Choosing to challenge the status quo, six 2017 Mechanical Engineering (ME EN) Bachelor of Science recipients, Jeppesen G. Feliciano, Kay Beauwen Freckleton, John Dean Lillquist, Max Richard Mroz, Brianna Louise Potter, and Jonathan Michael Zubair, stood out from their peer 173 ME EN BS recipients, to receive their ME EN Honors Bachelor of Science (HBS) degree.

Receiving an HBS is the highest undergraduate degree conferred by the University of Utah. It signifies that the student has completed a rigorous liberal arts education curriculum and completed an undergraduate thesis in their major. The HBS also requires a minimum 3.5 GPA at graduation. This is in conjunction to the strenuous mechanical engineering degree requirements. HBS recipients go the extra mile through the Honors College to arm themselves with the critical thinking, writing and nimble problem solving skills needed to contribute to the economic and social vitality of our communities.

Doors open for ME EN HBS recipients

  • Feliciano has been accepted in the Texas A&M University Graduate Program
  • Freckleton has been accepted in the U ME Graduate Program
  • Lillquist’s interests are in space exploration, especially indoor agriculture and applications for feeding human missions in space. After travel this summer to Thailand and Nepal, Lillquist plans to enter the workforce.
  • Mroz plans to take a year off from school to travel and work before returning to graduate school in 2018.
  • Potter has been accepted to the Law School at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Zubair is going on to the Stanford University Graduate Program


“Being afraid of the workload is not a valid excuse for not going for your HBS,” said ME EN HBS recipient Lillquist. “The core honors classes not only count for generals, but honors electives are interesting and a nice break from engineering. The thesis is not the massive daunting paper that it is made out to be. By the time you’ve gotten to the point of writing, I guarantee you will have enough information to fill up a thesis. All it takes at that point is some diligence to put your ideas to paper.”

ME EN HBS recipient Feliciano adds, “The IT (Intellectual Traditions) classes are a nice break from the math. I took an IT and special topics course with my classmate John Lillquist, which we really enjoyed. (I recommend Drs. Patricia Rohrer and Michael White.) My biggest challenge and subsequent area of improvement was the writing – a few years of concerted math has its effects. The Honors classes plus the Thesis tested me and helped me be more concise.”

On the topic of hurdles to overcome, Feliciano said, “I knew going into the HBS that writing the Thesis would be the most challenging part for me. First, my quirk is that I talk too much and that sometimes reflects in my writing. To compensate, I started writing my Thesis during the summer before senior year and gave myself a deadline to complete a draft before winter finals. Doing so gave me plenty of space to draft so I could be as concise as possible. Second, I realized that a large component of the Thesis is illustration. I learned to make my own diagrams to illustrate ideas and to cut down on wordiness. Third (and most importantly), I learned to outline. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat – I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

“For me the classes themselves were the most beneficial part of the degree,” said ME EN HBS recipient Potter. “I loved my Honors classes, but the research was stressful, especially since I was working on it at the same time as my Senior Design project, which was terrible. I should clarify that this is coming from a person who is going to law school, not mechanical engineering grad school. If my path was more towards engineering, I might feel differently.”

Thesis Faculty Mentors and Titles for 2017 ME EN HBS Degree Recipients

  • Feliciano:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME professor Eric Pardyjak;
    Thesis title: The Development of Computational Strategies for Improved Environmental Simulations of Water and Energy Balances, Air Quality, and Building Energy Use – reducing costs associated with computational fluid dynamics simulations of cities while retaining accuracy
  • Freckleton:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME associate professor Mark Minor;
    Thesis title: Sarrus-Based Passive Mechanism for Rotorcraft Perching
  • Lillquist:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME assistant professor Andrew Merryweather;
    Thesis title: Active Cadence Braking (ACB) for Safer Recreational Rehabilitation – developed a control scheme to control the front and rear braking using only one user input
  • Mroz:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME assistant professor Shad Roundy;
    Thesis title: Exploration of Magnetic Field Actuated Strings of Spherical magnets for Swimming Robot Locomotion –  this was an exploration into the use of an oscillating magnetic field to create a swimming motion in chains of magnetic beads. A computer model was used to calculate the mode shapes and natural frequencies for strings of 3/16″ beads. The beads were then driven at a specific frequency while in a fluid, causing them to oscillate and ‘swim’ downward through the fluid. This method of locomotion could be used to drive robots without a traditional motor inside of sealed piping systems or the human body.
  • Potter:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME assistant professor Keunhan Park;
    Thesis title: Graphite Imaging and Electronic Properties
  • Zubair:
    Thesis faculty mentor: ME associate professor Kam Leang;
    Thesis title: Design and Implementation of Shrouded Rotor for Increasing Thrust Performance in Multi-Rotor Aerial Robots

Tips from Degree Recipients

  • Feliciano: “First, familiarize yourself with what faculty are working on – by knowing what they are doing, you may find your interests coincide with theirs. Second, once you begin a project, start documenting everything – it helps the thesis write itself. Third, consider what’s down the road – working towards the HBS helped me channel my interests, determine I liked research, and decide I wanted to apply to graduate school.”
  • Lillquist: “Start thinking about your thesis from day one. If nothing comes to you it’s not a big deal, but when you find something you are interested in, write it down and look into it. I was able to take my idea and go with it. However, I didn’t start my thesis until the day the proposal was due; don’t do this. An earlier start could have resulted in a more developed and an even more valuable thesis. I’d also recommend waiting until at least your junior year to decide on something as my interests changed immensely between my freshman year and graduating.”
  • Mroz: From Grand Junction Colorado, Mroz says, “I would recommend pursuing an Honors Degree to incoming freshman because the Honors College allowed me to diversify my college experience. I was able to meet new people from a variety of backgrounds and take thought provoking classes that didn’t even involve math. The coursework can be challenging, but it allowed me to develop a wide range of skills from film making to academic writing. The greatest difficulty of the Honors Degree was balancing the workload. Despite feeling overwhelmed at times, this workload challenged me to become more organized, manage my time, and collaborate with other students. I suggest that you take advantage of classes that peak your interest. Try and explore what is available as much as possible, because the Honors College is full of opportunities. And finally, start thinking about your thesis at least two years before graduation so you can build a relationship with the faculty advisor. Your thesis advisor will be your mentor so working with someone you can relate to and are comfortable with is very important.
  • Potter: “The advice I have given to others is to start their thesis early. However, with all its labs and projects, I don’t know if there is ever a great time to do it during the mechanical engineering program. Also, you don’t necessarily have to start in the Honors program your freshman year. I only took two Honors electives before this last year and was able to complete my major, minor, and Honors degree requirements in four years without taking any summer classes.”

Ideally, going for a HBS starts from the time you enter as a freshman. Students in the College of Engineering wishing to pursue an Honors Degree must be admitted to the University Honors College. Once accepted they work with the College Academic Program Manager and the Department Faculty Advisor in determining honors courses to take as well as receive an assigned Thesis Faculty Mentor.