Published: Dec. 20, 2023 By

Palmer Dick-Montez at an electronics workstation.
Above: Palmer Dick-Montez working on electronics with an oscilloscope.
Headline Photo: Palmer Dick-Montez at the Grand Canyon.

Palmer Dick-Montez is receiving major kudos as he graduates with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

He is a 2023 recipient of three separate College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Graduate Awards for Academic Engagement, Community Impact, and Research.

“It’s humbling. I didn’t really expect to be honored like this. It especially feels good to be recognized for making an impact on the CU Engineering community outside myself, helping others,” Dick-Montez said.

His contributions have been substantial. He is a course assistant in the mechanical engineering senior design program and is part of Engineering Fellows, a college initiative that assists students at risk of falling behind or dropping out.

“It’s peer mentoring, review sessions, office hours for students who are struggling,” he said. “It offers not only academic support but also a community of other students. I’ve really benefitted from peer mentors and TAs and wanted to be that support for other students.”

Julie Steinbrenner, an assistant teaching professor in the Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering, particularly praises Dick-Montez’s efforts as part of senior design.

“Palmer is a dedicated student, a role model and mentor for other students. He held his senior design team to high standards and is a go-to resource for his classmates because he’s thoughtful and motivated,” Steinbrenner said.

His impact extends outside the classroom into research. Last year, Associate Professor Nathalie Vriend invited him to assist on an avalanche analysis study. He dove in with gusto, analyzing a massive dataset probing how a simulated snow bed behaves, settles, and flows after an avalanche event.

“This is a hard analysis for any PhD student. Palmer took up the challenge as an undergraduate with confidence and produced an excellent body of work in only three months,” Vriend said.

He is working on a paper related the work, which the team hopes to publish next year. Vriend is also organizing a larger follow-up experiment that Dick-Montez hopes to  assist with after graduation.

“I really enjoyed the process of working on something there isn’t a lot of literature on and figuring out the cause and effect of things,” Dick-Montez said.

While Dick-Montez loves engineering, he is equally drawn to studying the past, earning a minor in anthropology alongside his mechanical engineering degree. He also spent two years as co-president of the CU Boulder Anthropology Club.

Immediately following graduation, he intends to join a six-month archaeological dig in Oaxaca, Mexico, studying a pre-Hispanic, indigenous Mexican village site.

“I did a study abroad in Mexico for archaeology with the same professor and I loved it and want to do more,” he said. “I’m very interested in both engineering and anthropology, but there are more career possibilities in engineering. I can continue with anthropology outside of a career.”

Following the dig, he will pursue an engineering job in either aerospace or marine robotics, which was the focus of his senior design project.

“I’d like to stay in Colorado; I grew up here, but I know if I go into marine robotics I will not be staying in a landlocked state,” Dick-Montez said.