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Outstanding Graduates from Class of 2014 Share Their Stories

Damini Tandon

From left: Mike Porter, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and winner of the outstanding graduate student award, and Damini Tandon, winner of the outstanding senior award, pose together at the All Campus Graduation Celebration. 
Photo: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publicatons

Damini Tandon

Damini Tandon received an outstanding senior award at this year's All Campus Graduation Celebration.
Related story:
A Q&A with Damini about her experiences at the Jacobs School

San Diego, Calif. June 18. 2014 -- Engineering swept the outstanding student awards at this year's All Campus Graduation Celebration. Damini Tandon, a bioengineering major, was recognized as outstanding undergraduate student for her efforts to make health education and medical treatment accessible. Michael Porter, a Ph.D. student in the research group of materials science professor Joanna McKittrick, received the outstanding graduate student award for his academic achievements and his mentoring. 

Outstanding Senior Award Winner—Warren Senior Damini Tandon a Tireless Advocate for Health Education and Medical Access

A standout leader and tireless health education promoter, Damini Tandon has been named this year’s Outstanding Senior. A bioengineering-biotechnology major graduating from Warren College, Tandon’s work focuses on increasing access to medical care for underserved communities in San Diego and abroad.

For the past year, she has served as president of Student Health Advocates, a peer health education program that conducts outreach and events for students on campus. After being selected through a competitive process in her freshman year, Tandon took the initiative to lead FITstop assessments—free fitness tests for students—before going on to oversee the entire program.

Tandon’s goal is to become a surgeon, and she plans on applying to medical school in the next year. She has already begun working with people in need. As a patient assistance volunteer for the Student-Run Free Health Clinic, organized by the UC San Diego School of Medicine, Tandon cares for underserved populations by facilitating the delivery of free medications and care. Also, as a member of Alternative Breaks—a UC San Diego student organization that conducts service trips around the world—Tandon helped plan a service trip to Nicaragua this summer, where her group will educate the community about oral hygiene and nutrition as well as refurbish the water system to improve clean water access to the village of Santa Julia.

Upon graduation, Tandon will prepare for her career in medicine by working as a student clinical research coordinator and scribe in the emergency department of Thornton Hospital.

Michael Porter
Michael Porter won this year's outstanding graduate student award.

Outstanding Graduate Award Winner—Materials Science and Engineering Grad Michael Porter a Master Collaborator and Mentor

His design inspiration comes from natural systems—like the tail of a seahorse, which can uniquely compress as a result of being composed of small plate-like bones that slide past each other. Named this year’s Outstanding Graduate award winner, Michael Porter is both an exceptional scholar and engaging mentor to undergraduates and local youth.

His research on flexible robotics has been featured in more than 100 media outlets and publications, including Popular Science and Scientific American. Over the past three years as a Ph.D. candidate in the department of materials science and engineering at UC San Diego, Porter maintained a 4.0 GPA, published 11 papers and delivered 14 national and international talks.

In addition to his research, Porter actively mentored the next generation of engineers. He donated his time to community outreach, presenting at local elementary and high schools and leading laboratory tours, communicating technically difficult topics across diverse ethnic, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.

A highly rated teaching assistant at UC San Diego, Porter built confidence and capability among the undergraduate students that he mentored. Many of his mentees became co-authors on his publications.

Porter also forged partnerships with six academic departments and nine institutions across four continents. His leadership resulted in numerous awards, including a Gordon Fellowship and National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Award. He will continue to build upon his work in bio-inspired design as assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Clemson University upon graduation.

Related story: Seahorse's armor gives engineers insight into robotics designs

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Media Contacts

Christine Clark
UCSD Communications
Phone: 858-534-7618
ceclark@ucsd.edu Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu

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