Baskaran, Dzombak honored with Kopp Award for undergraduate students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Shruthi Baskaran, a senior majoring in civil engineering, and Rachel Dzombak, a senior majoring in bioengineering, both in the College of Engineering, have been awarded the 2012 W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award. Baskaran and Dzombak are honored as co-recipients of the undergraduate award.

The award recognizes undergraduate students who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the international mission of the University. It is named in honor of the late deputy vice president for international programs.

Baskaran is recognized for her involvement in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program and her contributions to other international projects focused on improving the lives and livelihoods of people living in rural, developing world communities. She has conducted undergraduate research on “The Global Jugaad Commons: Cross-pollinating Concepts across Cultures.” This project attempts to explore innovation comparatively across several countries, from shantytowns in Kenya to inner-city youth in Philadelphia.

Enrolled in the engineering leadership development minor through the College of Engineering, Baskaran has been instrumental in creating innovative projects for people in developing nations. In spring 2011, she collaborated with a team of students at Corvinus University in Budapest to assist Roots of Development, an NGO based in Washington, D.C., in the design of a water treatment strategy for a rural community in Haiti. A Schreyer Honors College student, Baskaran is working on her undergraduate honors thesis, which is focused on developing an algorithm to guide field workers in determining treatment requirements and options for potable water sources.

One nominator said of Baskaran, “She shows determination, dedication and commitment to complete every activity she undertakes and aspires to nothing less than improving the world. Her vibrant personality, positive temperament, physical resilience and sharp intellect combine to ensure success in her aspirations.”

Dzombak, a Schreyer Honors College student from Pittsburgh, Pa., is heavily involved in the College of Engineering's Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program. She is one of the leaders of Mashavu: Networked Health Solutions, an ambitious entrepreneurial telemedicine venture in Kenya that aims to connect patients in rural developing communities with medical professionals. For a junior-level bioengineering research and design course assignment, Dzombak and four project team members worked to develop low-cost, reusable, safe electrodes for an electrocardiogram (ECG) for use in developing countries. She has traveled twice to Kenya to conduct tests and collect data on the low-cost biomedical devices she and her classmates have developed.

During her time at Penn State, she has contributed to five peer-reviewed publications and has presented at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Fall Meeting, College of Engineering Symposium and at the Clinton Global Initiative University. With a faculty member she jointly developed a new senior-level engineering course that examined issues of global ethics and grassroots diplomacy in the context of entrepreneurialism.

“Rachel has demonstrated commitment to public service and I really feel that she is going to be a real world-changer who will have a tremendous impact as a global citizen,” one nominator wrote. “I firmly believe that her contributions to internationalization of Penn State are unparalleled.”

Last Updated January 10, 2014