Engineering | School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award

Recognizing the best graduating doctoral student in electrical engineering.

Professor Joseph Palais, longtime graduate program chair, and his wife Sandra established the Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. The award is presented annually to the best graduating doctoral student in the electrical engineering program. Candidates must have a minimum 3.75 GPA and at least one journal or conference publication. Faculty members nominate students within the program each year.

The recipient receives $1,000 and a commemorative plaque.

2016-2017: Preston Webster

Preston Webster receives the 2016-2017 Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award from School Director Stephen Phillips.

Preston Webster, who hails from Bloomfield, Iowa, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University before enrolling at ASU to pursue his doctorate. At ASU, Webster distinguished himself by contributing to eight peer-reviewed publications, serving as the first author on four of those and securing a U.S. patent. He also has three invention disclosures to ASU, all related to his research on optoelectronic materials, which can source, detect and control light in all its various forms.

Together with his advisor, electrical engineering Professor Shane Johnson, worked on the development of new optoelectronic materials with a range of uses, from thermal imaging and tracking to solar photovoltaics as well as high-efficiency lasers and LEDs and defense applications. Read more

2015-2016: Zhicheng Liu

Palais-award-JH-1-w (1)

Over the past seven years Zhicheng Liu has distinguished himself both in the classroom with a 3.93 GPA and in the lab as well, contributing to more than 10 journal publications. In 2013, he completed his first primary author publication which included research he conducted in Professor of electrical engineering Cun-Zheng Ning’s lab.

Originally from the Hebei province in China, Liu’s earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Peking University. He said he was drawn to ASU due to his background in working with lasers and was interested in the research happening here.

“I wanted to work with this group because I knew I could learn a lot and work with some very advanced equipment,” said Liu.

Liu currently works in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Skorpios Technologies as a senior engineer, where he’s in charge of the reliability testing of transceiver products. Read more


2014-2015: Xiaowen Gong


Xiaowen Gong was chosen as the 2014-2015 winner of the Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. He graduated in spring 2015 after completing his degree under the supervision of Junshan Zhang, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. Gong has published seven journal papers and 17 conference papers. As a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University, his current research interests lie in the general field of computer communication networks, with focus on social computing and networks, security and privacy. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA at ASU, and received the IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM) Runner-up Best Paper Award in 2014. “It is a great honor and I am very pleased to have received this distinguished award from ECEE,” said Gong.


2013-2014: Kang Ding

Kang Ding_Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student

Dr. Kang Ding was chosen as the 2013-2014 winner of the Palais Award. He graduated in spring 2014. Professor Cun-Zheng Ning was his advisor. Ding has published over 9 journal papers and presented more than 13 conference papers, primarily in the area of metallic and plasmonic nanolasers. He and his team were the first in the world to demonstrate a room temperature nanolaser under electrical injection. He had a perfect 4.0 GPA at ASU and graduated from Peking University in spring 2008.


2012-2013: Xuan Ni


Dr. Xuan Ni received the 2012-2013 Palais Award. His mentor is professor Ying-Cheng Lai. Having graduated in summer 2012 with a perfect GPA, Ni played a key role during his Ph.D. studies in publishing a dozen papers in high-impact refereed journals such as Physical Review E, Europhysics Letters and Chaos.


2011-2012: Elizabeth Steenbergen


Dr. Elizabeth Steenbergen is the recipient of the 2011-2012 Palais Award. Her mentor is professor Yong-Hang Zhang. She is one of the top in her class with a 4.0 GPA that she has maintained since her undergraduate study. Steenbergen has several publications and has received many awards for her outstanding contributions to the field. She is currently working as an intern at the Air Force Research Lab with the career aspiration to work at a DOD or national laboratory to advance the country in technological applications and to teach young engineering students at a university.


2010-2011: Asaad Said

Dr. Asaad Said received the Palais Award 2010-2011. His mentor is professor Lina Karam. His PhD research resulted in outstanding contributions in the field of automated image analysis and classification, cancer detection and diagnosis and industrial automation for semiconductor manufacturing. Asaad is a Research Scientist at Intel Corporation in Chandler, AZ.


2009-2010: Qingfei Chen

Qingfei Chen

Dr. Qingfei Chen is the recipient of the 2009-2010 Palais Award. This is the 8th year of the award. His mentor is professor Ying-Cheng Lai.  Qingfei was the best of 36 electrical engineering graduating doctoral students. Chen earned a perfect 4.0 GPA and produced an outstanding publication record of 17 journal papers, all published in first rate refereed publications such as Applied Physics Letters, Physical Review, and Chaos.


2008-2009: Liang Huang

Liang Huang

Dr. Liang Huang received the the Palais Award 2008-2009.  Liang is currently working as a post-doctoral student for Professor Ying-Cheng Lai.


2007-2008: Visar Berisha

Visar Berisha

The Palais Award 2007-2008 goes to Dr. Visar Berisha. Berisha, who is currently working fulltime at MIT Lincoln Labs, was advised by Professor Andreas Spanias.


2006-2007: Xiulan Li

Xiulan Li

Dr. Xiulan Li received the Palais Award for 2006-2007. She was advised by Professor Nongjian Tao. Li works as a senior scientist at Polestar Technologies Inc. She leads research in nano-chemical sensors and biosensors.


2005-2006: Jiangbo Wang and Shuiqing Yu

Jiangbo Wang

Dr. Jiangbo Wang was a co-recipient of the Palais Award for 2005-2006. He was advised by Professor Yong-Hang Zhang. Following graduation, Wang is continuing to work with Dr. Zhang. He is a postdoctoral research associate in the MBE Optoelectronics Research Group.

Shuiqing Yu

Dr. Shuiqing Yu shared the 2005-2006 Palais Award. Yu was advised by Professor Yong-Hang Zhang. Currently, Yu is working to develop optical cooling devices in Dr. Zhang’s postdoctoral research group.


2004-2005: Irena Knezevic

Irena Knezevic

Dr. Irena Knezevic received the Palais Award for 2004-2005. She was advised by Professor David Ferry. After graduation she accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her research program focuses on quantum electronic transport, quantum information, and semiconductor device simulation.


2003-2004: Elias Kyriakides

Elias Kyriakides

Dr. Elias Kyriakides received the Palais Award for 2003-2004. He was advised by Professor Gerald Heydt, and is currently working with Dr. Heydt on parameter identification of synchronous generators as a faculty research associate. Dr. Kyriakides’ goal is to pursue a career in academia and develop a successful independent research program in electrical engineering with a concentration in power systems.


2002-2003: Lucian Shifren

Lucian Shifren

Dr. Lucian Shifren received the Palais Award for 2002-2003. Lucian is the inaugural recipient of the award, which was presented at the spring graduation ceremonies. He was advised by Professor David Ferry and is currently employed by Intel as a senior CAD designer working in transport and device modeling.