NAU Graduate College
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September’s Graduate Student of the Month from the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences: Diego Higueras-Ruiz
Diego Higueras-Ruiz started in Dr. Michael Shafer’s lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2015 and is now close to completing his PhD in Bioengineering. His growth in the last six years has been astounding, exemplifying how NAU can transform a motivated student. As indicated by his nominator, Dr. Michael Shafer, Diego embodies NAU values: student-centered, integrity, diversity, service, discovery, and excellence. Diego’s master’s research centered on modeling twisted polymer actuators, a novel class of artificial muscle. He published two journal papers and a conference paper (all peer reviewed) in discipline-leading outlets during this time. These efforts inspired a discovery in 2019 of a new soft-actuator that relies upon helical anisotropy in polymer tubes that increased efficiency by 50x over related actuator types. His seminal paper published this year in the journal Science Robotics will create an entirely new field of actuator research.
English is his second language (of four), demonstrating a commitment to diversity and domains beyond science and math. In addition to excellence in discovery and diversity, Diego has also demonstrated excellence in student-centered pursuits. Both his MS and PhD programs were unfunded, and he, thus, held teaching assistant positions to support himself through his degrees. His wide breadth of expertise has allowed him to be a graduate teaching assistant for various lower-division and upper-division mechanical engineering courses. In many of these roles, he was either teaching the labs or the recitation classes as part of his duties. His breadth of understanding and responsibility have made him a valued asset to the department. His participation in various activities ranging from the Flagstaff Festival of Science, the NAU Stem Night in the NAU dome, and the NAU Upward Bound Program also displays his commitment to service. It is with great pride that the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences recognizes Diego Higueras-Ruiz as the Graduate Student of the Month.
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