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Meet 6 UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Undergraduates Receiving 2023 Awards for Excellence

Departmental awards recognize students for making a difference in their communities

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Six students who have made significant contributions to their departments and surrounding communities at the Jacobs School of Engineering and the University of California San Diego will receive Awards of Excellence as part of Ring Ceremony 2023 on Saturday, June 17.

At Ring Ceremony, graduating UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering  undergraduates commit to practicing engineering and computer science with integrity upholding the highest ethical professional standards.

One undergraduate from each Jacobs School department earned an Award for Excellence this year. Coming from different backgrounds with different passions and pursuits, all six found their time at UC San Diego highly beneficial, expanding their community awareness and showing them how much easier it is to succeed when you’ve found an environment in which you truly belong.

Naveed Asgharpour

Structural Engineering: Naveed Asgharpour

Early in his career at UC San Diego, Naveed Asgharpour embraced two key principles of those who go above and beyond in their chosen fields. You must get out of your comfort zone. And one of the best ways to learn is by teaching.

“As a freshman, I attended supplemental instruction sessions, where undergraduate tutors offered valuable tips and guidance to help us succeed academically,” Asgharpour said. “I admired these tutors and their ability to provide helpful advice even beyond the classroom. Their example inspired me to become a tutor myself.”

From there, he sought out more leadership opportunities, soon becoming the Team Captain for the Timber Design Team. For helping him realize greater ambitions, he credits “the empowering culture at UC San Diego that encourages me to step outside my comfort zone and embrace leadership roles.”

While honing his skills through an 18-month internship with a Civil Engineering Firm, Asgharpour continued his work with students as a supplemental instructor in statics, a fundamental engineering course, preparing and facilitating sessions to help students who wanted to put in extra work to achieve success.

Rachel Lian

Bioengineering: Rachel Lian

Rachel Lian grew up in San Diego, but when she first visited the Triton campus, she was nonetheless delighted to find a place she felt she truly belonged. 

“Immediately when I started my first year, I met people who I wish I had known my whole life. Now, four years later, many of them are still my closest friends. The faculty and staff at UCSD are also incredibly dedicated and approachable. They have supported and mentored m every step of the way, and while this is something I can never fully repay, I am eternally grateful.”

Lian’s enthusiasm helped her thrive in a number of high-profile leadership capacities. She led the school’s chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and served as co-president for Active Minds, an organization supporting student mental health.

In Lian’s experience, getting involved in the Triton engineering community provides access to opportunities that are not available elsewhere. “Everywhere you look, there is cutting-edge research that you can contribute to,” Lian said. “The robust research, especially in bioengineering, has allowed me to explore various projects improving and creating biomedical technologies. From using stem cells to study heart disease, to creating engineered heart tissues, to building a cyborg using brain organoids, these experiences have equipped me with problem-solving and technical skills and have helped prepare me for a future career in medicine.”

Rachel Lian is also a Jacobs School Scholar. Recipients of the Jacobs School Scholarship are selected for their academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, commitment to community, and innovative potential. 

Yash Mhaskar

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Yash Mhaskar

For Yash Mhaskar, enrolling at UC San Diego led to expanded horizons of possibility, helped him appreciate the world in all its complexity and depth, and gave him a sense of what design and robotics could do to help guide the future of humanity in a positive direction.

“The unique culture at UC San Diego introduced me to the world's vast diversity and helped me meet unique individuals and experience various cultures,” Mhaskar said. “The UC San Diego culture also showed me the world of academic research and helped me find my niche in research. These exciting cultural experiences and my research interests have helped me chase my dreams of robotics and design.”

Mhaskar certainly keeps himself busy. While pursuing his coursework, he completed an Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship at CalTech and a summer research program through the National Science Foundation and served as a tutor in MAE 3 CAD and physics.

Yash Shah

Computer Science and Engineering: Yash Shah

Yash Shah has always believed the world must run on more than code. His undergraduate experience at UC San Diego afforded him ample opportunities to supplement his expertise in computer science and engineering with immersion in the timeless philosophical questions that drive and define humans and society.

“UC San Diego offered me an opportunity to not only take courses in my major of study, computer science, but also to undertake academic tutoring and undergraduate research to expand on my skill set and give back to students and the community,” Shah said. “I was able to pick up a minor in Humanities and learn to question why we do things the way we do and what impact they have on us as humans.”

Shah also discovered a passion for organizing and hosting events through his role as a secretary for Tau Beta Pi, experiencing firsthand the difference that can be made through community engagement in a spirit of conviviality and fun.

“All of the resources that I had access to throughout my undergraduate study from UC San Diego have been instrumental in my growth as a well-rounded and informed engineer,” said Shah. “I’m excited to go out into the world and share my skills and experiences with everyone!”

Yash Shah is also featured in this story about exceptional UC San Diego graduates.

Meghaj Vadlaputi

Electrical and Computer Engineering: Meghaj Vadlaputi

When Meghaj Vadlaputi began his freshman year, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was altering nearly every familiar aspect of life. Fortunately, he found himself in an environment well suited to the innovation and improvisation needed to navigate such a crisis.

“UC San Diego has a very motivated student body that's constantly pushing the boundaries on what they can do,” said Vadlaputi. “I found student organizations pushing through and continuing to make their impact through whatever means they could, whether it was hosting events on Discord to keep students engaged and help find community, or through continuing their technical pursuits in whatever way they could through remote work.” 

Vadlaputi credits his participation in project-based student organizations such as Triton Robosub and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) with improved technical skills and a sense of greater purpose gained by contributing to something bigger than himself. He also lauds student-engagement organizations such as HKN with supercharging his communication and leadership skills and “making me a better engineer and a better person.” 

In a uniquely challenging historical epoch, Vadlaputi found himself in a container appropriate for his larger ambitions as well as his robust civic spirit. “The student body at UC San Diego is very motivated and engaged, and I've found that through working with other students and student organizations, I have been given many opportunities that have allowed me to thrive in my pursuits.”

NanoEngineering: Rebecca Wheeler

A native of Livermore, California, Rebecca Wheeler has long nurtured a fascination with materials science, the way things work, and how people and tools shape each other. 

Her expertise is in high density carbon material characterization using MATLAB and traditional lab-based techniques, and her time as a Triton has helped her explore the human side of engineering and learn the keys to effective communication and leadership.

“I have found, especially in chemical engineering, that the students at UC San Diego are so supportive and collaborative,” Wheeler said. “I've loved working on projects with my fellow students and learning as a group. I am so glad I got this unique experience that I wouldn't have found at other schools.”

The highly engaged and collaborative environment on the Triton campus afforded Wheeler the opportunity to serve as outreach chair and VP external for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) at UC San Diego, sharpening her people skills and giving her a head start in her career.

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