AMPT Center presents its first Resiliency Awards

Five Rice graduate students demonstrate 'demonstrated exceptional resilience in research in the face of challenges posed by COVID-19.'

Headshots of award recipients

The Additive Manufacturing, Performance and Tribology (AMPT) Center at Rice has presented its first Resiliency Awards to five graduate students in AMPT-related fields.

The awards were given to students who have “demonstrated exceptional resilience in research in the face of challenges posed by COVID-19.”

Receiving $1,500 each are:

Nidish Narayanaa Balaji, mechanical engineering (MECH); nominated by Matthew Brake, assistant professor of MECH. Balaji helped create a new research practicum for undergraduates and wrote or co-wrote four accepted journal papers during the pandemic on new techniques for nonlinear system identification and quasi-static analysis of structures. 

Victoria Granja, MECH; nominated by Fred Higgs, vice provost for academic affairs, director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, and the John and Ann Doerr Professor of MECH. Granja responded to COVID-imposed limitations on lab activities by finding innovative ways to keep experimental work going and developed an artificial intelligence tool that is the subject of a forthcoming paper.  

Barclay Jumet, MECH; nominated by Daniel Preston, assistant professor of MECH. As a first-year graduate student researching additive-manufacturing approaches to creating advanced textile structures for wearable devices, Jumet devoted time and resources to designing, testing and building a low-cost classroom partition system that enabled a local elementary school to continue teaching safely during the pandemic.

Njideka (Syndi) Nnorom, chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE); nominated by Rafael Verduzco, associate professor of ChBE. Nnorom led efforts to pivot the department’s graduate recruiting to virtual forms and spearheaded initiatives to advance inclusion and diversity throughout ChBE, with a focus on graduate and faculty recruiting. 

Faye Yap, MECH; nominated by Preston, who highlighted Yap’s adaptability in shifting her thermodynamics research to focus on thermal decontamination of personal protective equipment, leading to a highly cited paper and collaboration with the University of Texas Medical Branch. 

The members of the selection committee are:

Carlo De Benardi, additive manufacturing industry lead with ConocoPhillips and chair of the American Petroleum Institute’s 20S Task Force

Sergio Kapusta, professor in the practice of engineering leadership, RCEL; executive director of the Rice Energy and Natural Resources Initiative

Joanna Nathan (BIOE ’11), manager of New Ventures at the Johnson and Johnson Center for Device Innovation; president-elect of Rice Engineering Alumni (REA)

The winners will be formally recognized at the second annual AMPT Symposium on Jan. 22. The awards are supported by AMPT Center corporate member ConocoPhillips and the REA.