March 17, 2009

Student wins prestigious award for second time

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE -- An engineering student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is the recipient of a prestigious scholarship from an international engineering society.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineering selected Felipe Pincheira Valdes, a senior in mechanical engineering and civil engineering from Chile, as the winner of its $10,000 Willis H. Carrier Scholarship. The society made its selection during its recent meeting in Chicago.

The award is the second straight for Valdes, who also received the honor last year. This latest one-year scholarship is available to Valdes for the 2009-2010 academic year.

The son of a grade school teacher and mechanical engineer, Valdes said pursuing his education is a top priority.

“Education has been a fundamental pillar throughout my entire life. I was raised on my parents’ philosophy that ‘education is the best inheritance I can leave you.’ This statement is my motivation in life,” he said.

Valdes expects to gradate in May 2010 and plans to pursue a master’s degree and doctorate in a top engineering school, with an emphasis on renewable energy research.

“I have a history of academic excellence and passion for education. My commitment to sustainable engineering and research is unwavering,” he said. “I have worked strenuously for the past three years in order to achieve my dreams; renewable energy research in one of the top five engineering schools. I desire to innovate and create new technologies that will maintain a clean environment for future generations.”

ASHRAE promotes technology to serve humanity with an aim toward creating a sustainable world. Its 50,000 members from more than 100 nations include professionals from the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration fields. Students, engineers, architects, and many other professionals in medical research, and employees of manufacturing companies, educational institutions, research organizations, government and other organizations concerned with environmental control also are members.

The society awards scholarships to full-time students in accredited engineering programs nationwide. Of the number of scholarships the society awards, the Willis H. Carrier is the most prestigious. It is named for a pioneering founder of the heating, cooling, ventilation and refrigeration industry. The society awards just two such scholarships each year.

To qualify for ASHRAE scholarships, students must:

• be enrolled full-time at an accredited engineering program that leads to a Bachelor of Science, engineering degree or be enrolled in any engineering technology program leading to an Associate of Science degree in the field

• maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale

• obtain letters of recommendation and evaluations from three references, including faculty advisers or professors

• show a need for financial assistance

• show leadership ability and good character

•meet all applicable criteria

His passion for the environment keep him focused on becoming the best engineer he can be, Valdes said. His activities on campus include involvement in Project Eco-Dawgs and serving as “green” chair of the American Society of Civil Engineering’s Mid-Continent conference, which SIUC hosts next month. He also is the coordinator of Saluki Cycles, which fixes old bicycles and promotes their use.

Other activities include serving as vice president and secretary for the local ASHRAE chapter, president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and as an active member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers Without Borders and Engineering Student Council, among others.

Valdes said winning the scholarship for the second-straight year will help him reach his goals.

“My schedule is extremely demanding, leaving me little time for work. This financial assistance allows me to focus on my schoolwork and maintain my campus/community involvement,” he said. “In addition, such an honor is an incredible energy booster. My student life becomes overwhelming at times, but recognitions like this one reassure the fact that I am doing things right and that my hard work will be rewarded.”