Outstanding Students Named for 2010-11
March 1, 2011
Toby Weber

The University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has named recent graduate Jennifer Ngo and junior Ethan Pedneau the Outstanding Students for the 2010-11 academic year.

Ngo and Pedneau were chosen from a pool of 13 students selected from the college's seven undergraduate programs (not including petroleum). They were honored, along with other outstanding students from the area, at a recognition lunch during National Engineers Week (Feb. 13-19).

Outstanding Senior: Jennifer Ngo

Jennifer Ngo, who came to UH on a full academic scholarship, graduated with a B.S. in civil engineering in December of 2010.

During her time at UH, Ngo was active in the life of the college. She served as treasurer of the UH chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for two years, organizing and/or participating in events like the ASCE Chili Cook-off, its Habitat for Humanity volunteer efforts, and the group’s semester kickoff parties.

Ngo was also a three-time member of the college’s Concrete Canoe team. “I’m really active physically and I like to do outdoorsy stuff, so this was a natural fit for me,” she said. Two of those teams won the regional Concrete Canoe competition and went on to represent UH at nationals.

In addition to her work with student organizations, Ngo went out of her way to build up her resume while still enrolled as a student. She spent a year as a research assistant on a Texas Department of Transportation-funded research project led by Kyle Strom, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. She also completed two internships during her time at the college. The first was with United States Gypsum, a building materials manufacturer. The second internship, which she landed through the Engineering Career Fair, was with Spectra Energy, a natural gas pipeline and infrastructure firm.

After graduating in December, Ngo immediately began a position as a project engineer in the pipeline engineering department with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, also a natural gas infrastructure company. In this role, she serves as part of a team that evaluates and selects the best routes for new pipelines. Once routes are finalized, her team selects a firm to engineer the pipelines themselves, as well as manages the construction process.

Given her academic achievements and clear commitment to professional success, it’s not surprising that Ngo is considering pursuing an advanced degree, though one aimed at business rather than the lab. “I want to go back. Probably not for a masters in engineering, but for an MBA,” she said. “I’m thinking that I’ll go back about two years down the line.”

Outstanding Junior: Ethan Pedneau

Mechanical engineering major Ethan Pedneau has been named the Cullen College's Outstanding Junior for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Pedneau, who hails from Pasadena, Texas, originally enrolled in the college planning to study chemical engineering. He switched to mechanical engineering as a freshman, however, because it appealed to his strengths. “My best courses in high school were art and mathematics. Mechanical engineering was the best way for me to apply those skills,” he said.

Given his academic performance over the past three years, that was clearly the right choice. Pedneau is an accomplished student researcher. Working with Ralph Metcalfe and Fazle Hussain, both professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, he has explored ways to overcome the problem of inconsistent energy production from wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Utilizing wind data gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, Pedneau’s research team determined that by interconnecting wind farms throughout the Gulf coast, power generation would be “smoothed” to a predictable, dependable level. When one wind farm isn’t generating enough power because of poor wind quality, another would generate enough to make up for it, they found. Further, their research indicates that hurricanes do not pose a major threat to offshore wind farms in the Gulf. Wind farms built to withstand up to a strong Category Three storm have only a 0.1 percent chance of being destroyed by wind each year. That figure, however, does not account for wave forces, a factor Pedneau and his group are currently calculating.

“The threat of hurricanes is very small, especially when compared to mechanical failure, grid failure and all the other things that can go wrong,” Pedneau said.

Given his flair for research, it should come as no surprise that Pedneau is an active member of the Houston Undergraduate Research Network, a UH student organization, and hopes to hold a leadership role with the group during the next academic year. He is also a member of the Student Governing Board of The Honors College at UH, where he creates the artwork and posters advertising student events.

Looking ahead, Pedneau plans to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, most likely at the Cullen College.

Program Junior Senior
Biomedical Engineering Mark Wierzbicki Audrey Cheong
Chemical Engineering Lauren Krolczyk Gurwinder Singh
Civil Engineering Kim Pham Jennifer Ngo
Computer Engineering N/A Matthew Vick
Electrical Engineering Brian Clark Matthew Green
Industrial Engineering Minh Tran Rebecca McDonald
Mechanical Engineering Ethan Pedneau Haripriya Sundaraju


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