CU Boulder has several thousand student employees who perform countless services with enthusiasm, dedication, and initiative. The University community depends on their contributions for the efficient and effective operation of CU Boulder. Each year we recognize students who have demonstrated exemplary work, choosing one Student Employee of the Year. See 2019-20 Student Employee of the Year Nominees.

Congratulations to our Student Employee of the Year Trevor Weschler!

About Trevor

Year: Graduate Student
Major: BA/MS in Aerospace Engineering and BA in Music

Trevor is in a dual major in BA/MS in Aerospace Engineering and BA in Music. He was nominated by Gina Lafferty from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)- Mission Operations where Trevor works as a Mission Operations Command Controller (CC). 

His ability to manage and work in a team environment has spawned several successful collaborations that were critical to ongoing operations in the Mission Operations group at LASP.

Trevor has also been selected as the Colorado state winner and will receive a $75.00 gift card to Amazon from NSEA.

Trevor is responsible for commanding, monitoring, and ensuring the health & safety of operational space flight hardware. Responsibilities will involve operations on multi-million dollar spacecraft, most of which are managed and owned by NASA. Command controllers are expected to train and certify on multiple missions so they can monitor spacecraft telemetry, identify abnormalities, plan command products, and execute commands. Responsibilities also involve being able to communicate professionally, clearly, and concisely with diverse parties, including professionals at NASA and other companies in industry.

During his time at LASP, Trevor has proven to be extremely adept at oral and written communication. His skills at adapting his communication to work with students, LASP employees, and external professionals has made him a critical component of the LASP command controller team. These skills have helped put him in leadership positions due to his ability to facilitate the transfer of information between not only LASP professionals and students, but also between other industry professionals and internal LASP employees. Trevor spent a significant amount of his time here at LASP supporting our iconic planet-finding Kepler mission. This support required him to communicate clearly and efficiently with professionals at Ball Aerospace and to relay those communications with LASP professionals.

As command controllers, students are expected to become proficient and skilled in using a plethora of coding languages. Coding languages and software tools include, but are not limited to: C++, Java, Python, IDL, MatLab, Perl, and more. Students are also expected to adapt to new tools and software as they are introduced to industry.

One of his many contributions to LASP mission operations involved helping to develop an automated review sequence that would check command products to ensure they met flight hardware constraints and scheduling rules. Prior to the development of this tool, LASP professionals were spending several hours a week reviewing products prior to delivery to NASA. Understanding python to be a powerful tool, Trevor honed his python skills and helped finalize the development of the tool. This process involved not only writing the code, but identifying the appropriate tests to ensure the tool was thorough and complete. Once released, this tool saved countless hours in review and boosted confidence in product correctness prior to delivery to NASA.

One of the anomalies recently encountered at LASP involved unexpected and significant fuel-loss for the Kepler mission. The mission operations team at LASP was spending a majority of their time trying to accurately determine and predict Kepler fuel levels so the appropriate operations could be planned. Understanding the need for a more efficient and accurate prediction process, Trevor, as a student, analyzed available data and produced accurate fuel predictions till Kepler’s end-of-life. These fuel predictions were used by full-time employees to help guide planning for the rest of the mission. Trevor has also used his critical thinking and problem solving skills to help gather the necessary information to make decisions in fast-paced and high-stress environments. He approaches these situations with a calm and reserve that is critical to ensuring the longevity of spaceflight missions at LASP.

Trevor has excelled at his position as a command controller at LASP while pursuing a double major in Aerospace Engineering and Music. The command controller position requires a 20-hour work week from students in order to ensure 24/7 coverage for spacecraft monitoring and commanding. This is the maximum amount of time students are allowed to work during the school year. In addition, students are also expected to support nights, weekends, and holidays to guarantee support for spacecraft commanding. Despite the demands of his job, Trevor has found time to support the American Indian Science & Engineering Society throughout all four-years of his undergraduate career. While supporting as secretary, he has focused on trying to promote inclusivity at CU’s College of Engineering. He has never hesitated to communicate ideas for improving inclusivity among students and has actively worked to create an environment in which student employees can feel comfortable and empowered. He has also been a key component in helping students establish relationships with professional employees that help create a cohesive and productive environment.

Trevor is excellent at creating cohesive working environments where individuals can openly express themselves and thrive. As the student lead for multiple teams, he has been pinnacle in maintaining rapport not only between students, but also between students and professionals. One of his greatest strengths is identifying and communicating clear goals to team members, while also motivating them to achieve those goals.

His supervisor stated, "Trevor has helped complete several large projects that would not be possible on the individual level. The completion of these projects were contingent on his ability to manage a team of students and communicate clearly between the students and professionals. We have seen a quantitative improvement in the metrics used to track how long it takes students to accomplish their assigned tasks and projects. These improvements are in large part due to Trevor's ability to organize big picture items into achievable tasks and then delegate those tasks in a fair and efficient manner.  His ability to manage and work in a team environment has spawned several successful collaborations that were critical to ongoing operations in the Mission Operations group at LASP."

His contributions to LASP and the University of Colorado Boulder, as well as the feedback on Trevor's work and performance from professionals at other companies in industry (e.g. Ball Aerospace) has made it clear that he is well prepared to transition from being a student to being a full-time professional.

Congratulations to our first runner-up Irina Wagner

About Irina

Year: Graduate
Major: PhD Linguistics

Irina was nominated by Courtney Fell of the Office of Information Technology, where she works. She is a graduate student and is working on her PhD in Linguistics and is a user Experience Researcher.

 From the moment I hired her, Irina has tackled complex problem after complex problem, both on her own and with teams of all sizes.

Irina’s position is to support the student-centered design and development process of Buff Portal, CU’s new student portal that replaced MyCUinfo in December. She continues to support the ongoing research of the Buff Portal team by designing, conducting, and analyzing user-experience activities and assessments.

Irina actively seeks out forums where we can present about our student-centered development and design process. She has increasingly been representing Buff Portal at campus presentations and events. Irina’s nominator said that Irina identified that the sign-up system for our testing session was lacking in support. She proposed that we identify a better system to improve the sign-up experience for campus staff and students, so we mocked up a new sign-up tool and she started to research the options. Fast-forward six months and our team is currently piloting a new sign-up tool from Microsoft that we expect to provide a smoother experience for our users.

Prior to the launch of Buff Portal, our team determined a gap in how we were going to teach students how to use the new system, which is significantly different than MyCUInfo. Irina quickly came to the rescue. OIT provided her with a brand new tool for creating screencasts and using the questions she was seeing from students in Buff Portal’s feedback tool, Irina created a library of Buff Portal How-To videos. In a handful of days, Irina learned a new video editing tool, scripted and recorded a dozen help videos, captioned the videos to ensure their accessibility to all audiences, and worked with OIT’s Communications team to post the videos on YouTube.

Her nominator(s) said, "Critical thinking and problem solving are strengths of Irina’s. From the moment I hired her, Irina has tackled complex problem after complex problem, both on her own and with teams of all sizes. When she first began in 2018, I was new to my position as well. Irina jumped in immediately and helped me to develop and then iterate on a mobile-based feedback experience on the beta version of Buff Portal. Irina helped create a way for us to text message a pilot group of 30 students to test scenarios for the portal and then allow them to provide feedback on their mobile devices. This mobile feedback on the early portal environment laid the groundwork to OIT’s understanding of the mobile experience Buff Portal. Later, the Office of Strategic Relations & Communications requested a presentation on this mobile-based research since it used CU-supported tools and technologies, was a positive experience for student participants, and resulted in unique insights to inform our work."

Irina is now pursuing her fourth degree at CU Boulder (two B.A.s, Linguistics and Anthropology, MA in Linguistics, and currently nearly the last stages of her PhD in Linguistics). Her master’s thesis examined how indigenous communities in the US can use online tools to help reclaim their languages. She worked closely with the Northern Arapahos in Wyoming to help record their language, and then partnered with their teachers to create online Arapaho language educational resources.

Because of the nature of our work for the Buff Portal project, our team must often discuss and identify solutions to very complex problems. In these discussions, each person brings their unique perspective to the table and I can count on Irina to seek to understand where everyone is coming from, and to collaborate with the team to identify creative solutions. Increasingly, Irina discusses any barriers she sees to our team’s communication and work patterns so we can continue to identify areas where we could improve our partnerships and productivity.

Her nominator said, "I have really seen Irina grow into this position, seeking out opportunities to teach herself more about the field and its approaches. Whether it’s through readings, online courses on (now LinkedIn Learning) or in-person experiences, Irina is constantly working to independently develop a deeper understanding of UX Research and UX Design. Irina actively seeks out professional development opportunities for herself and our team."

Recently, Irina decided that she is going to pursue a career in UX Research after she completes her PhD in Linguistics, and she is currently in the later stages of interviewing for summer internships in User Experience Research at Google and Facebook. I am so proud to have played even the smallest role in helping her identify an exciting and promising career path in a growing and rewarding industry!