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Pennsylvania Epsilon, the Lafayette chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, received two awards at the organization’s national convention this year.

Lafayette earned the Projects Award, recognizing excellent breadth and depth of interests in chapter projects for the 2001-2002 academic year, and a Secretary’s Commendation, indicating excellence and punctuality in chapter reporting.

“The awards demonstrate Pennsylvania Epsilon’s renewed enthusiasm and commitment as of spring 2002,” says chemical engineering major Alanna Cleary ’03 (Bloomsburg, Pa.), chapter president. “The chapter plans to continue its activity and already has several events started or planned for this semester, including a mentoring program for first-year engineering students and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.”

If either award can be maintained for three consecutive years, Tau Beta Pi will give Lafayette a $500 scholarship per award for every year that the streak continues.

In addition to the national recognition of the chapter, Pennsylvania Epsilon members have distinguished themselves recently for individual accomplishments.

Vilas Menon ‘02 graduated summa cum laude in May with honors in chemical engineering and French. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he earned a 4.0 grade point average. Menon speaks English, French, and Hindi fluently and studied Chinese for three semesters. For his senior honors theses, he studied the relationship between the French language and political power in the former French colony of Senegal, and designed a chemical engineering plant that uses bacteria to decompose raw mustard gas into nontoxic materials. He wrote the former thesis in French.

Menon published an article on his research with Javad Tavakoli, associate professor and head of chemical engineering, and two other students, “Solar Disinfection of Water,” in Proceedings of the Third NSF International Symposium and Technology Expo Small Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems. He also presented research at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ National Spring Conference and made a presentation on “The Trials and Rewards of Translating Old French Texts” at the 15th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Menon conducted an internship in summer 2001 at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Netherlands

Menon received the George Wharton Pepper Prize, presented to the graduating senior who most closely represents “the Lafayette ideal”; American Institute of Chemical Engineers Donald F. Othmer Award, given to the junior chemical engineering major with the highest grade point average for two years; Eugene P. Chase Phi Beta Kappa Prize, for demonstrating scholarship as a first-year student; William G. McLean Tau Beta Pi Prize, awarded to a sophomore engineering student based on academic performance, campus citizenship, and professional orientation; Dr. E.L. McMillen –K.K. Malhotra ’49 Prize, awarded to juniors who have earned a high cumulative grade point average in chemical engineering and a high level of proficiency in the unit operations laboratory; Donald U. Noblett Prize in Chemical Engineering, based on high academic achievement in chemical engineering and outstanding promise of career excellence; and James Alexander Petrie Prize in French, awarded to a student demonstrating a high degree of proficiency in French. After graduating, he accepted a position as an assistant pharmaceutical scientist at Akzo Nobel.

Marquis Scholar Daniel Connolly ’02 won first prize for his research presentation at the mid-Atlantic regional conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and will present his work again at the institute’s national meeting next month in Indianapolis, Ind. Like Menon, he graduated summa cum laude with honors in chemical engineering, a 4.0 grade point average, and membership in Phi Beta Kappa; was a recipient of the Eugene P. Chase Phi Beta Kappa Prize, Dr. E.L. McMillen–K.K. Malhotra ’49 Prize, and Donald U. Noblett Prize in Chemical Engineering; and coauthored a paper published by Proceedings of the Third NSF International Symposium and Technology Expo Small Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems and presented his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Completed in collaboration with engineers at Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Allentown, Pa., Connolly’s senior thesis may help the chemical industry bolster the quality of fluids shipped through pipelines. Previously, he worked with emulsions manufacturing at Air Products Polymers Group in Piedmont, S.C. After graduating, he took a job as a scientist at Rohm & Haas, a manufacturer of specialty chemicals.

Marquis Scholar Erin O’Brien ’02, who graduated with degrees in civil engineering and International Studies, was honored as one of the nation’s top undergraduate civil engineering students in the December 2001 issue of the national magazine CE News. She was among 40 students profiled in an annual feature called “Spotlight on Star Students.” O’Brien spent Jan. 19-25 in Oslo, Norway, on a National Science Foundation-funded trip to exchange information about how the United States and Norway conduct environmental site assessments.

O’Brien presented research on development of a hydrologic Geographical Information System database for the Bushkill Creek watershed at the 2002 Conference on Water Resources Planning and Management in Roanoke, Va. The conference was sponsored by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. As a participant in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, O’Brien conducted the research with David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Roger Ruggles, associate professor and head of civil and environmental engineering. O’Brien’s project registered data with the Lehigh Planning Commission’s GIS, allowing correlation of spatial trends in hydrology, stream chemistry, and sedimentation with factors such as topography, geology, land use, and soil type.

A recipient of Lafayette’s Carroll Phillips Bassett Prize for Civil Engineering Juniors, O’Brien was one of 15 civil engineering seniors who developed proposals to help the borough of Alpha, N.J., decide what to do with its aging John Dolak Memorial Pool. She also participated in a design project commissioned by the National Canal Museum, which sought to build an old-fashioned railroad bridge for its antique train. She was a member of a student team that fell one point short of first place in the Pennsylvania-Delaware Region of the 2002 National Concrete Canoe Competition.

O’Brien served summer and January internships at Greenhorne & O’Mara, a civil engineering firm that specializes in highway design. She began working full-time in the company’s structures department after graduating.

Marquis Scholar Ashley Wesmiller ’03 (Pittsburgh, Pa.), an electrical and computer engineering major, has researched ways to detect land mines and distinguish images of them from other objects. The research was part of an international effort aimed at stemming the tide of innocent deaths, injuries, and land use waste that result from minefields. Wesmiller worked on the project over the past summer break and January interim session between semesters as an EXCEL Scholar with Ismail Jouny, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Captain of women’s varsity soccer, Wesmiller was selected for the Verizon District II Academic All-America Women’s Soccer Team last year. She was the Patriot League Women’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2000-2001. A goalkeeper, Wesmiller helped lead Lafayette to a program-record 11 wins for the second straight season in 2001. In the process, the Leopards qualified for the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 1992. In 2000, she led Lafayette to 11 wins and an appearance in the postseason at the ECAC Tournament.

Wesmiller is a recipient of the Eugene P. Chase Phi Beta Kappa Prize; the Rexroth Prize in German Language Studies Award, given to students for meritorious achievement in German; and the Lehigh Valley Section of the ASM Award, given annually to the student with the most impressive record in the introductory engineering materials course. She is a McKelvy Scholar and studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium, in the spring of 2001. She also has served as a volunteer peer mentor for local Lehigh Valley soccer players.

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