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If this year’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) Leadership Reception felt like it was directed by Frank Capra, that wasn’t an accident.

Capra, the renowned feel-good filmmaker, was also an artistic and critical success, winning multiple Academy Awards in his time, and he is perhaps most famous today for his holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

That’s the movie BME Associate Chair for Undergraduate Learning and Student Experience, Joe Le Doux, drew inspiration from as he closed the annual undergraduate leadership awards ceremony with a few notes about the film’s protagonist, George Bailey.

He spoke about leadership and alternative futures, about Bailey’s opportunity to see what the world would be like if he’d never been born – and how he used that experience to build a better community.

“We know you’ve made sacrifices along the way to get where you are,” Le Doux told the gathered seniors and their families in the Wardlaw Building (Friday, May 5). “You will have a big impact on people’s lives. Thank you for being this department’s George Baileys.”

Le Doux was joined by BME Director of Undergraduate Studies Esfandiar Behravesh and James Rains, BME professor of practice and director of BME Capstone, in granting the department’s top undergraduate honors and dispensing the associated good words, trophies, and handshakes.

But the event actually kicked off with the announcement of the Excellence in Teaching Award, which went to BME’s director of instructional laboratories, Balakrishna Pai. This award is given annually by the BME Student Advisory Board.

The BME Leadership Awards went to eight different graduating seniors, but featured a lot of qualified candidates (complete list follows this story).

The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award honors a student who displays an eagerness to pursue knowledge and understanding while holding to the highest of academic standards and maintaining a GPA of at least 3.95. The winner was Colin Huber, described as, “an extremely intelligent, motivated, and methodical researcher,” by BME Research Engineer Cassie Mitchell, who added, “only his academic rigor can match his amazing research successes.”

The Outstanding Academic Service Award honors a student who provides a significant service to the academic community while also maintaining a GPA of at least 3.75. The winner was Cray Noah.

“I considered Cray a top, intellectually gifted undergraduate researcher who, in my lab, never failed to make a valid contribution to his research project and never passed up an opportunity to take it to a higher level,” said former BME chair Ravi Bellamkonda, now the Dean of Engineering at Duke University.

The Outstanding Community Service Award honors a student who has made service an integral part of his or her college experience. The winner was Catherine Edwards, whose “infectious passion for children,” was noted by William J. Todd, professor of the practice in the Scheller College of Business, and faculty sponsor for Georgia Tech for the Kids, an organization that Edwards leads as president.

The Outstanding Entrepreneur Award, won by a group of students that comprise FlexSpark, Inc., recognizes a student or team that demonstrates entrepreneurial spirit and initiative. The FlexSpark team is comprised of Syed Hasnain, Juan Navarrete, Michael Ollukaren, and Chidozie Ugwumadu.

The Outstanding Industrial Work Experience Award honors a student who has performed exceptional work in (and a demonstrated commitment to) the biomedical engineering industry through internship, cooperative education, or international work experiences. The winner was Kara Hardin.

Jacqueline LaRouche won the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Award, which recognizes the important role teaching assistants play in the undergraduate experience at Georgia Tech.

“She is approachable, knowledgeable, and liked by the students,” said Brani Vidakovic, professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “She has demonstrated potential to advance the knowledge so critical for the STEM fields.”

The final two undergraduate awards were sponsored by Karun Jain and his wife, Seema, named in honor of family members.

The Mr. S.K. Jain – Outstanding Research Award went to Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary, who has “demonstrated remarkable ability to grasp a completely new subject and be good at it,” according to Michael Davis, BME associate professor and director of the Children’s Heart Research and Outcomes Center (or HeRO). “She is passionate about science and research, extremely hard working and dedicated, and is a joy to work with.”

The Dr. G.D. Jain – Outstanding Senior Award went to Benjamin Ashby, for all-around excellence that takes into account service, academics, research, industry, and entrepreneurship.

“What impresses me most about Ben’s contributions and his overall commitment to Georgia Tech is that he accomplishes it all while also excelling academically and remaining deeply engaged on campus,” said Sarah Cantrell Perkins, assistant director of civic engagement for the Georgia Tech organization, Serve Learn Sustain (SLS).


BME Undergraduate Awards

Outstanding Academic Achievement Award

Winner: Colin Huber

Finalists: Benjamin Ashby, Brandon Holt, Jacqueline Larouche, Jerry Lin, Cray Noah, Christopher Schenck. 


Outstanding Academic Service Award

Winner: Cray Noah

Finalists: Benjamin Ashby, Akshith Doddi, Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary, Brandon Holt, Brandon Philbrick, Kishan Pithadia, Christopher Schenck, Troy Von Beck.


Outstanding Community Service Award

Winner: Catherine Edwards.

Finalists: Samantha Acevedo, Benjamin Ashby, Matthew Devlin, Erin Grace Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Gura, Elizabeth Johnson, Brian Kim, Elizabeth Marr, Yuna Oh, Dhara Patel, Kanchi Patel, Brandon Philbrick, Durazi Savasir, Christopher Schenck, Patrick Shambayati, Abhinaya Uthayakumar.


Outstanding Entrepreneur Award

Winner: FlexSpark (Syed Hasnain, Juan Navarrete, Michael Ollukaren, Chidozie Ugwumadu.

Finalists: Matthew Devlin, Idicula Mathews. 


Outstanding Industrial Work Experience Award

Winner: Kara Hardin

Finalists: Samantha Acevedo, Arnold Adel, Andrew Akers, Winnie Cheng, Laura Cox, Matthew Devlin, Erin Grace Fitzpatrick, Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary, Idicula Mathew

Aida, Mokube, Heather Noyes.


Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Award

Winner: Jacqueline Larouche

Finalists: Benjamin Ashby, Akshith Doddi. Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary. Brandon Holt, Colin Huber, Brett Jordan, Jerry Lin, Cray Noah, Brandon Philbrick, Kishan Pithadia, Christopher Schenck, Troy Von Beck.


Mr. S.K. Jain Outstanding Research Award

Winner: Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary.

Finalists: Sruti Bheri, Spencer Cooper, Nica De Nijs, Erin Grace Fitzpatrick, Brandon Holt Colin Huber, Brett Jordan, Brian Kim, Jacqueline Larouche, Jerry Lin, Elizabeth Marr, Cray Noah, Kishan Pithadia, Christopher Schenck, Sangeetha Thevuthasan, Nicolas Villa-Roel, Yiran Zhao.


Dr. G.D. Jain Outstanding Senior Award

Winner: Benjamin Ashby.

Finalists: Samantha Acevedo, Joshua Bugica, Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary, Brandon Holt

Colin Huber, Brett Jordan, Jacqueline Larouche, Cray Noah, Yuna Oh, Brandon Philbrick, Christopher Schenck, Stephanie Spratt, Troy Von Beck.

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