Published: April 26, 2022 By

Four exceptional students from the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering have earned Graduating Student Awards in 2022. These honors are conferred to seniors who are nominated by faculty, staff or fellow students for their outstanding contributions.

Three noteworthy graduating students have also been awarded Departmental Awards from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Each of the seven award winners will be recognized and celebrated at the department's Graduation Recognition Ceremony on Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m.

College Award Winners

Prem Griddalur

Perseverance Award

Prem Griddalur is graduating with a BS in mechanical engineering. He plans to move to Seattle to work at Boeing as a Structural and Payload Design Engineer. While at CU Boulder, he was extensively involved in Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

"I am honored to be a recipient of the Perseverance Award. My journey at CU Boulder hasn’t been easy and I am excited to be graduating this Spring with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. In my first few years here, I struggled to find my community at CU Boulder and identify as an engineer. I had a difficult time with the transition from high school to college and I found myself struggling and performing poorly in many of my classes. At the behest of my advisor, I began academic coaching to develop stronger study habits and improve my test-taking skills. I also enrolled in COEN 2880: Fresh Start the subsequent semester and explored organizational and learning strategies at a deeper level. This course combined with academic coaching helped me improve my academic performance and build confidence that I too am an engineer. I’m very grateful to the university for these opportunities.

Since then, I have been assisting and supporting other students facing adversity in engineering by working as a teaching assistant for COEN 2280 and as an Academic Peer Coach. I want to give back to the community by helping students find their place in engineering and strengthen their skills to succeed."

Alexander Kelling

Perseverance Award

Alex Kelling, a Department of Defense SMART Scholar, is graduating with a BS in mechanical engineering. He plans to intern with the U.S. Army Development Command Armament Center at Rock Island Arsenal this summer, before returning to CU Boulder to finish his master's degree in mechanical engineering through the Bachelor's-Accelerated Master's Program. He will then return to Rock Island Arsenal to work full time.

"Halfway through my freshman year, I found my life outside of school far more difficult than any class I had taken. Weird symptoms led me to the doctor's office. After suffering through many painful health assessments, it seemed a cancer diagnosis was looming. I was relieved to learn my diagnosis of just bone marrow failure. A weakened immune system, fatigue, and lack of energy suddenly plagued my life. But thankfully quitting was not required and for me was never an option. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, instead of studying with others, my diagnosis required me to isolate myself with exceptional care. Working alone made a difficult degree even more challenging. Never before had I been such a faithful attendee of office hours. My nights were filled with Zoom meetings with TAs and professors and I am forever grateful for their unwavering support. Although not without struggle, my GPA climbed through this period. I was able to learn the course material at a deeper level.

Health issues made me realize how I enjoyed little things, like the struggle of engineering classes and the interesting knowledge it provides you with. The movie Good Will Hunting says it best: 'You'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to.'"

Renée Schnettler

Community Impact Award

Renée Schnettler is graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in engineering management and certificate from the Engineering Leadership Program. She served as the president of the American Society of Engineering Management and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She will be working for Sierra Nevada Corporation as a mechanical engineer when she graduates.

"Some of the highlights of my college career have been acting as a peer mentor for the college of engineering, serving as an officer for engineering clubs, helping organize mechanical engineering department events and participating in philanthropy activities with my sorority. It has brought me great joy to be able to facilitate making connections in the engineering community between students, staff, and professors."

Justin Won

Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Award

Justin Won is graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with minors in computer science and business. While at CU Boulder, he interned for Company Six and Nalpeiron. He also joined Leeds Consulting Group, where he worked with companies such as Zayo Group, Smashburger and bouta. He has accepted a position with Deloitte as a business technology analyst.

"I've dedicated myself to Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by first recognizing that a change needed to be made at CU Boulder. When I came to CU Boulder, I didn't find my place right away. I felt that it was incredibly difficult for me to find people that had a similar background as myself. That's when I found Asian Unity. Since then, I've built the club up in the best way I could as an executive board member and president. I reached out as far as I could to ensure that everyone within and outside of Asian Unity felt welcomed and happy with their spot at CU Boulder. Club numbers grew from 40 members to beyond 150 members.

Beyond that, I made efforts to provide unity beyond just the Asian community. As an executive team in the summer of 2020, we created a week-long campaign to provide social support to the BLM campaign. In this week alone, we got positive feedback from university clubs across the nation, including 26 universities and 4,750 participants, and generated $16,500 to be donated to various support groups. I realized just how much stronger we could stand if we fought for justice and equality together. As a minority, life can be difficult in so many different ways, so I've dedicated myself to standing up for my people when the time comes." 

Departmental Award Winners

Paula Pérez

Outstanding Graduate Award
CU Engineering Silver Medal Finalist

Paula Pérez is graduating with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and a minor in energy engineering. She is currently a wind turbine design intern at Siemens Gamesa. After graduation, she plans to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a GEM Fellow. She will return to CU Boulder for her master's degree in global engineering at the Mortenson Center.

"Throughout my college career, I have focused on using engineering in interdisciplinary projects to address energy and water access for underserved populations. I have worked with rural, indigenous and other diverse communities in Colombia, Argentina, Rwanda, Alaska and Colorado. At CU Boulder, I was part of three different undergraduate research projects, participated in EWB and helped organize the annual Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Symposium. 

The aspect of my college experience I'm most proud of is my effort to keep inclusivity and diversity at the heart of my work. In particular, my involvement with the WASH Symposium, since I formed and led the Translation Team the last two years, through which we've been able to support non-English speakers in presenting and attending our conference, with emphasis on Latin America and French speaking countries."

Johnathan Neptune

Academic Engagement Award

Johnathan Neptune is graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a business minor. During his time at CU Boulder, he completed two internships with L3Harris in their Space and Airborne Systems Division. He has accepted a job to work full time for L3Harris in the same division in Colorado Springs.

"During my time at CU Boulder, I served as a board member of the Engineering Excellence Fund and was in the Engineering Honors Program. I also worked as an MCEN Student Apprentice and CEAS Ambassador my senior year.

The people at CU Boulder have been extremely supportive as I explored the beginning of my engineering education and started building my future career. I have worked hard to commit myself to academic engagement so that I can pay it forward and pass along the lessons I have been taught or learned along the way. I hope to continue supporting CU Boulder engineers even after graduation!"

Claire Isenhart

Global Engagement Award

Claire Isenhart is graduating with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. She will be a field engineer this summer for Kiewit and Mass Electric in their solar panels division. She will then return to CU Boulder as a master's student in mechanical engineering, where she will focus on clean energy.

"My research has primarily focused on sustainable solutions in both energy and agricultural practices. I have worked closely with PhD student Austin Hayes on thermal optimization of wind turbine generators and am competing in the Collegiate Wind Competition as the Project Manager to build an offshore wind turbine prototype. I have conducted policy research related to reducing desertification in the United States, Israel and Libya. I am studying international aid programs and in-country projects that aim to increase food security in Burkina Faso, Bolivia and Niger under my mentor Dr. Nathalie Vriend.

Outside of research, I have worked with Engineers in Action for two years. I helped design a pedestrian bridge in Eswatini that was built in the summer of 2021 and I helped as on-site safety manager to construct a bridge in Bolivia during the same summer. This bridge build was incredibly difficult, but it was amazing to learn from the community members and to see their excitement regarding this project. I will forever be grateful to the EIA team and the CU chapter, Bridge Buffs, for making this happen."