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.


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...

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...

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