Assistant teaching professor Joseph Chada, PhD student Mike Schmithorst, and graduating senior Kevin Mauge have received end-of-the-year awards from UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering.
For the second straight year, graduating seniors selected Chada for the Outstanding Chemical Engineering Faculty Award. He joined UCSB’s Chemical Engineering Department in fall 2018 as the department’s initial tenure-track teaching professor.
“The most fulfilling awards are those given by students,” said Chada. “All of us are here because we like working with our students and helping them to realize their potential as scientists and engineers. Especially in a trying year, it’s an honor to receive appreciation from this class.”
Chada’s primary focus is to design and construct experiments for students that reflect the latest in the chemical engineering field. The goal behind the experiments, which are conducted in the Robert G. Rinker Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory, are to reinforce fundamental chemical engineering principles, expose students to industrially relevant situations, provide hands-on lab training on modern equipment, and enhance opportunities for students to succeed during and after their time at UCSB. With the help of dedicated teaching assistants, Chada says they adapted much of their course content during the pandemic to work better online, creating more engaging content and lower-stress assessments. They were also more flexible on deadlines, but maintained the same quality standards. He says that even when faced with an extreme shift in their learning environment, he continued to be impressed with the work that this class delivered.
“Engineering is a challenging major under the best circumstances; it is even more challenging to complete a lab remotely or design an experiment for equipment that you cannot touch,” said Chada. “This class had some of the best design projects and lab reports that I’ve read to date. Although this wasn’t the senior year that they envisioned, they are more than capable of making an impact on the world.”
Graduating seniors selected Schmithorst, a third-year PhD student, the Chemical Engineering Department’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant for 2020-21. Schmithorst says that he has tried to be extra attentive with emails and more accommodating this year, since there has been no in-person interaction during the pandemic.
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by the graduating students,” said Schmithorst, who worked as a TA this past year for the course Chemical Reaction Engineering (ChE 140B). “I always try to provide the level of guidance and support that I would want from a TA in a class that I was taking.”
Advised by Professor Brad Chmelka, Schmithorst’s research focuses on understanding the distributions of active sites in zeolite catalysts for a variety of applications, including the mitigation of automobile pollution.
“To the Class of 2021, I’d like to say congratulations on your accomplishments in the face of a lot of adversity over the past year,” said Schmithorst, who received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina. “Hard work and patience pay off!”
Mauge, who earned a cumulative 3.98 grade point average, received the Chemical Engineering Department’s 2021 Outstanding Senior Award. The College of Engineering bestows the honor on the graduating senior who has the highest cumulative GPA in each degree program. Mauge thanked the department’s faculty and staff for going above and beyond to provide as complete and interactive an experience as possible during the pandemic.
“It is impossible to overstate the feeling of accomplishment tied to the culmination of my undergraduate education,” said Mauge, who is graduating from UCSB with highest honors. “The Chemical Engineering Department is wholeheartedly devoted to its undergraduate program, and I cannot take for granted the opportunity to have personally interacted with faculty who are at the top of their respective fields. The chemical engineering degree from UCSB also benefits from its proximity to an outstanding research community, both on campus and stretching into industry.”
During his time at UCSB, Mauge conducted undergraduate research under Professor Michael Gordon on the design of atmospheric pressure plasma jet and dielectric barrier discharge systems for processing multi-functional surfaces.
“My research experience provided an insight into the field of materials processing that I could not have accessed in the classroom,” said Mauge. “I also had the opportunity to interact with graduate students in the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) at UCSB. The unique exposure afforded by research has encouraged my decision to pursue further education through the five-year BS/MS program.”
Mauge will intern this summer at Raytheon Vision Systems, where he will work on epitaxial growth of semiconductor materials for infrared photodetectors. He will return to campus in the fall to complete the fifth-year BS/MS program in materials with an emphasis in electronic and photonic devices. After earning his master’s degree, he hopes to enter the semiconductor device industry.