Honors Convocation Awards- Spring 2023
We recognize and honor students and faculty for outstanding performance in the 2022-2023 academic year. The recipients of named awards and scholarships are featured below. Outstanding Student of the Year and Distinguished Student Scholar award recipients are listed on the following pages:
Faculty Excellence Awards
The Kerry Bruce Clark Award For Excellence In Teaching
Dr. Timothy Muth, College of Business
Mr. Muth was the Student Government Professor of the Year in 2020 and 2021 and X-Culture Global Educator Award in 2021 and 2022. He teaches everything from his specialty in Global Business Strategies to Personal Financial Planning to improve the financial IQ of students across campus before they graduate. In his Entrepreneurship courses, students work with real businesses on real projects such as Doordash food delivery and Larsen Motorsports. His students learn by doing. They include business students participating in Engineering Senior Design teams, world-wide and regional IACBE case competitions - earning 1st place in 2022. As a community leader with non-profit organizations, he has connected students to project opportunities that have provided training for students while directly impacted our community; from Daily Bread food distribution to achievement classes at University Park elementary school. Advisors describe him as “The kind of teacher I wish I’d always had.” Mr. Muth is credited with bringing the X-Culture project to Florida Tech 11 years ago with over 600 FIT students now completing it. His International Business students join a global team with students from other countries and work to solve real business challenges posed by multinational companies. The X-Culture program founders describe Tim as “one of the world’s best International Business educators.” Through that project he has directly contributed to the training of over 100,000 students from 699 universities and 103 countries, as well as over 850 professors in his work with multinational teams. Simply put, “Tim Muth is one of the most effective International Business educators on the planet, adored by his students, respected, and looked up to by his colleagues.” His Dean describes him as “the perfect example of what other faculty should aspire to be in the classroom.”
The Charles E. Helmstetter Award For Excellence In Research
Dr. Mark Bush, Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences
College of Engineering and Science
Dr. Bush has been in the top 2% of all global scientists since Stanford started the list. He is ranked in the top 10 Paleoecologists by Google Scholar. In the last 5 years he has published over 35 papers, including 4 in the elite journals “Nature” and “Science.” In the last 5 years his work has been cited over 6,000 times. In that time, he has brought in approximately $2.5 Million in competitive grant funding to the university. His work examines the resilience of ecosystems, the history of extreme climate events, rapid climate change, and the impact of humans on these systems. He has “fundamentally reshaped our understanding of how the climate system and ecosystems of the Earth function, how biodiversity is generated and how it is conserved, and how humans have affected the Earth in the past and can be expected to affect it in the future. ...His lab has contributed significantly to modernizing fossil identification and analysis and is presently developing sophisticated statistical approaches to quantifying climate change, which will lead to more accurate predictions of future climates.” He also contributes his time as a journal editor and grant reviewer. His former PhD students are now considered leaders in the field as well. Colleagues describe him as “the world’s most well-known and accomplished scientist in the area of tropical paleoecology.” "Mark Bush is an eminent and fearless scientist, one who has been at the forefront of every important issue in his chosen and globally important discipline for the last 30 years. A scientist who has truly excelled at every measure that we can take of a researcher, and one who has left an enduring legacy in our knowledge.”
The Andrew W. Revay Jr. Award For Excellence In Service
Dr. Tom Marcinkowski, Department of Mathematical Sciences
College of Engineering and Science
Dr. Marcinkowski has served his students, the university, and the community with excellence. Internationally, he serves on the Editorial Board for the journal Environmental Education Research and The Journal of Environmental Education. He served for 8 years as the Chair of the Accreditation Advisory Board for the North American Association for Environmental Education. Locally he is a member of the Marine Resource Council’s Lagoon team and campus coordinator for the Peace Corps Fellows Program. For the university he served on the Faculty Senate for 22 years. As the Faculty Athletic Representative, he endorsed the eligibility rosters for hundreds of student-athletes. In the past 5 years he has chaired over 45 doctoral dissertations! His department chair reports that in every committee that he is part of, Dr. Marcinkowski does extensive homework, comes well prepared to meetings and no task is too small, as he strives to give his best effort to every task at hand.” His Dean noted that “Tom puts his heart and soul into his work for the university every day. Tom has given selfless service to the university and is one of the most dedicated faculty members you will ever find. ...He has been operating in this mode for more than three decades.”
The Gavel Award
Dr. Tolga Turgut, College of Aeronautics
The Senate’s Gavel Award is presented to the Faculty Senate President in recognition of leadership over the past academic year. Dr. Turgut's accomplishments as Faculty Senate President include:
1. Advocated and led the initiative to move the Spring Break to align with Brevard Public Schools.
2. Led the initiative with the Provost Office to achieve Faculty Salary Adjustment of 4% in September 2022 (highest recorded within the last several years)
3. Active role with the administration with respect to the merit pool increase to 4% from 3%
4. Active work and participation in the President Search Committee between April 2022 until March 2023.
5. Worked and assured maximum contribution of the Senate to president profile draft.
6. Led the initiative and approval of Clemente Center being free of charge for Faculty and Staff
7. Coordinated the revision of the most comprehensive and impartial AFTC charter.
8. First voting by roll call vote for policy revisions in the Faculty Senate which is crucial for representative bodies like Faculty Senate. Because it assures voting integrity. Thus, achieved full transparency with its constituents.
9. Upload of zoom meetings and approved minutes within maximum 48 hours after each senate meeting
10. Improved record keeping of senator lists, terms and records. Advocated frequently to promote faculty senator elections within their departments/colleges.
11. Improved communication with the Provost Office. Opened a very constructive dialogue which is in the best interest of the faculty.
12. Faculty Senate Executive committee membership female representation increased to 2 faculty for the first time in the history of the Faculty Senate.
13. Built a strong rapport with the Executive Board of our Board of Trustees via serving at the President Search Committee. Always strived for constructive dialogue.
14. Strong advocacy of the faculty during the Board of Trustees meetings.
15. Much improved transparency within the Faculty Senate.
16. Open and timely communication with the senators and the entire faculty.
17. Improved record keeping of minutes and video recordings in the interest of better serving to institutional memory of Florida Tech.
Student Excellence Awards
Outstanding Junior Award
Ruth Nichols, Department of Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences
Ruth Nichols is a junior in Astrobiology program and is dual majoring in Mathematical Sciences who is passionate about learning, research, and promoting STEM fields. She is a member of the Honors College, a student vice president of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and has been named as one of the 2022 Astronaut Scholars. Soon after becoming a Florida Tech student, Ruth joined Dr. Usselman’s quantum biology lab. She is the first author of a publication that reviews of poly(lactic-co-glycolytic) acid and its applications in tissue engineering and drug delivery through nanoparticles, microparticles, and porous tissue scaffolds. More recently, Ruth joined the Palmer Lab of Chemical Ecology and Astrobiology. Ruth assisted in a project growing tomatoes in simulated Martian regolith simulant, partnering with Heinz to make the first “Marz edition” of ketchup. Ruth was selected to present this project to NASA Director Bill Nelson. Aside from her lab work, Ruth serves as the current president of the Astrobiological Research and Education Society (ARES), a research-based student organization. Over Summer 2022, Ruth worked diligently to start a partnership between Florida Tech and the University of North Dakota’s Inflateable Lunar/Martian Analog Habitat (ILMAH). She is now the commander for Florida Tech’s first mission to ILMAH, which will take place in May. Ruth also has an active life outside of research, ranging from competitions to SCUBA diving to reading clubs. She contributes to scientific outreach in the community and started her own non-profit organization to create graphic novels about social and civil rights issues. Ruth also contributes to the Florida Tech community as a tutor at the Student Success and Support Center, a writer for the Crimson, and a member of FITV.
Outstanding Senior Award
Chinedum Ajabor, Department of Computer Engineering and Sciences
Chinedum Ajabor is a senior in Software Engineering. Chinedum’s academic journey started at age 16 when he came to the United States from Nigeria to pursue a career in Software Engineering. Chinedum has always prioritized academics, was in Dean’s list since he joined Florida Tech, has perfect GPA of 4.0, and is on track to graduate this semester. Chinedum has been awarded the Distinguished Student Scholar award multiple times. He was inducted into the Florida Tech’s Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society, and as a member he has supported the community through beach clean-ups and volunteering with the Brevard Zoo. Chinedum has joined a senior design project on Autonomous Drone Navigation. His group will be participating at the 2023 Northrop Grumman Senior Design Showcase and plans to publish their project findings as a journal paper. Chinedum is the Vice President of the African Student Association (ASA) and assisted in bringing Africa Night back after a COVID-induced hiatus. He is also co-captain of the Florida Soccer club and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Working as a Panther Prep Leader, Chinedum has helped new international students learn to thrive in their new environment at Florida Tech. He continues to support his peers as a tutor at the Student Success and Support Center. Chinedum took part in a 12-week Development Engineering internship with Capital Group. After graduation, he will be joining Arm Inc. for a Systems Engineering internship. He will return to Florida Tech in the Fall semester to complete the fast-track master’s degree in computer science. Chinedum hopes to bridge the digital divide by spreading access to modern computing and minimizing the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology (ICT), and those that don't or have restricted access. As a problem he can personally relate to, and we believe he will surely be making a lasting impact.
The Kerry Bruce Clark Endowed Scholarship In Marine Biology
Liana Jane van Woesik, Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences
Lila Marie Xenakis, Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences
The day before classes began in spring semester 1999, Florida Tech lost a dedicated member of its faculty. Dr. Kerry Clark, Professor of Biological Sciences, was one of the first members in the biology department when it was formed 52 years ago. Dr. Clark was largely responsible for developing the marine biology program on this campus to the high status of quality and recognition that the program now enjoys among academic programs of its kind in the United States. His excellence in teaching was recognized in 1992 when Dr. Clark received the Teaching Excellence Award that now bears his name. His excellence in research was recognized by his election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His excellence in service to our profession and the community is known to those few here today who shared positions with him on innumerable committees during his 28 years on the faculty.
The financial contributions by students, alumni, colleagues, friends, and family in Dr. Clark’s memory allow the marine biology program to make the 25th and 26th awards of the Dr. Kerry Bruce Clark Endowed Scholarship in Marine Biology. The award is to be given to a junior or senior undergraduate student in the marine biology program: a merit scholarship to one who shows promise to achieve excellence in a career related to marine biology.
Kerry would have been proud of this year’s two recipients. They are juniors who have maintained a high level of academic achievement in their undergraduate programs. The selection committee was impressed also by their involvement in research in the laboratories near and very far away, participation in several organizations on and off campus, and vision for their further education and careers.
The Dr. J. Clayton Baum Chemistry Award
Matthew Pensenstadler, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences
Dr. Baum joined Florida Tech in 1979 and served on the Chemistry faculty for 37 years. He was an outstanding teacher of physical chemistry, published over 40 peer-reviewed papers, and obtained over $1M in research funding. He served on many university committees including the Faculty Senate, the Curriculum Committee, and the Library Committee; he was an expert at maintaining instrumentation; and he was a friend and mentor to all. These qualities led alumni, students, and friends to establish the J Clayton Baum Scholarship in 2007.
This year’s awardee is Matthew Pensenstadler. A junior Chemistry major (Research option) from Finleyville, Pennsylvania, he carries a grade-point average of 3.91. He has been involved in research for four semesters; last year, he was the first sophomore to deliver a Chemistry departmental seminar. He has several research projects, and his first publication was submitted the day before Convocation.
The Donald R. Mason Chemical Engineering Award
Dr. Donald Mason was the founder and first Head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. To honor his legacy, the Chemical Engineering Faculty established this award in his name, presented annually to one outstanding senior, based on academic achievement, research accomplishments, and active participation in student organizations and professional and honor societies.
Jamielyn Jarvis, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences
Jamielyn is an outstanding student academically, who has been inducted in three honor societies, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Eta Sigma. She is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers. She has been very actively involved with our Florida Tech Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where she has served as Vice President and is currently serving as President, organizing and coordinating numerous activities for our students, while also speaking to prospective students at multiple events. Before that, in her sophomore year, she was elected president of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, where she also planned and executed numerous events, helping the Florida Tech ACS Chapter secure multiple awards from the national parent society.
She has also been actively involved in research from the very beginning of her studies, first as a member of Dr. Takenaka’s group in Chemistry and now as a member of Dr. Kishore’s group in Chemical Engineering, and has already co-authored two journal publications. She earned more research experience yet last summer through the NSF-REU Program at the University of South Carolina.
She has been a member of the Dean’s List throughout her studies, and was named a Distinguished Student Scholar and a Florida Academic Scholar. After she graduates in a few weeks with a Batchelor’s in Chemical Engineering and a Minor in Nanoscience/Nanotechnology, she will continue her education and research in our school, pursuing a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.
The John E. Miller Award
Maximos Goumas, Department of Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences
Dr. John E. Miller served as president of Florida Tech from 1986-1987. Dr. Miller was vice president for academic affairs from 1966 until 1975. Dr. Miller received a B.S. from Randolph Macon College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Some of his outstanding accomplishments included receiving a senior science fellowship at Stanford University and the position of Distinguished Professor of Physics at Clemson University. Dr. Miller also served in the United States Army during World War II.
After his term as president of Florida Tech, Dr. Miller spent four years teaching for the physics and space sciences department before retiring from the university. Dr. Miller passed away on December 14, 1993.
Originally from California, this year’s recipient earned his bachelor’s degrees in Physics and minored in Archaeology at the University of California, Irvine. He became interested in astronomy due to family trips to planetarium shows and backyard astronomy. He got hooked on physics in high school in part because his teacher let him bring a potato cannon to class one day. He is now a Ph. D. candidate working in astrobiology. His research at Florida Tech with Dr. Lingham simulates the effects of methanogens in subsurface ocean environments in the icy moons of our Solar System and watery exoplanets.
The Potter Award
Rahi Kashikar, Department of Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences
After receiving degrees from Princeton, New York University and Yale, James G. Potter enjoyed a six-decade career as a physicist and a developer of physics departments. He began the physics degree program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology during the World War II years. Between 1945 and 1966, he was the head of the department of physics at Texas A & M University. At the age of 60, he joined the faculty of Florida Institute of Technology where he was professor and department head from 1967 to 1972. After stepping down as department head, Dr. Potter continued to make contributions until 1987 when he was named professor emeritus. Even after that, he was a regular presence in the department until about 1990.
After his death in 1993, the department initiated a yearly competition as the basis for this award. A competition seemed fitting given Dr. Potter’s feisty persona and his penchant for on-the-spot oral examinations when students would innocently inquire about testing out of Physics 1.
Originally from Pune, India, this year’s winner is an Astrobiology major. After graduating from high school in India, she moved to the United States and attended one semester at Indiana University Purdue University, but then relocated to Florida Institute of Technology. Her early childhood interest in science derives from her parents: one is a doctor and the other an engineer. They ensured that she took part in math and science workshops and contests. Her extra-curricular interests include playing sports, listening to music, playing a synthesizer, singing, and running. She hopes to learn more about the evolutionary paths that life can take on other planets.
Faculty Senate Scholarship
The Faculty Senate awards scholarships to students across the colleges on an annual basis.
Lana Ammash, School of Psychology
Lana is an international student. She moved to Florida in summer 2022 to pursue her academic and athletic life at Florida Tech. She is a scholar-athlete, playing basketball for the varsity team and majoring in Clinical Psychology. In 2020, she completed the "Ambassador Leadership Summit at Yale" program, where they participated in leadership workshops and team-building activities. They also worked with UNICEF to distribute food and toys to needy kids. During high school, she volunteered for several Lebanese NGOs, where they arranged books for children and packed meals to serve disadvantaged people. In addition to that, she participated in the Model United Nations at the Lebanese American University in 2021. After completing 2+ months of training, her team delivered a presentation on Singapore at the final conference. At Florida Tech, she is volunteering with her basketball team at the Scott Centre and Stone Magnet Middle School, where they engage with children and teach them fundamental basketball skills.
Geneviece M. Spitaletto, Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Genevieve is a freshman in Construction Management. She joined Theta Tau fraternity and joined the volunteer committee to become active on campus. She also joined the Rotaract club to help around Melbourne, FL, as well as the Society of Women Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers. She is also an active member in the National Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma. Being involved makes her more motivated and satisfied with her day and in turn has been a huge reason why she has maintained a high academic performance. Florida Tech requires teamwork and time management and her extracurricular activities in high school helped her to prepare for the challenges.
The Florida Tech Chapter Of The Honor Society Of Phi Kappa Phi’s Scholar Award
Christina Sheppard, School of Psychology
Christina is a Behavior Analysis doctoral student in the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts at Florida Tech. As an alumnus of Rollins College she earned a B.A. in Psychology in 2018 and an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis & Clinical Science in 2020. Christina is actively involved with research at Florida Tech and is currently a Research Lab Manager for two different labs. Additionally, she is published in her field of expertise and has been a Guest Reviewer for several journals. Some of Christina’s noteworthy goals include obtaining a PhD in behavior analysis through Florida Tech by May 2024, and to complete her Certified Eating Disorder Specialist Certification (CEDS) through the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals by May 2026. This includes continuing to accrue experience hours specializing in work with individuals with eating disorders such as ARFID and anorexia nervosa.