2021 Outstanding Students

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, May 25, 2021

    Each spring, the Wyant College of Optical Sciences recognizes incredible students, as nominated by professors and selected by the OSC scholarship committee. We would like to congratulate Dominique "Nikki" Galvez (Outstanding Senior); Ravn Jenkins, Khawlah Al Yahyaei, Jingwei Zhao, and Shelbi Jenkins (Outstanding TAs); Sawyer Miller (Outstanding Graduate Student); Brandon Hellman (2021 Jack Jewell Endowed Research Award for Extreme Optics); and Alyssa Baller (OSE Wildcat Award). Congratulations to the 2020 - 2021 Outstanding Students of the Year! 

    Outstanding Graduate Student

    The Outstanding Graduate Student award was given to Sawyer Miller (nominated by Stanley Pau & Russell Chipman). Professor Pau had to say of Sawyer:

    Sawyer Miller was the 2020-2021 Outstanding Graduate Student recipient.

    I first met Mr. Miller through the NSF Research in Optics REU program at the University of Arizona during the summer of 2016. Mr. Miller worked in my group as an undergraduate student and later joined my group as a Ph.D. student in our college in 2017. He is maintaining an excellent GPA of 4.0 in our program and has been awarded the Facebook Reality Labs Liquid Crystal Research Award last year and an ARCS Foundation Scholar Award for his Ph.D. research this year. Mr. Miller is a diligent researcher and has published four peer-reviewed articles with more publications in the pipeline...I rank Mr. Miller’s ability to conduct independent research comparable to above 5% of the PhD student population. He is a quick learner and he does not give up.

    Professor Chipman had to say of Sawyer:

    I have known Sawyer for three years, first as I observed his research in Stanley Pau’s research group, and more recently as Sawyer has assisted me on a complex polarization ray tracing project for a waveguide with a diffraction grating on one face. Sawyer has a superior mastery of his core optics knowledge, accompanied by extensive knowledge in his area of specialization. Based on Sawyer’s graduate school performance, he should have a very successful scientific career...Sawyer has been very thorough in mastering the fabrication technologies for spun liquid crystal films for polarizers, retarders, and arrays of such elements...Then Sawyer has mastered the opto-mechanics of aligning arrays of LC polarizing elements to submicron accuracy with matching focal planes to assemble polarizing cameras.

    Most recently Sawyer has shown his mastery of optical engineering by branching out into polarization ray tracing research where I’ve been extremely pleased by his grasp of the fundamentals of this complex subject.

    Sawyer embodies the best characteristics of our graduate students: studious, intelligent, persistent, and creative. Thus I give Sawyer my highest recommendation. 

    Outstanding Undergraduate Student

    Dominique "Nikki" Galvez was the 2020-2021 Outstanding undergraduate student recipient.The Outstanding Undergraduate Student award was given to Senior student Dominique "Nikki" Galvez (nominated by Wyant College Academic Programs). Nikki completed the BS OSE program this Spring 2021 and will begin the OSC Ph.D. program in Fall 2021. Nikki also minored in electrical and computer engineering and mathematics. While an undergraduate she spent time as a research engineer in the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute: Tissue Optics Lab. On top of her research experience Nikki has been active in university groups including Women in Optics (WiO) as the Outreach Chair.




    Outstanding Teaching Assistants

    The Outstanding Teaching Assistant award was given to the following students Ravn Jenkins (nominated by Mike Nofziger), Khawlah Al Yahyaei (nominated by Mike Nofziger), Jingwei Zhao (nominated by Jim Schwiegerling), and Shelbi Jenkins (nominated by Masud Mansuripur). 

    Ravn Jenkins & Khawlah Al Yahyaei (nominated by Mike Nofziger) 

    Ravn Jenkins was the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Assistant recipient.

    Ravn and Khawlah are currently my GTA’s in OPTI 380B, our junior lab class this semester. They are working as a team to teach this course, at a level of performance and dedication greater than I’ve ever seen, in my 32 years of teaching our undergraduate labs. I provide the weekly lab lectures, background material and handouts, but Ravn and Khawlah are doing the “real teaching” during each lab session.

    Khawlah Al Yahyaei was the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Assistant recipient.

    Throughout the semester they have worked together as a team, coordinating their teaching, grading, and preparedness. Before each week’s lab sessions, they spend 6-8 hours to build and understand the circuits and software. During the labs, each has approached their job with a high level of dedication to, and concern for, their students’ learning—a level of professionalism that I rarely see in my TA’s. Both Ravn and Khawlah have embraced their job and have made it their own (something that has been incredibly helpful in times of COVID, as I have not been on campus during much of each week). I have had complete confidence and trust in them, knowing that our juniors are being provided with superb guidance and teaching.


    Jingwei Zhao (nominated by Jim Schwiegerling)

    Jingwei Zhao was the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Assistant recipient.In Jim's nomination he spoke highly of Jingwei's ability to "ensure that the students received the material seamlessly and that the end of the course and grading went smoothly." Additionally, Jim spoke highly of her ability to take up additional responsibilities and his gratefulness for all her hard work. Jingwei was also the TA for 403A/503A with Masud Mansuripur, who also spoke highly of her work ethic.





    Shelbi Jenkins (nominated by Masud Mansuripur)

    Shelbi Jenkins receives the 2018-2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant award from John Koshel

    Shelbi did a phenomenal job last semester as the TA for Opti 501...Shelbi maintained many office hours, communicated with a large number of campus as well as distance students (either in her office, or in the Op-Sci common area, or via zoom and phone), and graded the homework and exams. Shelbi was extremely competent as well as enthusiastic about her work, and the students were very happy to have such a dedicated TA. As you know, Opti 501 is one of the most difficult courses that we offer here at the College, and I was grateful to have Shelbi as my assistant to help students throughout the semester.


    2021 Jack Jewell Endowed Research Award for Extreme Optics

    Brandon Hellman was the 2020-2021 Jack Jewell Research Award for Extreme Optics recipient.

    The Jack Jewell Endowed Research Award for Extreme Optics was presented to Brandon Hellman who was selected by the OSC Scholarship Committee. Read more about the award and qualificatins for it.






    2021 OSE Wildcat Award

    Alyssa Baller was the 2020-2021 OSE Wildcat recipient.

    Alyssa Baller was selected as the first recipient of the OSE Wildcat Award. This award recognizes a graduating student who has shown resiliency and perseverance through obstacles to the educational journey. The name references the Wildcat mascot and the true grit of our students who “showed the fight of wild cats.” The OSE Wildcat Award will become an annual award starting in the 2021 - 2022 school year. In it's inaugural year the award was generously funded by Senior Academic Undergraduate Advisor, Amber R. Soergel.