ECE Students Win Scholarships

 Engineering Alumnus Nick Vlahakis Endows Awards through ATK

April 25, 2005

ECE students Nicholas Rubi, a sophomore, and Integrated M.S./B.S. (IMB) degree student Nicole Saulnier received the first scholarships from the newly endowed ATK-Nick G. Vlahakis Scholarship Fund. Nick Vlahakis, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Alliant Techsystems, Inc. (ATK), earned a Master's degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon in 1974. In addition to endowing scholarships for undergraduates, he has also started the ATK-Nick G. Vlahakis Fellowship Fund for graduate students.

Rubi and Saulnier met Vlahakis, who has offered to share his experiences with them and has helped them make career choices.

Rubi has appreciated the mentorship: "What has impressed me most about the scholarship is Mr. Vlahakis' personal interest in his recipients. He's contacted each of us and made himself available for career advice or other questions we may have," he said. "As Chief Operating Officer of a major company and an engineer, he's gained a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience. I've learned a lot from him in the year that I've known him."

Last summer, both students interned for ATK, which is a $2.2 billion advanced weapons and space systems company that develops rocket motors, integral components for the Mars Rover, commercial and military ammunition, and hypersonic scramjets. Saulnier worked for ATK Thiokol, headquartered in Brigham City, Utah, and recalled, "It was a wonderful experience and one of the best summers of my life. CMU definitely prepared me for real world work."

Rubi worked for ATK in Rocket Center, West Virginia, where his main duty was making a tester for missile circuit boards using CAD tools and soldering irons. Next summer, he will be part of the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) team in Woodland Hills, CA. He is from Aliso Viejo, CA, while Saulnier is a local.

"I am from Pittsburgh originally, which makes this award all the more special. Mr. Vlahakis also grew up in Pittsburgh and it is nice that he wants to help other people who have lived here," Saulnier noted.

Each student plans to stay at Carnegie Mellon for graduate school. Saulnier is interested in earning a Ph.D. Rubi would like to apply for the IMB degree program and stay a fifth year for a Master's degree, like Saulnier. After enjoying his hands-on work in the field, he hopes to become a GNC Engineer in the aerospace/defense industry for a company such as ATK.

The Nick G. Vlahakis Scholarship Fund that provided Rubi and Saulnier's awards is designated for students in engineering (electrical and computer, mechanical, chemical, or materials science) or computer science. One award is given to an incoming freshman with demonstrated financial need. This recipient is selected by the Carnegie Mellon Financial Aid Office and receives the scholarship for the duration of their undergraduate studies, providing they maintain appropriate academic standards.

Four additional awards are reserved for undergraduate students who have completed their sophomore year, with preference given to women and underrepresented minorities. Recipients must demonstrate a minimum QPA of 3.20 in their major, and be recommended by their dean for selection by the Carnegie Mellon Enrollment Services Office. Although these candidates do not need to demonstrate financial need, it may be a factor in the selection process.

Another gift by Vlahakis will establish the ATK-Nick G. Vlahakis Fellowship Fund, which will endow two graduate fellowships. These will be allocated to master's degree candidates in mechanical, electrical and computer, or materials science and engineering, or to graduate students in these departments who are pursuing a joint MBA/B.S. in engineering. In recognition of Vlahakis' Cretan heritage, a special effort will be made to select students of similar background for the scholarship and fellowship funds, provided they meet academic requirements.

(L-R) Nicole Saulnier, Nick Vlahakis (EVP and COO of ATK), Ed Schlesinger (ECE Dept. Head), and Nicholas Rubi.

Nicholas Rubi

Nicole Saulnier

Nick G. Vlahakis (Photo courtesty of ATK)