Four engineers among 14 of new campus award recipients

The University of Missouri honored the first 14 recipients of the new University of Missouri Award for Academic Distinction in March. Four of those singled out for recognition were students in the College of Engineering.

Bioengineering majors Shakked Halperin, Megan Schroeder and Claire Spradling and chemical engineering major Charissa Nowak were among those honored.

Awards were based on three criteria: Students had to show evidence of extraordinary intellectual curiosity. They had to actively seek knowledge beyond the classroom and strive to share that knowledge with the public for a more widespread impact, and students also had to contribute significantly to the university’s academic atmosphere.

A man in a mortarboard.

Shakked Halperin is one of four engineering students to receive the university’s first University of Missouri Award for Academic Distinction. He graduated in December 2013 and as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, will pursue a graduate degree at the University of Cambridge.

Halperin, a December 2013 graduate, has published multiple papers in peer-reviewed journals on topics including biological microfluidics and the preparation of gold nanorods used in medicine. He also participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) at the University of California-Berkeley and an NSF International Research Experience in Bejing. He recently was selected as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, earning a scholarship given to students from outside the United Kingdom allowing them to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. “The engineering discipline attracts people with high analytical capabilities and a desire to improve the lives of others. It is no surprise that MU’s College of Engineering creates intellectually curious students that strive to contribute to MU’s academic environment,” Halperin said.

Nowak, a sophomore, earned her spot thanks to her research on biosensing, working with Bioengineering Department Assistant Professor Heather Hunt. Nowak also is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and Mizzou Women Mentoring Women. She works as a Peer Assisted Study Session, or PASS, leader as a tutor for other students in engineering, science and math courses and also has participated in the MU Community Engagement Project. “I was very honored to have just been nominated, but when I found out I had received the award, I was a little shocked since I was competing against seniors, and I’m only a sophomore,” Nowak said.

Megan Schroeder is a senior bioengineering major who works in Assistant Professor Matthew Bernards’ research group. She recently presented a paper published in Biomacromolecules at the 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting.

Schroeder’s work has included an NSF REU at Syracuse University and presentation of a paper published in Biomacromolecules at the 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting. The senior is an engineering ambassador, the president of the Alpha Epsilon Honors Society, a member of Chemical Engineering Department Assistant Professor Matthew Bernard’s research group and a mentor in Mizzou Women Mentoring Women. “This award was particularly meaningful due to the fact I was nominated by the people I respect most at this university. Without these mentors, I would not be in such an amazing position to continue my career,” Schroeder said.

Spradling, a senior, interned with the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering as well as with the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network. She has also presented research for EternoGen Medical Biotech and the lab of bioengineering Professor Sheila Grant at the Biomedical Engineering Society annual conference, the Institute of Biological Engineers conference and Undergraduate Research Day at the Missouri Capitol. Spradling is the current president of Mizzou Engineering Student Council, a member of St. Pat’s Board and, last year, received the award for Outstanding Junior in the Bioengineering Department. Spradling said she especially appreciated that three of the four engineers to earn the honor were women. “It is very important to see that women are constantly succeeding at MU’s College of Engineering in such male-dominated career fields,” she said. “The college should be proud of fostering such leadership and providing role models for women in the future.”

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