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.


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...

Gregory Formosa

December 2016 - Gregory Formosa

Dec. 2, 2016

Greg grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL and completed his undergraduate BSME at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2010. After the 4 years of school and 3 years of internships at Motorola, he decided to build his hands-on skill set in industry before continuing in academia...

Shanshan Xu

November 2016 - Shanshan Xu

Nov. 9, 2016

Shanshan Xu is a fourth year PhD student working with Prof. Y.C. Lee and Prof. Ronggui Yang in the field of thermal management of mobile and high-heat-flux electronic devices. She works on a challenging research project on flexible thermal ground planes and phase-change heat transfer. She mentors undergraduate students and...

Joanna Gordan Casey

October 2016 - Joanna Gordan Casey

Oct. 4, 2016

Joanna is a member of the Hannigan Air Quality measurements group where she enjoys learning about our atmosphere and its interactions with ecosystems and human exploits. Her interests range from the volumes of molecules enclosed by the walls of our homes, to community and regional scale airshed dynamics and composition...

Eduard Benet Cerda

September 2016 - Eduard Benet Cerda

Sept. 15, 2016

I come from a beautiful town in the coast of Spain called Tarragona where the combination of beaches, food and environment make it probably the best place to live in the planet. After graduating as a civil engineer in Technical University Barcelona and working a full year at a water...

Alex Yersak on the slopes.

April 2016 - Alex Yersak

Sept. 1, 2016

Alex is a fourth year PhD student who has been investigating atomic layer deposited thin films for ultrabarriers and corrosion protection of thin metal films. He has had the opportunity to conduct his research both on campus at CU and at ALD Nanosolutions. Prior to graduate school, Alex received his...

Masoud Aghajani standing by a lake.

February 2016 - Masoud Aghajani

July 20, 2016

Masoud has gone through a long journey before joining the PhD program in Fall 2015.

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