Three Presidential Fellows Begin Graduate Work
For the first time, Columbia Engineering's Graduate School welcomed
Presidential Distinguished Fellows as part of the incoming class.
The fellowships, established last year for incoming Ph.D., D.E.S.
and M.S./Ph.D. students, include full tuition plus an annual stipend
of $24,000 for three years, including three months of summer research.
They are offered to the top candidates from all departments and
were chosen by faculty from the Departments of Chemistry, Physics
and Mathematics in addition to Engineering.
"This was the most competitive applicant pool our School has
ever seen," said Thomas Rock, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student
Services. "It was not only the largest but also of the highest
Dean Rock believes that the Fellowships are responsible for this
year's excellent results. "They enabled us to be more competitive
with the other top engineering schools, such as Stanford, MIT and
Carnegie Mellon. Those are schools where there are many cross-applications
with Columbia and, in years past, we have lost excellent students
because we were not able to offer comparable stipends and opportunities."
This year's winners have taken differing routes to reach the Morningside
Campus. Mehmet Ozgun is a graduate of the University of Southern
California in electrical engineering. George Patounakis, also an
electrical engineering major, is a graduate of Rutgers University
in Piscataway, NJ, and Mark A. Rice is a chemical engineering major
from the University of Kansas.
For all three, New York is a new experience. Mehmet Ozgun had adopted
the ways of the West Coast while at USC.
"I love to drive and I miss my sports car," he said,
"I'm not a subway kind of guy, and I'm just getting settled."
But on the positive side, he notes that, because people are not
all in cars, it is easier to get to know them. His first impression
of Columbia is of the friendliness of the people and the international
nature of both the student body and the city itself.
Ozgun designed a high frequency 500 MHz pulsar while at USC, worked
at Applied Micro Circuits Corp. in San Diego with a CMOS analog
group, and was a teaching assistant of a junior level electronics
course generally taught by entry or mid-level graduate students.
He intends to pursue his interest in circuits at Columbia, hoping
to combine a career in industry and academia.
Mark A. Rice, a chemical engineering major from the University
of Kansas, came to the East Coast for the first time to see Columbia,
among other graduate schools. His interest is in biomedical and
biotechnical engineering. Rice did research at the University of
Colorado in an NSF-sponsored project on tissue engineering and investigated
the effects of adding a synthetic polymer to Fibrin Glue constructs
used to grow cartilage. An avid Ultimate Frisbee player, he has
joined Columbia's team for practice at Baker Field.
George Patounakis, an electrical and computer engineering major
from Rutgers, was involved in research labs from the beginning of
his first year, working with virtual reality, automatic name placement
on maps and surface acoustic wave (SAW) filter modeling.
He is co-author of three papers that discuss virtual reality-based
training for the diagnosis of prostate cancer and the analysis of
SAW properties of epitaxial ZnO films grown on R-Al203 substrates.
During his undergraduate research, he gained considerable background
and experience in piezoelectric device physics and computer simulation
"These three Fellows have truly outstanding academic records
both in the classroom and as researchers," said Dean Rock,
"and we are happy to have been in the enviable position of
having to choose from so many exceptional applicants."