For Immediate Release
May 16, 2006
Contacts: Lee Tune, 301 405 4679 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Terp Grads Are Tops
A Student of WetlandsEarlier this year, University of Maryland senior Brian Banks spent eight days in the jungle. The crocodiles were cool, the monkeys were friendly - sat right on his shoulder - and the barracuda were pretty harmless. But the swimming jaguar - that was hard to believe. "It swam right by our boat."
The jungle excursion to Belize with a University of Maryland environmental studies program was just one of the hands-on programs that Banks has taken part in at Maryland. The Eastern Shore native came to Maryland thinking he wanted to be a veterinarian, but when he found the natural resources management major, he knew he'd found his passion - the environment, and especially wetlands and fringe areas. "We need people to understand the environment if we are to have a sustainable future," Banks says. "We need to find ways to control growth. Look at what happened after Katrina."
The first in his family to graduate from college, Banks spent his youth exploring wetland areas like Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. At Maryland he really got down in the depths on several projects, including a sea duck study at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and a study of an artificial wetland mitigation site in Prince Georges County. "The work started out dry, but it rained, and we were out in the muck and mud. It was fun, great to be out there." Now Banks plans to make a living helping to sustain those important wetland areas. He's applied for a job with an environmental consulting firm. "Development needs to occur, but there are smarter ways to do it."
Brian is the son of Nathan and Avis Banks of Cambridge. He is a 2001 graduate of South Dorchester High School, where he was a member of the golf team, National Honor Society and drum major of the marching band. He also played the sousaphone in the University of Maryland marching band.
Former Marine Conquers Math and Econ, Strives to Leave No One BehindAfter Reginald Covington finished serving his country as a United States Marine, he took on new challenges as a college student at the University of Maryland. By his own admission, the transition from Marine to a student of math and economics initially was difficult, and his first couple of semesters required a lot of adjustment.
But, since that time, Covington has excelled both as a student in the university's College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (CMPS) and as a mentor for young minority students in the community through organizations like Beyond These Walls and the Upward Bound Saturday Academy.
"Reginald has blossomed into an intellectually gifted student, a classroom leader, and an exceptional ambassador for the college," said Charley Lloyd, program coordinator for diversity in the CMPS dean's office. "Reginald seeks out opportunities to teach and promote science and mathematics among groups traditionally under-represented in these fields, and he also spends countless hours mentoring, tutoring, and encouraging his peers in CMPS." Lloyd said.
Covington has received numerous awards and scholarships including the James A. Yorke Young Scientist Award and the PRIME Service Scholarship from CMPS, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation scholarship from the National Science Foundation and the Maryland Space Grant scholarship from the Maryland Space Grant Consortium, the state's implementation arm of NASA's National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.
On Sunday, May 21, Covington will receive a double major in mathematics and economics from the university. With that in hand, he will head for yet another challenge, graduate school. Last summer, Covington participated in a pre-doctoral certificate program in economics at Duke University. That experience led him to decide to pursue a Ph.D. in economics at Cornell University after he graduates from Maryland.
Covington says that his long-term goals are to teach and empower young minority college students as a faculty member of a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and to better understand the socio-economic disparities among communities of color.
Undergrad Student Aces Research TooAmir Ahmadi is an accomplished researcher well beyond his undergraduate years. In addition to graduating with a double degree in Electrical Engineering and Math, Ahmadi has worked on several research projects, received numerous awards, and has already published research papers within his field.
Academically, Amir challenged himself by participating in the University Honors and Electrical and Computer Engineering Departmental Honors Program. He has maintained a 4.0 and was awarded the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair's Award as this year's outstanding graduating electrical engineering student. The award is presented to a student who portrays outstanding academic performance and represents a commitment to educational excellence.
"Throughout my undergraduate studies, I have had the opportunity of contributing to three different research projects, covering the experimental, theoretical, and computational aspects of research," said Ahmadi, who has noted that the research opportunities offered to undergraduate students at the University of Maryland are one of the special things about the university.
Ahmadi participated both in the Training and Research Experiences in Nonlinear Dynamics (TREND) program, where he earned first place for his work, as well as the Maryland Engineering Research Internship Teams (MERIT) program -- where he earned runner up honors. The TREND Program, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, aims to exposure talented students to an 11-week summer research program in which they concentrate on team-based and cross-disciplinary research. In 2005, Ahmadi and his team mate, Jennifer Rieser of the Georgia Institute of Technology, took the first place award for a project entitled "Fractal Patterns in Chaotic Mixing." The MERIT Program, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Army Research Laboratory, combines cutting-edge, team-based research with technical and educational seminars.
As a junior, Ahmadi won two prizes for his research paper titled, "Adjustable Time Delays for Optical Clock Recovery Systems." He received the Undergraduate First Prize in the 2005 annual paper competition of the DC Council of Engineers and Architect Societies (DCCEAS), as well as the Washington Society of Engineers' 2005 Young Engineer Prize. He also has presented papers at the Optical Fiber Communications (OFC) conference and the International conference on chaos and non-linear dynamics. In the fall, he will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a Ph.D. in control theory.
In addition to academics and research, Amir also excels in athletics. He is a talented tennis player, who has played since the age of 8. Growing up, he was a member of the Iranian National Junior Tennis Team and at Maryland he was the intramural tennis champion last fall.
Exceptional Senior Is Grounded by Her Love of GeoscienceSenior Katherine (Kate) Burgy combines imagination, initiative, and scientific rigor to achieve her academic goals all while maintaining a high level of professionalism. She is a senior with a cumulative overall GPA of 3.48.
"Kate Burgy is certainly the most outstanding undergraduate researcher among graduating Geology students since I assumed the undergrad directorship," said John Merck, director of undergraduate studies for the department of geology.
Burgy arrived at the University of Maryland as a declared geology major in fall 2002, but she spent a year as a biology major before returning to geology in spring of 2005. Kate will tell you, and her record shows, that while her hiatus in biology confirmed her original love of geosciences, it also broadened her intellectual horizons in the natural sciences.
During their senior year, Geology students are required to complete a required two-semester senior thesis project. Kate chose to examine the structural controls on the orientation of Mather Gorge at Great Falls of the Potomac. The average grade received for thesis projects is B, but Burgy completed the first semester of this series with a grade of A+. "This grade is unheard of and reflects both the exceptional quality of her field work and data analysis, and the masterful professional quality of her presentations," said Merck.
Burgy recently was named a co-recipient with Mohamed Abutaleb (physics and mathematics) of the J. Robert Dorfman Prize for Undergraduate Research. Named in honor of J. R. Dorfman, a former dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the $1,000 prize is awarded for the best research project conducted by a current CMPS undergraduate.
"I think the things I enjoyed most about the undergraduate research were learning how professional geologists approach a problem in the field and being able to work closely with the faculty of the department," said Burgy. "My research touched on several different areas of geology and everyone was exceptionally willing to share their time and expertise with me."
Read Diamondback story on mom and son who will graduate together.
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