Seven graduating seniors selected as Purdue Engineering Fellows, to receive $20K

Seniors in ChE, ECE, EEE, ME, MSE and NE were among the fifth class of fellows, announced Sept. 11.
Group standing on stage
The fifth class of Purdue Engineering Fellows was announced during a ceremony on Sept. 11 at Fowler Hall. Pictured (from L-R): Ben Pekarek, Zach Logar, Jennifer Short, Kayla King, Arvind Raman, Griffin Laihinen, Bob Buckman, Rithika Athreya, Jake Marr and Alyssa Wilcox. 

“An excellent communicator, humble, hard-working and embodies what a Boilermaker should be.”

“The type of person that makes every organization better, more enjoyable and more satisfying for which to be a part.”

“Persistent and dedicated.”

“Pursuit of professional and intercultural development.”

“A diverse perspective and diverse set of experiences.”

“The most remarkable student I have ever met and one of the most outstanding professionals with which I have ever had the honor and pleasure to work.”

“An unparalleled level of performance to school and volunteer work.”

“A spirit of innovation.”

“Exceptional problem-solving abilities and passion for supporting students in their engineering careers.”

The list of kudos from nominators was long and resounding for the latest class of Purdue Engineering Fellows.

Seven seniors were announced as the fifth group at a ceremony on Sept. 11, all with robust accomplishments and contributions to the College of Engineering. All with impressive abilities to think creatively and to develop innovative solutions to problems, whether in the classroom, student life or in the community. All go well beyond the checked boxes for an honor that includes $20,000 upon graduation to be used in any desired endeavor. All buzzing with the kind of potential that has Robert H. Buckman (BSChE ’59) and wife Joyce A. Mollerup on the edge of their seats, in anticipation of what’s next. 

That’s exactly why benefactors Buckman and Mollerup wanted to make an initial gift five years ago for this initiative and why they increased it, both in the number of students and amount of the cash award, in 2022: To open windows of opportunity for special engineering students who make a difference and deserve to be celebrated.

“The greatest satisfaction we have ever had is watching other people grow to be the best that they can be,” said Buckman, who attended the event at Fowler on Monday evening. “The Purdue Engineering Fellows are those that best display that distinction at this time.”

Students were nominated as juniors by faculty and staff. A committee made the final decision on the class.. 

The 2023-2024 Purdue Engineering Fellows

Rithika Athreya

Rithika Athreya, Davidson School of Chemical Engineering

Athreya, a fifth-year senior from Montgomery, New Jersey, is a five-term Co-op student, fulfilling four co-op terms with Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, and one internship with L’Oréal USA in Clark, New Jersey. She is the president of the Purdue chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where she connects ChE students with faculty, industry and the community. She also serves as a teaching assistant for the Office of Professional Practice, leading its ENGR 103 professional development and elective courses.

She is a College of Engineering ambassador and holds membership within the John Martinson Honors College (JMHC), Omega Chi Epsilon ChE Honor Society and Mortar Board Senior Honor Society. She has engaged in two interdisciplinary undergraduate research projects at Purdue, one in ChE and BME and another in ChE and Engineering Education. Additionally, she has completed her JMHC scholarly project studying the Indian Diaspora. Lastly, she has participated in a Maymester program in Singapore studying bio-inspired materials. In addition to pursuing a degree in chemical engineering, she also holds a minor in Computer Science and two certificates, one in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and one in Extended Industry Co-op. 

Post-graduation, Athreya hopes to be employed as a full-time engineer for a beauty or consumer products company.

Photo of Kayla King

Kayla King, School of Mechanical Engineering

King, a Denver native, has dedicated herself to learning and professional development while at Purdue. King has made the College of Engineering Dean’s List and Semester Honors for multiple semesters and has balanced academic dedication with other ambitions.

Last summer, King studied abroad in Germany for a semester at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. Outside of class, she was a mentor and mentee in the Women in Engineering Program for two years and participated in Boiler Gold Rush as a team leader. She is actively involved in the Purdue Baja Racing team, serving as president in her fourth year with the team. Outside of the university, King completed two summer internships at Caterpillar with the Turbocharger group in Lafayette.

King intends to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue.

Photo of Griffin Laihinen

Griffin Laihinen, School of Environmental and Ecological Engineering

Laihinen studies environmental and ecological engineering with a minor in environmental politics and policy and a certificate in collaborative leadership. The senior from Rosemount, Minnesota, is passionate about solving problems that generate undue emissions impacting air and water quality. On campus, he is the president of the Purdue Student Engineering Foundation, the co-facilitator of the Purdue Engineering President’s Council, a two-year teaching assistant for the EEE professional practice course and a three-year member of the EPICS program. He is a EEE and College of Engineering ambassador and an undergraduate representative in the EEE Academics Committee and the College of Engineering Curriculum Committee.

Laihinen has completed four internships concerning sustainable manufacturing and construction and he was recently named a 2023 Udall Scholar, a prestigious national award recognizing leadership in environmental stewardship.

Post-graduation, he intends to work as an engineer in management of land, water and other crucial natural resources.

Photo of Zachary Logar

Zachary Logar, School of Materials Engineering

Logar, of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, is majoring in materials engineering and minoring in Global Engineering Studies. He is the lead undergraduate TA for the Office of Professional Practice, promoting work-integrated learning experiences such as co-op, internship and first-year professional development. He participated in the Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education (GEARE) program, completing a study abroad experience in Germany. He serves as an ambassador for MSE, acting as a resource to further department outreach for current and prospective students.

Logar helped spearhead the university’s new semiconductor exploration course, “Changing the World with Chips,” as a TA. Off campus, Logar completed a three-term co-op with Northrop Grumman as a material and process engineer for a large-scale government program. Logar also conducted research with MSE Professors Michael Titus and Kevin Trumble on a project sponsored by Howmet Aerospace investigating processing aircraft forgings, which placed second in the American Society of Metals design competition.

Post-grad, he will be completing a master’s degree in MSE at Purdue. He hopes to transition to a career in industry.

Photo of Andrea Jake Marr

Jake Marr, School of Nuclear Engineering

Jake Marr grew up in Phoenix, seeing the effects of a changing environment in a desert. Impassioned to aid in providing clean electricity to improve ways of life as well as to protect precious ecosystems, he joined the College of Engineering to pursue nuclear engineering. As a student in the School of Nuclear Engineering, Marr has become an essential part of his nuclear engineering cohort, participating in department operations like reactor tours and disseminating nuclear knowledge to scouts and prospective students.

Marr began conducting research as an assistant to construct radiation hardened sensors under Professor Stylianos Chatzidakis. Following contributions in the Radiation Imaging and Nuclear Sensing Laboratory, Marr became interested in novel reactor designs and transitioned to the lab group NuEST, under Hitesh Bindra. With Bindra, Marr aided in gathering data on a helium cooled reactor system with plans to observe and analyze a liquid metal cooled model.

Marr plans to pursue a master’s degree and is intending on a career in analysis at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, research work at a national lab or design work in the private nuclear industry.

Photo of Ben Pekarek

Ben Pekarek, Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Pekarek has been heavily involved in the Purdue Engineering Student Council (PESC) since his first semester on campus. In 2022, Pekarek became the director of the Industrial Roundtable Career Fair for PESC. Through that role, he had the opportunity to lead seven of his peers to operate a three-day career fair, connecting over 400 companies with more than 12,000 Purdue students. This past year as PESC’s president, Pekarek’s focus has been the implementation of a more modern and equitable system for student organizations to accept payments.

His other involvements include being a BGR team leader and doing research in the Power Electronics lab the past two semesters.

After college, Pekarek plans on attending graduate school in electrical engineering.

Photo of Jennifer Short

Jennifer Short, School of Mechanical Engineering

Short, from Libertyville, Illinois, is president of the Purdue chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, previously having served on the board as vice president finance, director of the technical pillar and chair of the Grand Prix team. Additionally on campus, she is a part of the Purdue Mechanical Engineering Ambassadors (PMEA) and Phi Sigma Rho sorority.

Short has been a teaching assistant and has aided in curriculum development for the mechanical engineering sophomore introduction seminar. The course, ME 290, aims to connect new ME students with their peers and alumni in industry to help them succeed in the program.

Short has completed four industry experiences during her time at Purdue. Most recently, she interned with Toyota North America R&D in Saline, Michigan, doing Front and Rear Crash Vehicle Crashworthiness Engineering.  She also has interned with Andretti Autosport as a part of its IMSA LMP3 team, GE Aviation in its Military TSTP Control Systems Engineering section and Chip Ganassi Racing doing trackside race engineering.

Short researched under Professor Jan Anders Mansson at the Manufacturing Design Laboratory during her freshman year and developed a manufacturing method for polypropylene-long glass fiber pellet orientation in prepreg-fiber preforms.

After graduation, she is looking to work in industry testing and validating new technologies.