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.


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...

Jason Christopher

November 2017 - Jason Christopher

Nov. 9, 2017

Jason earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 2007. While at the Academy, he interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory researching deflagration properties of explosive materials. After the Academy, Jason earned an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Rice University with his research...

September 2017- Yao Zhai

September 2017- Yao Zhai

Aug. 31, 2017

Yao Zhai was born in Tianjin, China. He stayed in his hometown through his bachelor degree from Tianjin University. After obtaining his Master degree from the Institute of Semiconductors, Chinese Academy of Science, he decided to continue his education abroad. Yao came to CU Boulder and joined Dr. Xiaobo Yin’s...

Karl Johannes backpacking in the mountains.

August 2017 - Karl Johannes

Aug. 9, 2017

Karl spent the first 22 years of his life in the harsh desert climate of suburban New Mexico. While enduring the unbearable climate he successfully completed his BS in Mechanical Engineering at New Mexico State University, despite spending most of his time building cars with the Baja SAE team and...

David Pfotenhauer

May 2017 - David Pfotenhauer

June 6, 2017

Like all true Wisconsinites, David was raised on nothing but cheese, milk, and Wisconsin football. He spent the first 18 years of his life growing up in the beautiful city of Madison, where he developed his passion for science in school, his affinity towards farmland, cornfields, and cow pastures, and...

Xin Qian

April 2017 - Xin Qian

March 28, 2017

Xin Qian is a PhD student working with Prof. Ronggui Yang. He works on modeling thermal transport in hybrid organic-inorganic crystals. His modeling of thermal transport in the organic-inorganic perovskite with green energy applications was recently highlighted as one of the Top 10 Most Cited Articles in Applied Physics Letters...

Colin Towery

March 2017 - Colin Towery

Feb. 28, 2017

Colin is a third-year PhD student in his sixth year overall at CU Boulder. He joined the Mechanical Engineering master’s program way back in Spring 2012, a full semester before his eventual advisor, Dr. Peter Hamlington . After having some fun designing and testing a CubeSat at the Colorado Space...

Mohamed Eltarkawe

January 2017- Mohamed Eltarkawe

Feb. 2, 2017

Mohamed Eltarkawe is a third-year PhD student in Prof. Shelly Miller’s research group. His research interests are directed towards understanding the relationship between well-being and industrial odors in five communities in Colorado: Fort Collins, Greeley, Fort Lupton, North Denver, and Pueblo. He developed an android app (Report Odor 1) through...

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