The Kenneth Johnsen Graduate Student of the Month awards recognize outstanding students who excel academically and are examples for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The awards are named for Kenneth Johnsen, a former graduate student in the department who was called, “The quintessential grad student. He was smart, respectful, adventurous, hard-working, funny, easy to get along with, scholarly, and had a passion for learning.” While pursuing his graduate studies, Ken was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually succumbed to his illness. This award was established to honor his memory.​

Faculty members are encouraged to nominate students who embody the qualities Ken exemplified so well.​

Once a student is chosen, a poster with their photo and bio is displayed in the department for that month. In addition, both the photo and bio are featured in the department’s newsletters and are posted here. At the Graduate Engineering Annual Recruiting and Research Symposium banquet in March these students are recognized with a certificate and a small scholarship.


Jatinder Sampathkumar

Graduate Student of the Month - Jatinder Sampathkumar

March 1, 2020

Jatinder Sampathkumar is currently working on creating a new processing route to manufacture specialized Silicon Carbide reactors for combustion applications. He says Boulder has spoiled him with access to the outdoors, the food scene and bookshops.

Lawrence Smith

Graduate Student of the Month - Lawrence Smith

Feb. 1, 2020

Lawrence Smith is researching efficient simulation of solid mechanics problems for the purpose of automated design of soft robotic systems. He enjoys 3D printing, cooking, billiards and running.

Sadie Stutzman

Graduate Student of the Month - Sadie Stutzman

Jan. 1, 2020

Sadie Stutzman studies the fundamental chemistry of how fuels decompose during pyrolysis and combustion. She uses experiments and theory to understand fuel behavior which she uses to create a model and predict the impact a fuel has on things such as engine performance and emissions.

Peter Gumble

Graduate Student of the Month - Peter Gumble

Dec. 1, 2019

Peter Gumble is a mechanical engineering graduate student focusing on spacecraft design and pursuing the Satellite System Design Certificate from the aerospace department. He would like to work for a company developing spacecraft and spacecraft hardware.

Kristin Calahan

Graduate Student of the Month - Kristin Calahan

Nov. 1, 2019

Kristin Calahan's research is focused on studying the contact mechanics, more specifically the friction response, between micropatterned surfaces and tissue-like substrates for biomedical applications. In the future, she sees herself as a research scientist whether in an academic or industry setting.

Ryan Cole

Graduate Student of the Month - Ryan Cole

Oct. 1, 2019

Ryan Cole's research helps to develop laser-based sensors for systems ranging from combustion devices to the atmosphere. His personal research is focused on developing and improving models for the absorption of light by gasses at very high pressures and temperatures. He would like to work in atmospheric science applying the skills he has learned at CU Boulder to develop new ways to monitor pollution and emissions and their effect on the atmosphere.

Adrienne Scott thumbnail

Graduate Student of the Month - Adrienne Scott

Sept. 1, 2019

Adrienne is a fourth-year PhD student who explores how cells in the human body sense and respond to their mechanical environment and uses this information to better design tissue engineering techniques.

Sebastian Metcalf headshot

December 2018 - Sebastian Metcalf

Dec. 3, 2018

My name is Sebastian Metcalf and I'm from Longmont, CO. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering as a part of the BS/MS. concurrent program. I would like to express my gratitude towards the students and faculty who’ve truly altered my life for the better over the last 5 years.

Amanda Makowiecki

November 2018 - Amanda Makowiecki

Nov. 12, 2018

Amanda grew up in the land of ‘Live free or die’ where she could be found shooting off fireworks, driving without seatbelts (just kidding, be safe kids) and gazing at the profile of the Old Man of the Mountain (rest in peace). Amanda now works on developing and deploying diagnostics...

Andrew Tomaschke with dad and skis

October 2018 - Andrew Tomaschke

Oct. 12, 2018

Andrew was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He completed his BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University at Buffalo in 2011. During his undergraduate studies, he interned as a mechanical estimator for a local mechanical contractor. Upon graduation, he worked for Glauber Equipment Corporation where he performed compressed air...