Five Engineering Graduate Students Win UCI Inclusive Excellence Ambassador Fellowships

Sept. 11, 2020 – Five engineering graduate students were awarded Inclusive Excellence Ambassador Fellowships ($5,000) from the UC Irvine Graduate Division in May. A commitment to inclusive excellence is fundamental to advancing UCI’s mission as a public research university, and graduate students play a valuable role. These fellowships are a summer stipend that supports the research of doctoral and master’s students who have shown a commitment to inclusive excellence.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate student Amir-Salar Esteki’s research focuses on proposing and analyzing a distributed optimization algorithm in network systems that guarantees the privacy of local data in applications, such as intelligent transportation and smart grid systems. Current practical methods such as cryptography and random perturbing additive signals have several shortcomings that emphasize the need for more in-depth study in this area.

“As an active member of the Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience (DECADE) and Association of Graduate Students, I am committed to serving my community, especially the underprivileged,” said Esteki, who tries to create excitement for STEM programs in young minds by supervising underrepresented students, volunteering in OC STEM Fairs and promoting diversity through DECADE events.

Through her research, biomedical engineering student Joanne Ly aims to improve preterm infant care in the neonatal intensive care unit. She is developing a device that could act as a supporting assessment for nurses and physicians' recommendation for discharge and feeding practices. The major obstacle to the discharge of infants from the NICU is feeding progression issues, which are commonly due to respiratory diseases and neurodevelopmental immaturities. Ly’s device would utilize respiratory waveform variations and machine learning to provide an objective measurement.

“Mentorship and building support early on in an individual's Ph.D. journey are so crucial for dealing with the expected hardships to come,” said Ly. “I'm glad this opportunity exists and grateful to be a part of the program.”

Snehan Peshin, mechanical aerospace engineering student, is working to develop an extreme point of care diagnostics system which uses the CD microfluidics as a base.  This biomedical device would help developing countries tackle the high cost of and complications in medical testing. “This award will aid me in my work as well as help me in contributing to the inclusive goals of UCI community,” said Peshin.

Nhi Quach, materials science and engineering graduate student, focuses her research on improving the ability of sponge-like metals to absorb water.  She works to change surfaces using thin films to coat the surface, similar to Teflon. “I felt grateful to receive the fellowship and to be recognized as a member of UCI’s community contributing to improving the campus environment,” said Quach. 

Department of Materials Science and Engineering student Hong Wei’s research involves developing nano-biosensors for rapid antimicrobial susceptibility testing to provide a solution for the growing global health threat of antimicrobial resistance. “The fellowship is a great opportunity for me to make a difference for incoming students from under-served communities and internationally,” said Wei.

– Megan Lohre

Image Gallery