SOCORRO, N.M. – Three students who have found support and success studying engineering at New Mexico Tech recently received outstanding student awards from the New Mexico Society of Professional Engineers (NMSPE). The professional engineers group honored the students for their outstanding academic records and contributions to the university and community. Samantha Lindholm, Kayleigh Cameron, and James Montoya received recognition from the NMSPE Albuquerque Chapter during the chapter’s E-Week Conference awards ceremony Friday, Feb. 24
According to Corey Leclerc, Ph.D., New Mexico Tech Engineering Department dean, three students from the three major technical universities in New Mexico are recommended for the outstanding engineer award by faculty members who are also professional engineers. Dr. Leclerc and associate professors of mechanical engineering Drs. Mostafa Hassanalian and Ashok Ghosh attended the awards ceremony in Albuquerque.
Samantha Lindholm, named Student of the Year, was homeschooled growing up in Albuquerque. She will graduate with a chemical engineering degree in May 2023 and plans to pursue a master’s degree at Tech, continuing her current research on photothermally reversible epoxies using Diels-Alder chemistry, conventional epoxies, and synthesis of several other polymers.
Lindholm said she also will continue her internship with Sandia National Labs, working in polymer development and characterization. She is the president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers student chapter, involved in the chapter’s community volunteering and on-campus fundraisers; is an active member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society; and serves on a Student Government Association committee.
Lindholm said she chose engineering to apply her love for science to problems facing humanity.
“My interest in polymers stems from my desire to help minimize plastic pollution, and chemical engineering was the best way to get close to that issue and make a positive impact,” she said.
Kayleigh Cameron, named Student of the Year Runner-Up, is from Kent, Washington, graduating from Kentlake High School in 2020. She will graduate in May 2023, earning a materials engineering degree with minors in chemical engineering and explosives engineering. Next fall Cameron is planning to return to Tech to pursue a master’s degree in materials engineering.
Cameron plays for both the women’s soccer and rugby teams, serves as an officer for Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, and is a member of the Materials Club. She worked at an internship last summer at Los Alamos National Labs in detonator production engineering and this summer is planning to be at Sandia National Labs. Her on-campus employment is working for Dr. Chelsey Hargather in materials engineering and her current research project is additive manufacturing of an energetic initiator ink.
“I wanted to study engineering because I was always interested in math and science and I wanted to use those interests to help solve real-world problems,” Cameron said.
James Montoya, named Second Runner-Up, is from Flora Vista and graduated from Grace Baptist Academy in Farmington. A junior, he is studying mechanical engineering and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. Montoya is interning for SciVista in Santa Fe and is involved in creating virtual reality modules for teaching calculus.
Montoya has been involved in robotics research projects for and was the co-lead of Dr. Hassanalian’s 2021-2022 NASA Minds Team. This research led to the creation of a roly poly-inspired robot. He also presented this research at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) SciTech conference. Montoya is involved in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded project to create a hybrid unmanned ground vehicle/unmanned aerial vehicle (UGV/UAV) system for use in mine emergencies. For this project, he is developing a virtual reality training module, and does work with mechatronics for the UGV’s UAV deployment system.
Montoya is president of the AIAA Student Branch Club and president of the Society of Allied Weight Engineers Student Branch Club. He has volunteered for Science Olympiad, judging an event involving students creating rubber band-powered airplanes, and has volunteered with STEM Outreach events on campus and at Socorro High School.
Montoya said that from a young age, he has always been fascinated with machines and how they worked. Encouragement from his parents prompted him to pursue an engineering career.
“I chose mechanical engineering because mechanical engineering touches a huge variety of topics, and I felt it would allow me to have the potential to understand and work with the greatest variety of machines,” he said. “My favorite thing about engineering and what draws me to it is the fact that it gives me the opportunity to design and create really useful and cool machines.”
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