Eight engineering graduate students honored with prestigious University awards

April 4, 2024

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared on Penn State News 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eight College of Engineering graduate students were among the forty Penn State graduate students named recipients of Penn State’s most prestigious annual graduate student recognition awards. The awards are administered by the Graduate School in collaboration with several Penn State units. They recognize and celebrate graduate students excelling in teaching, research and service, and other academic pursuits.  

“The students award recipients are phenomenal, and it’s clear that their efforts are furthering Penn State’s educational, research and outreach mission,” said Levon T. Esters, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School. “These students represent some of our most talented and impactful graduate students, and I’m proud to help support them and their extraordinary accomplishments.”  

The College of Engineering recipients and their awards are:  

Graduate Student Service Award  

Tanveer Ahmed 

Tanveer Ahmed has held numerous extracurricular leadership roles in addition to pursuing his doctoral degree in civil and environmental engineering. As president of the Bangladesh Student Association, he led a diverse group of 200-plus students to foster an inclusive environment and promote cultural exchange and unity. As student engagement committee chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, he organized events such as Military Appreciation Week and a Talent, Hobbies and Identities showcase. As president of Penn State’s student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, he facilitated workshops, collaborated with Penn State Transportation on a master bike plan, and led Penn State’s Traffic Bowl team to being named regional champions of this international event. In addition to his leadership roles, Ahmed has advocated for the needs and concerns of graduate students on campus at the departmental, college and University level. In addition to his leadership roles, Ahmed has advocated for the needs and concerns of graduate students on campus at the departmental, college and University level.  

His leadership was recognized with several accolades including the Leopard Family Eclipse Award for Student Leadership and Service and the Student Leadership Scholarship from Penn State.

An effective and impactful researcher, Ahmed has been first author on seven peer-reviewed papers and received a University Graduate Fellowship and the James E. Marley Graduate Fellowship in Engineering.   

A nominator lauded his “exceptional leadership and commitment to the university community.” 

AT&T Graduate Fellowship Award  

Mohammadreza Abbasi 

Mohammadreza Abbasi is a doctoral student in electrical engineering. His research interests include RF and millimeter-wave integrated IC design, and he is developing novel silicon-based circuits and systems for next-generation sensing and communications. Focusing on the building blocks of these electronics devices, he has developed and is pushing the performance of components such as amplifiers, switches and phase shifters to accelerate the development of systems that could be the basis of 6G technologies. One of his major innovations was the development of a D-band phase shifter with precise phase control and calibration-free operations. He presented this work at the IEEE Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit Symposium and received the Best Student Paper Award (First Place in 2023), and he was invited to publish this in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, a prestigious journal in the field of electrical engineering.   

One nominator wrote, “I am confident that his impact on the research field will continue to grow, marked by even more substantial achievements in the future.” 

Thomas and June Beaver Fund Award  

Kiran Bhaskar 

Kiran Bhaskar is a mechanical engineering doctoral candidate. His research journey brought him to a research partnership with Wabtec corporation, a leader in sustainable freight and passenger transportation networking based in Erie. His research focus has been understanding and advancing the safety and performance of lithium ion batteries, which are utilized in various applications ranging from handheld electronic devices to electric vehicles and power grids. Bhaskar developed data-driven fault diagnosis techniques to identify and mitigate electrical and thermal faults in battery packs, alongside devising strategies to enhance battery performance and longevity. For his achievements in the field of battery modeling and control systems, he was recognized as Dynamic Systems and Control Division Rising Star by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering in 2023. His collaborative research with Wabtec also secured him runner-up poster awards in 2022 and 2023 in the Penn State College of Engineering’s IndustryXchange program.   

One nominator said of him, “Kiran is doing novel and important work in battery systems that will have a significant impact in the field.” 

Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award 

Adam Park   

Adam Park is a master’s student in computer science and engineering whose research seeks to address a challenge in the field of bioinformatics known as k-mer analysis. Because DNA sequences are very long, they are typically represented by their substrings, usually of a fixed length k. Despite the widespread adoption of this method in practice, identifying the “best” k value to use has been elusive and computationally overwhelming, lacking any theoretical support. Park developed a graph model that elucidates the relationship between genomic sequences and their substrings, supporting the enumeration of each set of k-mers at an exceptionally fast speed. While the state of the art in “substring indexing” techniques for genomic sequences has not been effective at analyzing the structure of k-mers, Park’s novel data structure is the first contribution to bridging the gap between these two well-developed concepts in bioinformatics. Park’s software implementation generates the graph in a highly space-efficient manner, which can further be used in multiple applications, for example, computing de bruin graphs of all k’s simultaneously, which has not been feasible with any state-of-the-art tool.  

Park aims to pursue an academic career focused on advancing computational medicine by developing high-performance methods and making theoretical contributions to bioinformatics research.  

One nominator noted that Park’s master’s research is “poised to make a lasting impact on the field of bioinformatics, and his impressive accomplishments during his master’s program demonstrate his potential for continued success in academia and research.” 

The Penn State Alumni Association Scholarship for Penn State Alumni in the Graduate School  

Sarah Torhan   

Sarah Torhan is a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering with a geography minor. Her research takes a transdisciplinary approach to understanding the impact of land use change, infrastructure, and governance on water security in Paraguay. She uses a mixed-method approach that incorporates data from remote sensing, geospatial modeling, surveys, interviews, and natural language processing, to name a few. Her research has been funded through fellowships funded by organizations such as the Fulbright Foundation and the Department of Defense.   

A committed educator, Torhan serves in a professional engineering mentoring role for undergraduate students and is an Early Career Representative for the American Geophysical Union’s Environmental Change group. She plans to pursue a career in academia following her doctoral program, and says, “My motivation to be a professor lies in enabling others to improve our world, making knowledge accessible through creative outlets, and inspiring ethics in engineering.”   

One nominator wrote about Torhan, “Sarah embodies the Penn State spirit and is a wonderful ambassador for Penn State. She’s dedicated to making an impact on the world.” 

Tyus Yeingst   

Tyus Yeingst is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering whose research focuses on the use of biomaterials for pharmaceutical drug delivery, through which he hopes to have a positive impact on people suffering from trauma, aging, joint replacements and cancer. He has a second focus in tissue engineering, and he is exploring the development of on-demand, degradable materials that can be used in stents and wound care. Despite only being in the second year of his doctoral program, he has been first author on three peer-reviewed papers and one patent.   

As a child, Yeingst grew up in poor areas with poor healthcare in North Carolina, an experience that he said inspired his interest in biomedical engineering. He is the first in his family to attend college and says that mentors served an invaluable role in his success. He plans to pay that back throughout his life to mentor future scientists and engineers, and specifically for students from underrepresented populations. He is highly active in THON and served as a teaching and learning assistant at Penn State.   

One nominator wrote that Yeingst is “one of the most dedicated, innovative, and intelligent of our research team” and that “his bench science and engineering design skills are of the highest quality.” 

Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award 

Haoyang Chen   

Haoyang Chen is a doctoral candidate in bioengineering whose research advances the neuroimaging techniques to better diagnose high prevalence neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. He developed cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques that combines advanced ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging systems, which gather data on whole brain cerebral blood flow, volume and oxygen saturation. His efforts in seamlessly integrating these systems will allow researchers and practitioners to unlock complex blood dynamics in neuro-diseases in ways that have never been done previously — which could have a drastic impact on ways to diagnosing and treating neurological disorders. In addition, Chen applied the developed imaging system to enhance brain tumor imaging, which can greatly assist with diagnosis and prognosis.   

Chen has published more than 10 journal articles, including six as first author, presented at eight conferences and has three patent applications. A nominator said of him: “Haoyang possesses exceptional research and educational background, coupled with a clear drive to advance biomedical technologies for broader societal impact.” 

Myoung Hwan Kim   

Myoung Hwan Kim is a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering whose research seeks to advance the field of artificial tissue and organ development. Through the application of advanced bioprinting techniques, he aims to create artificial tissues and miniaturized organs that mimic the functionality and physiological aspects of human tissues and organs, such as bone, pancreas and lungs, as well as cancer. This research enables the fabrication of tissues, facilitating enhanced tissue regeneration and transplantation. In addition, these tissues can be used for studying disease mechanisms and evaluating potential treatments. His research marks significant progress in developing new strategies for regeneration, holding great promise for advancements in medical treatments and decreasing the need for relying on animal testing.  

Kim has co-authored 20 peer-reviewed publications, including five as first author. Nominators praised “his research and engineering skills, theoretical insights to the problems, and his independence in carrying out research tasks in tissue engineering and bioprinting” as well as his “unwavering commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and innovation.” 


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