UB celebrates student academic excellence

Social work students among those honored at university-wide celebration

Jessica Williams, an undergraduate in the School of Social Work's community organizing and development minor, received the UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published May 8, 2024

“You represent some of UB’s most talented and ambitious students, and we are delighted to honor your commitment to the highest ideals of our university. ”
UB President Satish K. Tripathi

The UB community gathered on May 2 to recognize students for their research and academic accomplishments at the annual Celebration of Student Academic Excellence.

The day began at 1 p.m. in Alumni Arena with the Student Showcase, where 325 undergraduate and graduate students presented nearly 250 mentored research, scholarship, creative and community projects they worked on during the academic year — an increase of 50 projects from last year. Undergraduate students presented 150 of the projects.

Among the presenters was Jessica Williams, a student in the School of Social Work who received the UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award for her work on voting rights in Buffalo. Williams used a community development and organizing framework to create an action plan to get people registered to vote and show up at the polls.  

“I looked at the assets we have in Erie County that can be used to mobilize people as well as how to partner with local organizations and student groups to create change,” Williams said. “I learned how to put a framework to advocacy. I like to say that I'm an activist, and I really am passionate about issues, but this class helped set me up for success about the issues that I care about.”

From left, engineering students Bryan Rambo, Katelyn Churakos, Alison Casson and Osuman Gimballa with their presentation “Ride Engineering Competition Submission.” (Team member not pictured: Alaina Herman.) Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Around the corner, a group of students from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were standing next to a model of a roller coaster. Alison Casson, Osuman Gimballa, Bryan Rambo, Alaina Herman and Katelyn Churakos entered the model in a ride engineering competition to design, plan and manufacture an innovative scaled section of a roller coaster for Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"We created a one to 50 scale,” Casson said. “We basically had to put in all of the engineering work that you would put into a regular roller coaster into our scaled version. That included mechanical systems design control and systems design risk assessment, and we had to follow the ASTM F24 guidelines, which are safety standards for the amusement industry.”

“The shape of the design looks arbitrary, but when you look at it from the top, it looks like this physics concept called the Lorenz attractor, which is this figure eight butterfly effect,” Churakos added. “So, we named it the Lorenz attractor.”

Architecture and planning student Lydia Diboun explains her model of “Skin and Bones – Riverboat Exhibition Center.” Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Also among the presenters was Lydia Diboun, a student in the School of Architecture and Planning, standing by her architectural model of a boat museum in North Tonawanda with 360 degree views of Niagara Falls and downtown Buffalo.

“Each corner of the museum bears witness to the intertwining of nature and human endeavor, honoring the city’s maritime heritage and highlighting the enduring bond between architecture, nature and the human spirit,” her poster read.

“We were also tasked with including a fully ADA-accessible ramp,” Diboun said. “We made an environment where every person can view and access every point. It was really important to me to be able to bring that into the building and make a fully open and inviting accessible space.”

Management students (from left to right) Christopher Munoz, Ava Woo, Matthew Persampieri and Blake Humphrey showcase their poster about a global program in Costa Rica. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

School of Management students Ava Woo, Blake Humphrey, Christopher Munoz and Matthew Persampieri were also present to talk about their shared experience traveling to Costa Rica through a Social Innovation and Leadership in Latin America course. While there, the students worked with EcoFuturo, an organization that works to create a sustainable future through regenerative agriculture, composting research, holistic health and community building. The group combined their skillsets from concentrations in marketing, finance and international business to help the organization with website development, fundraising and creating a database.

“I think something unique about this program is that because we're all from different parts of business, we all come together to collaborate and do something that we probably wouldn't have been able to do if we were within our own studies,” Woo said.

After the Student Showcase, the community gathered in Slee Hall at 3 p.m. for the Celebration Ceremony, a tradition that recognizes UB students who received prestigious awards and fellowships during the academic year. President Satish K. Tripathi kicked off the celebration with welcoming remarks.

“Your accomplishments are the result of your tireless dedication to your scholarly pursuits,” Tripathi said. “I know all of us here today are so proud to see you receive this much-deserved recognition. You represent some of UB’s most talented and ambitious students, and we are delighted to honor your commitment to the highest ideals of our university.”

A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, also spoke of the outstanding scholarship, research, creativity and community engagement represented among the day’s honorees.

“I am delighted to see how you utilize the transformative learning opportunities that shape UB’s culture, discovery and innovation,” Weber said. “As students, you forge dynamic academic partnerships with distinguished faculty to conduct research and scholarship that produces new knowledge, inspires invention, contributes to the national discourse, transforms lives and makes the world a better place.”

The ceremony featured on-stage recognition of students in several categories:

  • Select national scholarships and fellowships.
  • SUNY Graduate Research Empowering and Accelerating Talent Award.
  • SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
  • SUNY Benjamin and David Scharps Legal Essay Award.
  • UB Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creativity Award.
  • UB Sigma Xi “Companions in Zealous Research” Award.

A full list of honorees is available on the celebration website.