Palais 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.

2021-2022 Kristen Jaskie

It’s not easy to gain deep expertise in the more complex areas of engineering and technology, and it’s even more difficult in fields that are rapidly evolving and birthing new questions and mysteries.

But Kristen Jaskie says she’s a perfect fit for the challenges posed by the advanced studies and research she has been involved in for seven years.

“I am by nature very stubborn,” Jaskie says, which has served her well in both higher education pursuits and her personal life.

She is currently a postdoctoral research scholar and adjunct professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her primary research focus is on novel applications of machine learning, which is interconnected with the broader field of artificial intelligence.

Jaskie uses machine learning and deep learning algorithms to solve complex problems with large amounts of missing data. Her work focuses on semi-supervised learning and the positive and unlabeled learning problem. Algorithms like these can be used in medicine and other scientific and commercial applications. Read more about Kristen Jaskie.

2020-2021 Hong Chen

When you ask Hong Chen about his research and his achievements at Arizona State University, he very humbly tells you about the technical aspects of his research. Like how he is developing that will one day enable researchers to study new quantum phenomena at a much smaller scale.

Or he’ll tell you about how he was just one of many in a very competitive graduating class receiving accolades.

But what he fails to mention is how he is quickly becoming one of the great minds in the field of photonics, a fact that his mentor Assistant Professor Yuji Zhao is happy to share.

“What he accomplished here at ASU is just phenomenal,” Zhao says. “It goes far beyond the quantity of work, but the depth and quality that set him apart from other students.”

While at ASU, Chen first-authored seven research papers, collaborated on many others and was highly cited amongst other researchers. He also presented twice at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO), the key conference in the optics community. Read more about Hong Chen.

2019-2020 Junjie Jiang

Junjie Jiang grew up in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China, a relatively small city close to the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone. The dense network of waterways and canals sparked a young Jiang’s interest in complex systems.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in theoretical physics from Lanzhou University, Jiang came to ASU as a short-term visiting scholar to research nonlinear time series analysis. Under the mentorship of Professor Ying-Chang Lai, this brief venture turned into a career-defining passion for complex dynamical systems. Knowing he wanted to continue his research at ASU with Lai, Jiang applied and was accepted to the master’s degree program and later to the doctoral degree program in electrical engineering. 

As a theoretical researcher, Jiang concentrated his studies on one of the most complex dynamical systems on Earth — the ecosystem.

“The ecosystem is currently facing its greatest challenges and crises due to human activities such as global climate changes and pollution,” says Jiang.

Jiang’s research aims to solve two of the biggest questions evolving from this complex nonlinear dynamical system: When will our ecosystem reach a point of no return and how can we prevent its total collapse? Read more about Junjie Jiang.

2018-2019 Houqiang Fu

Houqiang Fu successfully defended his dissertation and received his doctoral degree in 2019 from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, where he researched gallium nitride power electronics that operate more quickly and efficiently to save energy.

His work in this area earned him the 2019 Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for research and academic excellence.

Gallium nitride is what is known as a wide-bandgap semiconductor material. Its material properties allow for semiconductor devices to be smaller and operate more efficiently at higher voltages, frequencies and temperatures than silicon-based semiconductor materials.

Currently, about 10% of the total electricity generated in the United States is lost through power conversion using silicon-based devices. With silicon power electronics having reached their performance limit, Fu’s research demonstrated gallium nitride power electronics can be smaller, faster and more efficient. Read more.

2017-2018: Zhengshan “Jason” Yu

Zhengshan “Jason” Yu, an international student from Jinhua, China, who conducts research under faculty advisor Zachary Holman, has earned the award for his research on record-breaking efficiency for silicon-based solar cells, an area that has the potential to make solar electricity costs more competitive in the future.

While living in Shanghai, Yu noticed the poor air quality in winter due to vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels as the country’s main energy source.

Air pollution poses an environmental risk to health as people inhale dangerous toxins, which can lead to heart and lung disease as well as other respiratory problems, according to the World Health Organization. The motivation to solve the problem fueled Yu’s research interest in renewable energy. Read more

2016-2017: Preston Webster

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.

Webster and electrical engineering Professor Shane Johnson, his dissertation advisor, 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

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 electrical engineering Professor 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 The 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 was chosen as the 2013-2014 winner of the Palais Award. Professor Cun-Zheng Ning was his advisor. Ding has published more than nine 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, and from ASU in Spring 2014.

2012-2013: Xuan Ni

Xuan Ni received the 2012-2013 Palais Award. His mentor was professor Ying-Cheng Lai. Having graduated in Summer 2012 with a perfect GPA, Nialso authored a dozen papers in high-impact refereed journals such as Physical Review E, Europhysics Letters and Chaos.

2011-2012: Elizabeth Steenbergen

Elizabeth Steenbergen is the recipient of the 2011-2012 Palais Award. Her mentor was Professor Yong-Hang Zhang. She was at the top in her class with a 4.0 GPA, which she had maintained since her undergraduate study. Steenbergen has several publications and has received many awards for her outstanding contributions to the field. She worked 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

Asaad Said received the Palais Award 2010-2011. His mentor was professor Lina Karam. His doctoral 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 worked as a research scientist at Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona after graduation.

2009-2010: Qingfei Chen

Qingfei Chen is the recipient of the 2009-2010 Palais Award. His mentor was professor Ying-Cheng Lai. 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 received the 2008-2009 Palais Award.  Liang worked as a postdoctoral student for Professor Ying-Cheng Lai.

2007-2008: Visar Berisha

The 2007-2008 Palais Award was awarded to Visar Berisha. After graduation, he worked at MIT Lincoln Labs, returned to ASU, as a faculty member in both the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering and the Department of Speech & Hearing Science. His mentor was Professor Andreas Spanias.

2005-2006: Jiangbo Wang  and Shuiqing Yu

Jiangbo Wang was advised by Professor Yong-Hang Zhang on his thesis titled “Electric and Optical Properties of Novel Semiconductor Heterostructures” and joined Philips Lumileds Lighting Company as a Sr. Development Scientist after his graduation.

Shuiqing Yu was also advised by Professor Yong-Hang Zhang. Yu worked to develop optical cooling devices in Zhang’s postdoctoral research group after graduation.


2004-2005: Irena Knezevic

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 focused on quantum electronic transport, quantum information and semiconductor device simulation.

2003-2004: Elias Kyriakides

Elias Kyriakides received the Palais Award for 2003-2004. He was advised by Professor Gerald Heydt, and worked with Heydt on parameter identification of synchronous generators as a faculty research associate after graduation. Kyriakides’ goal was 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 was the inaugural recipient of the Palais Award in 2002–2003. He was advised by Professor David Ferry and is currently employed by Intel as a senior CAD designer working in transport and device modeli