College of Engineering News Room

Spring 2020 Outstanding Graduates

by Russell Nay

King O’Neal Scholars

The King O’Neal Scholar Award recognizes undergraduate students who graduate with a 4.0 GPA. The award is a USF Alumni Association initiative and was created in honor of charter USF graduates Lucas King and Evelyn O’Neal. Students receive a certificate and a medallion of the University seal that honor their achievement.

Willie McClinton

Willie McClinton
In his freshman year, Willie McClinton studied ion channels in neurons in simulation with professor Sameer Varma, Ph.D., in computational biophysics while generating brain tumor image datasets with professor Lawerence Hall, Ph.D. That summer, he was awarded a NIST Summer Research Fellowship to help run a computer vision and machine learning competition called TRECVID, which challenged university researchers, including those from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Tokyo in 2018, to scan and analyze vast amounts of images and videos from social media to automatically detect notable events like fires and riots.

McClinton’s experiences with NIST and the Office of National Scholars — like meeting Internet pioneer Vint Cerf — cemented his decision to pursue research as a career. He later led the creation of a brain-computer interface (BCI) technology under professor Marvin Andujar, Ph.D., that allows users to paint in virtual reality with just a headband and their brain waves. He also co-led the development of an app under professor Sriram Chellappan, Ph.D., to help Hillsborough County residents — and potentially people around the world – identify populations of harmful mosquito species in their communities.

McClinton also co-founded the Society of Competitive Programmers, whose members participate in programming challenges hosted by universities around the nation, including Harvard, Stanford and CalTech. He’s joined USF teams at events hosted at FIU, FSU, UF, GeorgiaTech, UC Berkeley and MIT.

McClinton is one of USF’s 11 Goldwater scholars — the most prestigious undergraduate award in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics — and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Robotics at MIT starting Fall 2021. Until then, he’ll be a Google AI Resident at Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California. He picked robotics, artificial intelligence and cognitive science as his research direction in his junior year, and he spent last summer at the Intelligent Robotics Lab at Brown University led by George Konidaris, Ph.D.

Zima Patel

Zima Patel

USF Computer Science and Engineering graduate Zima Patel is the USF College of Engineering’s second Spring 2020 King O’Neal Scholar and one of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s outstanding graduates for the semester. In 2017, Patel was awarded an NSF S-STEM Flit-Path project scholarship that builds on a Florida Board of Governors initiative to recruit, retain and provide scholarships to academically talented students in IT-related disciplines.

Programming languages Patel is proficient in include Python, SQL, C# and Java, and she’s currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Information Technology at USF.

Global Citizen Award

The Global Citizen Award is an opportunity for undergraduate students to develop themselves as global citizens. Students explore global issues and learn about different regions of the world to earn hours toward the award. Some activities that the program offers are foreign language coursework, study abroad trip funding and related internships.

Meera Patel

Mira Patel

USF Computer Science and Engineering graduate Meera Patel focused on community service while earning her Global Citizen Award. A software engineer at Tampa-based Tata Consultancy Services, Patel’s longtime passion for the medical field drew her to volunteer with the American Cancer Society ‘s Relay for Life fundraiser, as well as with nonprofit Camp Boggy Creek, which provides a safe and fun camp experience for children with serious illnesses.

“That made the whole experience of pursuing the Global Citizen Award very fulfilling,” she wrote.

This past spring, Patel was a junior product owner with USF IT. Using the Scrum software development methodology, she worked with one of the web development teams that does work for USF Health and helped the team communicate with its clients, refine its work processes and bring its members together.

“That was my first experience working with a team that uses the Scrum software development methodology, and I learned a lot there!” she wrote. “My upcoming full-time job also uses Scrum, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to learn on the job with USF.”

Across three semesters, Patel was a teaching assistant for three different computer science classes. She said her role as a TA allowed her to learn the course material even better through reviewing it as a TA.

“That was a very good experience as well – the professors I worked with were flexible and communicative,” Patel wrote. “I’d definitely recommended it to any student who is interested.”