Engineering student gets surprise award at ‘party’

<i>Photo by JR Ancheta</i><br /> UAF undergraduate William Czyzewski received the Student Engineer of the Year award.
Photo by JR Ancheta
UAF undergraduate William Czyzewski received the Student Engineer of the Year award.

William Czyzewski was in class on a Friday night when several people started messaging him, asking him to a “party.”

“Ecstatic to finally have a social life, I attended,” said the University of Alaska Fairbanks undergraduate student.

Instead of a party, though, he found himself at the annual Engineers Week Banquet, where he received the Student Engineer of the Year award.

The Fairbanks Chapter of the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers hosts the banquet and presents three awards, including Engineer of the Year and the Young Engineer of the Year. About 100 engineers, guests and UAF students attended this year’s banquet.

The banquet is one of many events that took place during the National Engineers Week, which celebrates the contributions that engineers across all disciplines make to quality of life. The week always includes President George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, because many consider him to be nation’s first engineer due to his survey work.

The Student Engineer of the Year award recognizes the outstanding achievements of a college student in engineering.

Czyzewski has many achievements to his name. Raised in Fairbanks, he will graduate UAF this year with a degree in petroleum engineering. Somewhere between his demanding courses, he found time to compete with UAF’s PetroBowl team and volunteer as a tutor for both the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and the Alaska Native Student and Engineering Program.

“William thinks about things that are bigger than himself,” said Brian Rasley, the ANSEP director. “He’s been a tutor with our program for a couple years, helping fellow students in a meaningful way.”

While Czyzewski’s service factored into the award, it was his undergraduate research that earned him the nomination.

Yin Zhang, as assistant professor of petroleum engineering, nominated Czyzewski after hiring him to work on his research project for a company on the North Slope.

The project looked at whether a certain technique of recovering oil would work in Alaska.

“Research shows that low-salinity water flooding can increase oil recovery by 5-10 percent, but since oil reservoirs are all so different, we couldn’t be sure it would work here in Alaska,” Czyzewski said.

After conducting multiple experiments, Czyzewski said the results look promising. Zhang also thought Czyzewski’s future looked promising.

“He’s just as good as a graduate student,” said Zhang. “William has very good critical thinking skills and really contributed to this research project. He’ll do well wherever he goes.”

Czyzewski said he doesn’t have a job lined up, but he’s looking for an internship this summer where he can exercise a career interest that has grown into a passion.

“Engineering is imagination harnessed to optimize the way we live,” he said.  “I love solving problems, and engineering rewards me for that.”