Michelle McLeese and Mehdi Nikkhah were recognized as the Graduate Woman and Man of the Year at the Graduate School’s Annual Awards Banquet held Thursday, March 25 in the Graduate Life Center.

Each received a $500 award for their significant contributions to the Virginia Tech graduate community.

McLeese, a native of Stafford, Va., is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She earned two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in psychology and one in sociology, as well as a master of science degree in sociology, all from Virginia Tech.

In 2006 she received the Leland B. Tate Award for outstanding scholarship, leadership, and service in sociology. McLeese is an ambassador for the Graduate School(http://www.grads.vt.edu/), and a member of Alpha Epsilon Lambda, a graduate honor society that recognizes academic leadership excellence. She significantly increased graduate students’ involvement as the vice president of membership for the Graduate Student Assembly, and will serve as its president for the 2010-11 school year.

McLeese served as vice chair of the Commission of Student Affairs, and this year she serves as its chair.

Nikkhah, originally from Tehran, Iran, is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a master of science degree in biomedical engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology/Tehran Polytechnic in Tehran. Also, Nikkhah earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University in Villanova, Pa.

He has published more than 20 journal articles and peer-reviewed conference papers, and holds two U.S. patents. Nikkhah is co-founder of Nano-VT, an interdisciplinary student organization focusing on the advancement of nanotechnology. He is a past president of Alpha Epsilon Lambda as well as the Iranian Student Association.

Other awards received are the Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Award, the Outstanding Doctoral Student in the College of Engineering Award, a National Science Foundation Conference Fellowship, and a Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium Award.

This year’s selection committee was impressed with the high quality candidates in the running for graduate woman and man of the year,” said Monika Gibson, director of student services for the Graduate School. “We had a difficult time selecting just one winner in each category,” she said.

Each year a committee of faculty, staff, and graduate students assess the written materials of nominated students. Also, the committee invites potential award winners to respond to questions in an interview format. This year seven high-qualified students applied, or were nominated, for graduate man and woman of the year.

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