Top Student Awards Announced at New Mexico Tech 2023 Commencement
May 13, 2023
SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech announced the top awards for the 2022-2023 academic year at the Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at the city of Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex. The top student award recipients are: Alisha N. Roberts, Brown Award; Kayleigh R. Cameron and Rodrigo Zapata, Cramer Awards; Henry A. Prager, Langmuir Award; and Michelle R. Sherman, Founders Award.
Alisha N. Roberts – Brown Award
The Brown Award is named in honor of C. T. Brown, who was for many years a member of the NMT Board of Regents. The award is given to that person graduating with a bachelor of science degree who is judged by the faculty to be highest in scholarship, conduct, and leadership. In addition to a plaque, the award consists of a $1,000 prize. The recipient of the 2023 Brown Award is Alisha N. Roberts.
Roberts, originally from Albuquerque, is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in physics with an astrophysics option and a minor in mathematics. Roberts recently was named NMT’s first Fulbright Scholar. Following graduation, she will join the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, located in Trondheim, Norway. There, she will spend the academic year working with Dr. Foteini Oikonomou, an associate professor and astroparticle physicist in the Department of Physics. Roberts and her mentor will study supermassive Black Holes in Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) using information from neutrinos and other different sources (such as electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves, and cosmic rays). They will use IceCube data to study AGN catalogs and properties about AGN that you cannot gather from electromagnetic radiation alone.
During her time at NMT, Roberts served as secretary of the Physics Club, a tutor with the Office for Student Learning, a teaching assistant, and a grader. She also participated in two research experiences. Her NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program was with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls working on neutrino astrophysics with the IceCube initiative, a large international collaboration that has built and operates a neutrino telescope at the South Pole. Last summer, through the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program with FermiLab’s Quantum Institute, she worked on “Quantum Simulating Neutrino Oscillations.” She is this year’s recipient of the Albert Petcheck Award for outstanding student in theoretical physics from the Department of Physics and received the Abraham and Ester Brook Award for outstanding junior in 2022.
Kayleigh R. Cameron and Rodrigo Zapata – Cramer Award
The Cramer Award was established to honor Tom Cramer, an engineer and a member of the NMT Board of Regents for 26 years. It is awarded to the top two seniors graduating in engineering who rank highest in scholarship. The awards consist of citations and $400 prizes. The recipients are chosen by the Faculty Senate upon recommendation of the engineering faculty.
The first Cramer Award recipient is Kayleigh R. Cameron, a graduating senior in the Materials and Metallurgical Engineering Department earning a materials engineering degree with minors in chemical engineering and explosives engineering. Cameron is originally from Kent, Washington, graduating from Kentlake High School in 2020. Earlier this year she was named Engineering Student of the Year Runner-Up by the New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers. Next fall Cameron will return to NMT to pursue a master of science degree in materials engineering.
Cameron plays for both the women's soccer and rugby teams, serves as an officer for Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, and is a member of the Materials Club. She worked at an internship last summer at Los Alamos National Labs in detonator production engineering and this summer is planning to be at Sandia National Labs. Her on-campus employment is working for Dr. Chelsey Hargather in materials engineering and her research project is additive manufacturing of an energetic initiator ink, sponsored by the Army Research Lab.
The second recipient of the 2023 Cramer Award is Rodrigo Zapata. A Roswell native, Zapata is a civil engineering major who transferred to NMT from Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell, where he earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts. Last fall he was named a Macey Scholar, NMT’s most prestigious academic honor for seniors. He’s been active in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society at NMT and Phi Theta Kappa at both Eastern New Mexico University and at Tech. He helped raise funds for and visited the elderly at Casa Maria in Roswell. He’s also been active in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at Tech and served as the group’s vice president. Zapata was captain of the steel bridge team for the ASCE competition in Amarillo, Texas, and he helped organize study groups to work on problem-solving and study for exams.
Zapata has worked as a teaching assistant for a “Programming for Engineers” course, where he conducts a lab helping 24 students find solutions to the problems presented in class. He also served as a teaching assistant for a statistics class and helped grade homework assignments and met with students during office hours. Zapata also gained engineering experience during an internship with Wanzek Construction Inc. in summer 2021, working as part of the estimating team on a project for Nevada gold mines and learning the software the company uses for proposal bids and construction management.
Henry A. Prager – Langmuir Award
The Langmuir Award for Excellence in Research is given for an outstanding scientific research paper by any student or graduate of NMT. The paper must have been submitted to or published by a recognized journal during the preceding year. The recipient is selected by the Faculty Senate’s Honorary Degrees and Awards Committee. The award is named in honor of Irving Langmuir (Nobel Laureate, 1932) who conducted extensive research with NMT staff. The award consists of a plaque and a $400 cash prize. The recipient of the 2023 Langmuir Award is Henry A. Prager.
A Des Moines, Iowa, native, Prager is earning his Ph.D. in physics with a concentration in astrophysics. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from Iowa State University. Prager’s paper “Relation of Observable Stellar Parameters to Mass-loss Rate of AGB Stars in the LMC” was published in the Astrophysics Journal in 2022. Prager’s paper analyzes a comprehensive set of infrared photometry of a sample of thousands of late-evolutionary stage stars on the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) located in our nearest satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) to derive first-principles theoretical relationships between the fundamental physics governing these stars and basic stellar observables, such as their masses, luminosities, pulsations, and mass-loss processes.
In addition to pursuing his dissertation research at NMT, Prager has been a teaching assistant for several years, teaching physics recitations as well as summer classes. In 2016, he was selected by the American Astronomical Society to attend Congressional Visits Day in Washington, D.C., to speak with elected representatives in Congress about issues critical to the astronomical community. At NMT, Prager served as a NM Science Fair judge, was a session organizer and judge for Science Olympiad, and has been an active member of the Graduate Student Association, including serving as president. He also has served as a graduate student fellow at Los Alamos National Lab working on problems in modeling the astrophysics of pulsating stars.
Michelle R. Sherman – Founders Award
The Founders Award was created to honor the persons responsible for establishing the New Mexico School of Mines in Socorro in 1889, especially J. J. Baca and Ethan Eaton. The award is presented to the recipient of an advanced degree who has made an outstanding contribution to NMT through scholarship, research, and involvement in campus affairs. The recipient is chosen by faculty nomination and Faculty Senate election. The award consists of a plaque and a $800 cash prize. Michelle Rose Sherman is the 2023 recipient of the Founders Award.
A native of Santa Fe, Sherman completed two associate’s degrees in physical science and engineering at Santa Fe Community College in 2017 before coming to NMT. She completed dual bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics and a minor in optical science and engineering in 2020 with a 4.0 GPA, before moving on to complete her master of science degree in mathematics with a specialization in analysis, also with a 4.0 GPA. She currently is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering.
Sherman has made significant contributions on campus, serving as president of the Student Government Association and was student activities chair director with the Student Activities Board. She served as a research assistant and teaching assistant and was a member of the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps with the state Health Department. She also had an internship with Los Alamos National Laboratory and was First Runner-Up for the Engineering Student of the Year from the New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers in 2020. She has had three peer-reviewed scientific articles derived from her thesis, including a paper published in the prestigious IEEE Internet of Things Journal, demonstrating her ability to effectively apply her strong mathematical skills to complex engineering projects.