Published: Oct. 9, 2023

Grad StudentThe Kenneth Johnsen Graduate Student of the Month awards recognize outstanding students who excel academically and are an exemplar for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Aniya Khalili:

Where is your hometown?

My hometown is Shiraz, the city of roses and the cultural capital of Iran.

What schools have you attended?

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Fars Research and Science, Shiraz. For my Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, I went to the University of Stuttgart in Germany. I was an exchange student at CU Boulder during my first Master’s, and this is how I ended up in Boulder. I loved it here and came back for my PhD: first I started with a Master’s of Mechanical Engineering at CU and eventually moved to the PhD program, working with Dr. Shelly Miller's research lab in indoor air quality and personal exposure studies.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy traveling and road tripping so whenever we can find free time, we use it to spend on the road and spending time outdoors. I also like swimming and playing tennis in my free time. Painting is my hobby. I also love spending time with our dog, Maple.

Can you tell me a little bit about your research?

In the past few years working with Dr. Miller, we designed a pilot study of humans and their dogs’ pesticide air exposure concentrations in Boulder using passive wearable monitors. In another project I led the air quality team to study and analyze the validation and correction of consumer-grade personal exposure monitors for particulate matter air pollution in Denver. We also measured personal air exposure to particulate matter in disproportionately impacted residential communities in Denver using consumer-grade air pollution monitors.

The significance of our study is that it is one of the first to deploy a large number of consumer grade monitors in a disproportionately impacted U.S. zip code. In particular, we measured the DI community’s personal exposure caused by planned construction activities in the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Cole (GESC) neighborhoods in Denver. These areas are known to be the most polluted zip codes in the U.S.  Our citizen scientists, who are the residents of those neighborhoods, participated in this study. Four different studies were conducted between 2021-2023, with about 50 participants in each study. The duration of each study was one month. Each participant was required to keep their personal exposure monitor within two feet of themselves during the whole month.

In addition, the five monitors were installed outside in different locations around the neighborhoods to collect air pollution. The focus of the study was to measure the PM2.5 personal exposure of the community members due to its known adverse health effects. The results and more details about the cohort studies will be published in my papers. Website:

DeshWhere do you see yourself in 10 years?

There is a lot to say on where I can see myself in the next 10 years in my private and career life. I guess I'll share where I can imagine myself to be in my career: I'd like to continue working on my current research field of indoor air quality and personal exposure. I have a strong drive to be an entrepreneur and am working on starting my own company. Who knows?  Maybe I come back to CU and follow the path of academia in doing more research and innovating.

What is your favorite thing about attending CU Boulder for your graduate degree?

My favorite thing has been working with my wonderful advisor and mentor and also being able to have the opportunity to lead a meaningful and very impactful project.  I also enjoyed working with and training our talented undergrads.

Deven Shah:

I hail from Pune, India, a vibrant city that instilled in me both cultural richness and a love for nature. My academic journey began at DAV Public School and culminated with a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from SavitriBai Phule Pune University. At CU Boulder, where I am currently pursuing my graduate degree, I've delved deep into the world of soft robotics and control theory. This research passion is a testament to my commitment to innovative technologies. One of the highlights of being at CU Boulder is the blend of collaborative learning and the diverse perspectives my peers offer.

When I'm not immersed in my studies or research, you can find me either engaging in intense FIFA matches with friends or exploring the scenic hiking trails, reminiscent of those back home in Pune. My unique blend of experiences from Pune and CU Boulder has shaped my outlook. Looking ahead, I envision returning to India within the next decade. My dream is to harness the knowledge and experience I've gathered, possibly pioneering my own company and driving innovations in the world of engineering.