The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis celebrates the 20 students recognized as valedictorians of the Class of 2023. Students were named valedictorian for earning a 4.0 cumulative GPA with no repeated courses.

“To be a valedictorian is to be recognized as the highest-ranking student in terms of grade point average within a graduating class,” said Chris Kroger, associate dean for undergraduate student services in McKelvey Engineering. “To reach this level requires tremendous focus, dedication and persistence. These students thrived at WashU despite having to deal with COIVID-19, and I’m very proud of them.”

The large cohort of valedictorians is in part the result of the university community adjusting to changes brought on by social distancing and other public health policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was greater sensitivity shown to students related to their mental health and well-being,” said Chris Kroger, associate dean for undergraduate student services in McKelvey Engineering. “It wasn’t just the valedictorians; the average GPA across the university increased.”

McKelvey Engineering will celebrate the Class of 2023 during the Engineering Recognition Ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, at the Washington University Field House.

Biomedical Engineering | Computer Science & Engineering | Electrical & Systems Engineering
 Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

 

Biomedical Engineering

Neha Damaraju

Neha-Damaraju.jpg

Majoring in biomedical engineering
Hometown: Herndon, Virginia
Extracurriculars: Relay for Life and Health Righters Magazine
Post-graduation plans: Damaraju plans to enroll in the MD-PhD program offered by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
As you prepare to take the next step in your education, what are you most excited about? “My peers and professors at WashU have taught me how to be curious and analytical, but also how to be empathetic and kind. I’m so excited to apply everything I’ve learned as I begin physician-scientist training and figure out how I can combine my interests in engineering research with clinical medicine to best help patients in the future.”

 

Bochun Mei

Bochun-Mei.jpg

Majoring in biomedical engineering
Hometown: Nanjing, China
Extracurriculars: The engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, First-Year International (FYI) student orientation leader and WashU Symphony Orchestra
Post-graduation plans: Mei plans to earn a doctorate degree in bioengineering through a joint program offered by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.
What's your favorite WashU memory? “Being a First-Year International student orientation leader during my sophomore and junior years is one of my most memorable moments at WashU. I enjoyed staying with incoming international students for fun activities and events because those moments always energized me and pulled me back to the summer when I was first here with my excitement and curiosity about college life at WashU.”

 

Computer Science & Engineering

Ulysses Atkeson

Ulysses-Atkeson.jpg

Majoring in computer engineering
Hometown: Denver
Extracurriculars: Contraband Ultimate Frisbee team, BearShell cybersecurity team, teaching assistant, intramural sports supervisor, Tau Beta Pi, leadership honors society Lamda Sigma
Post-graduation plans: Atkeson plans to travel Europe for two months. After that, he plans to move to New York City to work at Block as a software engineer.
As you prepare to take the next steps in your career, what are you most excited about? “Moving to New York has always been a dream of mine! I'm also thrilled to be going to Block. My coworkers are incredibly passionate about building remarkable products and economic empowerment.

I owe a massive debt of gratitude to my mom. She raised me as a single parent and has always been my biggest cheerleader. Thank you for encouraging me to explore and for all the work you do to improve education across the country.”

 

Asher Baraban

Asher-Baraban.jpg

Majoring in computer science + math
Hometown: Baltimore
Extracurriculars: Bridge Club and undergraduate researcher in a bioinformatics lab at Johns Hopkins University and the lab of Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, associate professor of computer science & engineering
Post-graduation plans: Baraban plans to work as a predoctoral fellow at Opportunity Insights at Harvard University.
What will you miss most about WashU? “I will miss the opportunity to take courses about almost anything in the world. During my time at WashU, I was able to take interesting courses across departments with amazing professors.”

 

Matt Billings

Matt-Billings.jpg

Majoring in computer science + math
Hometown: New York
Extracurriculars: WashU Racing, WashU Robotics and teaching assistant in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Post-graduation plans: Billings plans to pursue a career in computer science.
What advice do you wish you had known during your first year at WashU? “I have three. One: Utilize office hours to the best of your ability. Two: Spend time exploring campus and the areas outside of it, such as Forest Park and the Delmar Loop. Three: Don't sign up for a class that meets at 9 a.m. five days a week.”

 

Edward Chandler

Edward-Chandler.jpg

Majoring in computer science + math
Hometown: Indiana, Pennsylvania

 

 

 

 

Robert FuchsRobert-Fuchs.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Owings Mills, Maryland
Post-graduation plans: Fuchs plans to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.
As you prepare to take the next steps in your education, what are you most excited about? “I'm most excited about being able to start fresh with the lessons I learned at WashU.”

 

Samm Kaiser 

Samm-Kaiser.jpg

Majoring in computer science + math
Hometown: Evanston, Illinois
Extracurriculars: WashU volleyball, Tau Beta Pi and intern for the Office of Sustainability
Post-graduation plans: During the summer, Kaiser plans to work as an education fellow at the Tyson Research Center. After, she plans to join the Avodah Jewish Service Corp to work as a national coordinator for the Jewish Youth Climate Movement with the nonprofit Adamah.
What's your favorite WashU memory? "I loved exploring the natural beauty that Missouri has to offer. Last spring, my friends and I went to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park for a day trip, and the entire day felt like the embodiment of the song ‘Oceanic Feeling’ by Lorde. It was perfect! Then we came home and watched ‘Tall Girl 2,’ a cinematic masterpiece. Best day ever. College went by fast, life will go by faster. Prioritize smelling the roses.”

 

Louie Kotler

Louis-Kotler.jpg

Majoring in computer engineering
Hometown: Roslyn, New York
Extracurriculars: Contraband and Tau Beta Pi
Post-graduation plans: Kotler plans to work at Amazon as a software engineer.
What's your favorite WashU memory? “While walking to Blueberry Hill with friends, I proposed that we stop at Insomnia Cookies. My friends all refused, saying we could stop by on the way back instead. For anyone who knows how much I love warm chocolate chip cookies, you'll know how devastated I was. Suddenly and coincidentally, another friend of mine drove up, picked up his Insomnia order and handed me a cookie. The friends who refused my cookie request were in disbelief and thought I had somehow willed the moment into existence.”

 

Jeremy Kunen

Jeremy-Kunen.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Wayland, Massachusetts
Extracurriculars: Student Union Treasury, tutor with McKelvey Engineering and teaching assistant for the Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Post-graduation plans: Kunen plans to work at Mastercard as a software engineer.
What piece of advice do you wish you had known during your first year at WashU? “Don't be afraid to get out and explore St. Louis! It really is an incredible city and has a lot to offer. Spending time in Forest Park on a sunny day is one of my favorite things to do.”

 

Caleb Liu

Caleb-Liu.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Livingston, New Jersey
Extracurriculars: Engineers Without Borders and Student Life
Post-graduation plans: Liu plans to work at Roblox as a software engineer.
What will you miss most at WashU? “What I’ll miss most at WashU are my friends and walking down the stairs of Brookings Hall and taking in the view on a beautiful day.”

 

Joseph Melkonian

Joseph-Melkonian.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Port Washington, New York
Extracurriculars: Club Basketball, Chess Club and Poker Club
Post-graduation plans: Melkonian plans to work at Insight Cyber as a software developer.
What piece of advice do you wish you had known during your first year at WashU? “Join many clubs, meet people, take the classes that are most interesting to you even if they’re hard, and make sure to look for any and all exciting opportunities that WashU has to offer.”

 

Kyle Montgomery

Kyle-Montgomery.jpg

Majoring in computer science + math
Hometown: Flower Mound, Texas
Extracurriculars: Rock Climbing Club and undergraduate researcher in the lab of Chenguang Wang, assistant professor of computer science & engineering
Post-graduation plans: Montgomery plans to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at WashU.
As you prepare to take the next steps in your education, what are you most excited about? “As I pursue my master’s degree, I am excited to devote more time to natural language processing research in the WashU NLP Lab.”

 

Evelyn Song

Evelyn-Song.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Beijing
Extracurriculars: WashU’s Lunar New Year Festival, Rock Climbing Club and teaching assistant
Post-graduation plans: Song plans to pursue a master’s degree in applied computing at the University of Toronto.
What encouragement do you have for your fellow graduates? “There is a famous quote from ‘Xinhua Dictionary’ that translates to ‘XiaoMing has been admitted to Peking University, XiaoHong works at Bank of China and I work as a salesperson at a department store. We all have bright futures.’”

 

Ian Youth

Ian-Youth.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Scarborough, Maine
Extracurriculars: Run Club, Taiwanese Students Organization and Engineers Without Borders
Post-graduation plans: Youth plans to work as a software development engineer at Esri.
As you prepare to take the next steps in your career, what are you most excited about? “I've found a career where I can use what I’ve learned at WashU to positively impact people across disciplines, from industry research and academia to government and public health. I'm grateful to have been able to combine my diverse interests and take them into the professional world.”

 

Evan Zhong

Evan-Zhong.jpg

Majoring in computer science
Hometown: Beijing
Extracurriculars: The WashU pre-med chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association and Club Running
Post-graduation plans: Zhong plans to move to San Francisco to start a career in tech.
What's your favorite WashU memory? “My favorite memories from WashU are hanging out with my friends, playing video games, studying and exploring local restaurants.”

 

Electrical & Systems Engineering

Amay Kejriwal 

Amay-Kejriwal.jpg

Majoring in systems science & engineering
Hometown: Springboro, Ohio
Extracurriculars: WashU Racing
Post-graduation plans: Kejriwal plans to work for the Chicago Trading Company.
What will you miss most about WashU? “I will miss my fellow students the most. One of the things I love about WashU is every student I have met here is genuinely kind and excited to help you if you need it. I hope I find a similar culture after graduation.

Wherever I end up working and living, I’m excited to learn something new. Just like when I came to college four years ago, the most exciting part of a big life transition for me is learning and growing.”

 

Jacob Wheelock

Jacob-Wheelock.jpg

Majoring in electrical engineering
Hometown: Houston
Extracurriculars: Drummer for the band Faced Out
Post-graduation plans: Wheelock plans to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech.
What's your favorite WashU memory? "My favorite memory at WashU was listening to Dr. Steven Hirsch speak about the praxis of Proudhon and Bakunin in his course "Anarchism: History, Theory and Praxis." Praxis, simply put, was described as an action that embodies theory as much as it was a theory that embodies action. Discussing the inconsistencies of modern popular ideology with the notion of praxis with my peers was a great experience and something everyone should have the opportunity to think about."

 

Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Ethan Bandick

Ethan-Bandick.jpg

Majoring in mechanical engineering
Hometown: Zionsville, Indiana
Extracurriculars: WashU Design/Build/Fly, intermural soccer and Pi Tau Sigma
Post-graduation plans: Bandick plans to work for Leonardo DRS Land Systems as a systems engineer.
What advice do you wish you had known during your first year at WashU? “The years go by quickly, so it’s good to take risks. Say yes to things you may not have agreed to in the past and you’ll widen your comfort zone.

However, it’s also more than okay to want to be alone sometimes. You shouldn’t pass up opportunities for self-care just because you have FOMO. Also, with any aspect of your life, try hard because you want to, not because you're expected to.”

 

Jacob Sandler

Jacob-Sandler.jpg

Majoring in mechanical engineering
Hometown: Boca Raton, Florida
Extracurriculars: Undergraduate researcher in the lab of Guy Genin, the Harold and Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and the Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology; and teaching assistant in the departments of electrical & systems engineering and mechanical engineering & materials science
Post-graduation plans: Sandler plans to work at Boeing during the summer and then return to WashU in the fall to complete a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
What advice do you wish you had known during your first year at WashU? “Although it feels like a lifetime at first, freshman year will be gone in the blink of an eye. There won't be another time in life where you’re so close to your friends and have so much free time to spend with them. Go on adventures. Do things that make you happy. Now is the time.”

Click on the topics below for more stories in those areas

Back to News