is interested in research designing blast, wind and seismic load resistant structures. And though he isn’t sure if he will stay at MU to do so, he believes it is a definite possibility.