Program Notes: Graduate Alumni

From top: Qi Duan (far left in group photo); Tomoyo Saito; William Weiss; Shahnoza Boboeva

Qi Duan PhD’08
recently won the poster award (First Place) in the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine’s 2016 MR Engineering study group poster contest.

Tomoya Saito MS’13 writes, “During my time at Columbia, I developed a strong interest in applying my engineering skills to solve real-world problems in healthcare. This was inspired partly by the fascinating research I did in Professor Samuel Sia’s lab developing microfluidic diagnostic devices for global health. After graduating, I started working at biotechnology company Genentech, Inc., in South San Francisco, to try and put my engineering skills to the test. After starting in a two-year rotational program in process development, I joined the device development group as an engineer supporting the development and commercialization of medical devices for drug delivery. I most recently transitioned to a device team leader role for one of our marketed devices, leading the engineering team and working collaboratively to support commercial production and help bring critical medicines to patients. I am truly thankful to Columbia Engineering for providing me with the skills to get to where I am and allowing me to make a difference in healthcare.”

Dejia Kong MS’16
writes, “I am now doing an internship in West Covina, CA. My job is mainly RA about solid fuel cells.”

Jacques Zakin MS’50 writes, “After graduation I held two industrial jobs, most notably with Socony Mobil Oil Company Research Labs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (11 years). I had the good fortune to receive a company fellowship to study at NYU (D Eng Sci ’59). In 1962, my wife (a 1950 Barnard alum) and three children and I migrated to the Ozarks, where I taught at the University of Missouri–Rolla for 15 years. My research focused on drag reduction studies of polymer solutions. Two sabbaticals, 1968–69 at the Technion in Haifa and the other at the Naval Research Labs in Washington, DC (1975–76), were quite research productive. In 1966 our twin daughters were born. In 1977 I joined the Ohio State Department of Chemical Engineering as department chair. I served until 1994, following which I became the Helen C. Kurtz Professor of Chemical Engineering. A split sabbatical followed—six months as Fulbright Research Professor at the Technion and six months at an NJIT Environmental Consortium.

“In 2000 I became Helen C. Kurtz Professor Emeritus. Since then, I have been teaching parttime and continuing research focusing on surfactant drag reduction studies including enhancement of heat transfer properties. Columbus has turned out to be a gem of a place to live— not as exciting as New York (but not as crowded) nor as quiet as Rolla but having qualities of both.”

Rishee Jain MS’11, PhD’13 will be joining the Stanford University faculty this fall as an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. He will be the founding director of the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab, a research lab focused on utilizing data science to deepen the understanding of sustainable urban building systems and human dynamics.

Zhe He MS’09 writes, “After graduating from Columbia Engineering with an MS in computer science in 2009, I obtained my PhD in computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where I developed semantic and structural methods for improving the quality of biomedical ontologies and terminologies. After I got my PhD in January 2014, I joined Columbia University Medical Center as a postdoctoral research scientist and did research in data-driven assessment of clinical trial generalizability. In August 2015, I finished my postdoc training and joined Florida State University’s School of Information as a tenure-track assistant professor. At FSU, I am now teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses on information technology and doing research in health and biomedical informatics.”

Dragomir R. Radev MS’96, PhD’99, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the Computational Linguistics and Information Retrieval (CLAIR) lab at the University of Michigan, has been elected a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for “contributions to natural language processing and computational linguistics.”

Dragomir is an authority in the field of computational linguistics, which utilizes insights from computer science and linguistics to understand computational aspects of language. His research involves information retrieval, natural language processing, machine learning, bioinformatics, text and data mining, social networks, social media, collective behavior, text generation, information extraction, and artificial intelligence. His work has included “News in Essence,” an online multidocument news summarization system employing information retrieval, natural language processing, and information extraction to categorize, distill, present, and analyze information on current events.

Dragomir is cofounder and program chair of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO), an annual contest in which high school student teams solve linguistic and natural language processing problems. Finalists compete each year in the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL), and he has served as head coach of the U.S. team at IOL for nearly a decade. He also edited and compiled Puzzles in Logic, Languages, and Computation, a two-volume set that collects the best English-language problems created for students competing in NACLO. Additionally, he serves as secretary of the Association for Computational Linguistics.

William Weiss MS’74, MPhil’78 writes, “Columbia always makes a difference. In an on-campus interview in 1978, the interviewer immediately asked me how soon I could start at his company. I said, ‘You don’t know anything about me, and you’re already offering a job to me?’ He replied, ‘I know you are getting your degree from Columbia Engineering; that’s all I need to know.’ I had never been to Newport, Rhode Island, but when I went there for an interview with the Navy’s submarine research lab, I knew I had found the place I had always been looking for. There have been and will be so many fascinating projects. I am part of the Navy Task Force on Climate Change. A bucket list trip was going on a Navy/NASA expedition to a glacier in Greenland. If anyone would like some spectacular photos of Greenland, just send an e-mail to me at At 64, I am closer to the end of my career than even the middle, but I keep charging on, enjoying the challenges of each day and looking forward to the next exciting adventure.”

Shahnoza Boboeva MS’15 writes, “During my studies I took classes which were related to sustainable energy and sustainability, and at the same time I did my master’s thesis on ‘The potential of a waste-to-energy plant in Tajikistan.’ My supervisor was Professor Nickolas Themelis from the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department. Currently, I am working at the New York City Department of Design and Construction as a project manager. I am managing a $20MM project on design and replacement of cityowned petroleum storage tanks in 38 sites in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The main purpose of my current project is to reduce CO2 emissions into the environment by using clean fuel oil. My current project and position are very interesting, and I hope that my current achievements are just a beginning. In the future, I will do my best to help our environment, our Earth, to become cleaner, greener, and more sustainable, where people will be able to live healthily and happily.”

from top: Michael Horodniceanu; Niti Poosomboon and family; Mukund Sanghi

Since 2008, Michael Horodniceanu MS’73 has served as president of MTA Capital Construction, where he oversees construction of more than $20 billion in Metropolitan Transportation Authority megaprojects—the largest transit infrastructure program in the United States. Projects include the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, and Penn Station Access for the Metro-North Railroad. These projects have earned Michael a worldwide reputation as a recognized expert in the fields of transportation infrastructure and engineering. Most recently, he has traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel, as a pro bono advisor on the new light rail system being built there, after a delegation from that city toured the MTA’s megaprojects. Similarly, Michael was invited to Melbourne, Australia, to consult on its massive rail project after a delegation including Victoria’s premier made two trips to the US to see MTA’s projects firsthand. He was recently named one of the real estate industry’s “Power 100” by the Commercial Observer and has been featured on the cover of Engineering News-Record for his many accomplishments

Etienne Meriaux MS’16 writes, “I’ve moved back to France, where I am now working for the luxury division of L’Oréal in supply chain management. It is a very stimulating and enriching first job, and amazing to see all the supply chain and business concepts I learned at Columbia applied in real life.”

Niti Poosomboon MS’16 writes, “After graduating I have been in New York City because I am currently working at EXL Service as an analytics consultant. I am mainly spending my time with my family, who has been visiting from Thailand, after work and during the weekends. However, I am planning trips to Connecticut, Toronto, and Japan later this year to freshen myself up after tough classes at Columbia.”

Mukund Sanghi MS’09 writes, “After graduating from The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, where I pursued operations research, I joined my family business based in Rajasthan, which includes cinema, food and beverages, fuel, and automobiles. The family business dates back a century now, founded by my great-grandfather Shri Motilal G Sanghi, who was a pioneer in the automobile industry, and my grandfather, statesman and parliamentarian Shri N K Sanghi. Recently, I founded a book publishing company called Pirates, which publishes fiction and nonfiction titles. A film produced by me under the banner of Pirates called This Will End in Murder was picked up for sale in Berlin this year, for which I traveled to the 66th Berlin International Film Festival and the 69th Cannes Film Festival. Myself and my wife, Kanika, who is a graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology, are blessed with a baby girl named Mira. We stay in the beautiful lake city of Udaipur, India.”

Compiled by Jesse Adams