More than 50 Western Washington University students and graduates received Outstanding Graduate honors for the 2019-20 academic year.
Faculty members from dozens of academic departments and programs select one graduate to honor as the Outstanding Graduate of the year. Selection is a high honor based on grades, research and writing, service to the campus and community, and promise for the future.
The Outstanding Graduates from the College of Science and Engineering include:
Nathan Bock of Port Angeles graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree. He majored in electrical engineering, minored in mathematics and was a teaching assistant for several courses in the Electrical Engineering Department. Bock was also inducted into the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was an IEEE Mentor and a member of the IEEE honor society. Outside of class, Bock was co-captain of the WWU Swim Club and competed at the US Master’s Swimming 2019 Nationals in Mesa, Arizona. He was also a seasonal dockhand/deckhand for Black Ball Ferry Line in Port Angeles. After graduation, he will work as an embedded systems engineer at the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon. The son of Tom Bock and Julie Haskins, Nathan Bock is a graduate of Port Angeles High School.
Ivan Chuprinov of Mount Vernon graduated in March with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. He was a Computer Science Mentor, a Computer Science and Math Scholar, and a recipient of the Anthony G. Vallot, Jr. Memorial Scholarship through the Computer Science Department. Chuprinov competed in the Association for Computing Machinery Hackathon in 2018 and 19 and his team won in 2018. During his time at Western, he interned at F5 Networks over the summer of 2019, which he describes as an incredible time, being able to meet great people while learning about the industry that he wants to work in. He also did research with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Moushumi Sharmin on a project using machine learning to help people quit smoking. Chuprinov is tremendously grateful for the opportunities to find academic success not only at Western but at Skagit Valley College, where he enrolled in English classes soon after moving to Mount Vernon from southwestern Russia at the age of 17. Growing up, Chuprinov didn’t have a good time with academics, having bad grades and adopting bad academic habits in order to fit in. He got the opportunity to move to the United States with his father, thanks to his grandfather, Stepan Chuprinov. As he completed his associate degree at Skagit, he gained the skills and confidence to persist in academics, though he still sometimes struggled with grades. His family and his instructors believed in him, he said, and encouraged him to continue. "I realized that if I tried I could be successful, and that was the most empowering thing I've felt in my entire life," he said. "I went to Western having had those experiences and with a game plan in mind and it helped me a great deal to succeed academically, to be able to make friends and have a more fulfilling life as a result." Chuprinov has a software engineering internship this summer at Microsoft and will continue at Western to complete is master's in computer science. Chuprinov, a graduate of Skagit Valley College, is the son of Svetlana Hipsky and Vasily S. Chuprinov.
Alena Eldridge of Arlington is graduating in June with a Bachelor of Arts in geology. She concurrently graduated from Arlington High School and Everett Community College with an associate degree through Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) Program. She transferred from the University of Washington, where she studied marine biology, to find smaller classes and a more close-knit community. Her WWU geology adviser, Robin Dahl, helped her build her plans to go into science teaching. At Western, Eldridge also worked with the Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center to help move, reorganize, and relocate the Multicultural Center library to make the collections more accessible to students. She also worked for Everett City Parks as a park naturalist and volunteered with the Northwest Earth and Space Science Pipeline. After graduation, Eldridge plans to continue her education at Western in the Woodring College of Education and work toward a Master in Teaching degree. She has always been passionate about education and is excited to pursue her love of science education in an ever-changing world. She hopes to teach in the STEM field on the Olympic Peninsula.
Maya Noesen of Olympia graduated in June with University Honors and a Bachelor of Science degree. She double-majored in biochemistry and environmental science and worked for three years as a research assistant in Chemistry Professor David Patrick’s lab on nanoparticle synthesis. She was also active in the Chemistry Club, working to make each event more inclusive. At Huxley College of the Environment, Noesen served as an Associated Students senator; she helped establish the Student Senate during its formative years and created and chaired the senate’s Discrimination Complaint Procedure Review Committee. Noesen received the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association Environmental Stewardship Scholarship, the Alumni Association Leader Scholarship, and the President’s Scholarship. In summer 2018, Noesen studied abroad for in Belize to learn more about fieldwork and the nation’s ecosystems and culture. Next, she will enroll at Stanford University for a Master of Science degree in environmental engineering with a focus on human health and the environment. A graduate of Olympia High School, Maya Noesen is the daughter of Carolyn Noesen and Matt Noesen.
Plastics and Composites Engineering
Mikaela Sadri of Woodinville is graduaed in June with a Bachelor of Science degree in plastics and composites engineering with a minor in material science. Sadri was the recipient of the Ivy Roth Memorial Plastics Engineering Technology Scholarship in 2018 and 2019 as well as the 2019 Western Plastics Pioneers Scholarship. Since she was a junior, Sadri has been a teaching assistant for engineering courses and a plastics and composites lab assistant. She has been an active member of the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Plastics Engineers, and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering. In 2018 and 2019, Sadri was a judge for computer-aided designs for the Washington Technology Student Association. She interned at R&D Plastics LLC in Hillsboro, Oregon in the summer of 2019. Sadri spent a year researching synthetic muscles with Associate Chemistry Professor Amanda Murphy. Sadri graduated from Inglemoor High School.
Physics and Astronomy
Samuel Shuman of Graham is graduating in June with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and physics and a minor in astronomy. While completing his degree, Shuman has maintained a 4.0 GPA in both majors and has worked as a lab TA in the physics department for 10 quarters. He was a research assistant with Associate Professor Kristen Larson, studying the effects of interstellar dust on the light from distant stars. Shuman also did research with Assistant Professor Armin Rahmani, using quantum physics to study chains of Majorana fermion particles. After graduation, Shuman will attend Oregon State University to pursue a Ph.D. in physics with a focus on quantum physics. He hopes to become a professor eventually because of his love of teaching. A graduate of Graham-Kapowsin High School, Shuman is the son of Lori Jordan and Benjamin Shuman and the step-son of Stephan Jordan.
Caleb Stromberg of Woodinville graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree. He majored in mathematics and served as a Math Fellow, tutoring students in the Math Center for three years. He received the Richard Greene Putnam scholarship in both 2019 and 2020 for his performances in the national William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition for undergraduate students. He also received the Mickey and Carol Ghio science scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year. For his senior project, Stromberg studied a proof of Dirichlet's theorem on primes in arithmetic progressions. Stromberg will continue in the Math Department as a teaching assistant while completing his master’s degree before pursuing a Ph.D. The son of Pierre and Justine Stromberg, Caleb Stromberg is a graduate of Woodinville High School.
Outstanding Graduate in Biology
Aliki Valdes graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree. She majored in molecular and cell biology with a minor in chemistry. Valdes participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Northwestern University’s Center of Synthetic Biology to engineer a safe, non-pathogenic strain of Salmonella enterica to enable large-scale commercial use of heterologous protein production. She also worked as a research assistant for Assistant Professor of Biology Nick Galati investigating how the centrosome protein Pericentrin affects protein trafficking from the Golgi apparatus to the base of the primary cilium. In addition to her research, Valdes was a peer advisor at the Tutoring Center and a teaching assistant for the organic chemistry labs and for Galati’s microscopy class. Being able to help others in areas where she had previously struggled was a powerful experience, she said. “It changed the way I look at myself as far as being a capable scientist and it showed me that even the ‘smartest’ people struggle.” Valdes is a first-generation college student who transferred from Whatcom Community College and helped put herself through Western with a combination of financial aid, scholarships, and jobs. She now works on COVID-19 testing at a local laboratory. Next, Valdes will enroll at the University of Chicago, where she’ll attend a National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program before applying to a competitive graduate program in microbiology/infectious disease.