Joseph Asfouri ’23 receives IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Student Award

Alumnus honored for his achievements in neuroscience, STEM community service.

Joseph Asfouri receives Outstanding Student award

Rice alumnus Joseph Asfouri ’23 has received the prestigious 2023 Alton B. Zerby and Carl T Koerner Outstanding Electrical or Computer Engineering Student Award from IEEE Eta Kappa Nu. According to IEEE-HKN, this award recognizes outstanding scholastic excellence and high moral character, coupled with demonstrated exemplary service to the community.

Asfouri is now a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge pursuing a master’s degree in biotechnology. At the university, he works in a lab specializing in flexible bioelectronic implants that record and stimulate cell activity. With a research focus in neurotechnology, he is developing a device to improve cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

Asfouri earned his B.S. in electrical engineering and B.A. in neuroscience at Rice, working in the lab of Jacob Robinson, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and of bioengineering. “Starting in [Robinson’s] lab was the catalyst for everything else I was able to achieve at Rice and now at Cambridge,” said Asfouri.

The Outstanding Student Award recognizes Asfouri’s significant academic achievements at Rice, where he won a Goldwater Scholarship and Rice Engineering Alumni Association awards for merit and research excellence. Outside of the classroom, Asfouri took advantage of undergraduate summer research experiences at Baylor College of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and the University of Washington where he helped investigate treatment-resistant depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders, and brain-computer interfaces.

This award also honors Asfouri’s remarkable service to Rice University and the Houston community. As a freshman, Asfouri launched the K-12 FIRST Robotics alumni club at Rice, growing the student-run organization to more than 100 members by 2023.

“I participated in FIRST Robotics starting in elementary school, and it was a tremendous benefit [that helped] me get into Rice,” Asfouri said. “To give back to the organization, I was very motivated to start this club my freshman year.”

The FIRST Robotics alumni club at Rice helps K-12 students from underserved communities form school robotics clubs and raises awareness of the value of STEM careers in these communities. By mentoring the teams and making robotics more accessible, Asfouri and his peers removed barriers to STEM careers for students impacted by the program.

Asfouri gives credit to professors in the ECE department for fueling his passion for neurotechnology and to Rice University’s opportunities for extracurricular enrichment. “Rice is also a recipient of this award,” Asfouri said. “It recognizes Rice’s excellence, and I am a product of that.”

Asfouri extends special thanks to the Rice Eta Kappa Nu chapter president Max Bowman, faculty advisor, Joseph Cavallaro, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and to Norma Santamaria, program administrator for diversity and inclusion and undergraduate student engagement, who nominated him for this award. He received the award at the 2024 ECEDHA Annual Conference on March 17 in Tucson, Arizona.