Michael Willemann of Manassas, Va., who received a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering on May 13 during the College of Engineering’s commencement ceremony, has been awarded a Fulbright grant for graduate studies and research in Germany.

The Fulbright grant program was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress in honor of the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, it is this nation’s largest international exchange program.

As a Fulbright scholar, Willemann will attend courses in electronic and optical physics at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH-Aachen), one of Germany’s most respected science and engineering schools. He also will conduct research in the area of electronic materials at the Institute of Thin Films and Interfaces at the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZ-Jülich), a major German research center. The scholarship pays for Willemann’s travel, living expenses, and tuition for the academic year abroad.

Willemann, who was a University Honors Program student, received his degree in materials science and engineering and a minor in German from Virginia Tech summa cum laude, also was selected as the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Senior for the past academic year. He has been named to the Dean’s List every semester since entering the university in 2001.

His research focus as a Fulbright scholar will be the fabrication of gallium nitride (GaN) films, which are used in devices such as light-emitting diodes and semiconductor lasers. “The potential benefits of these devices are great,” Willemann said. “For example, light-emitting diodes made from GaN could be used as replacements for incandescent lighting because they are far more efficient and reliable.”

Willemann achieved an exceptional research record as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech. Working with materials science and engineering professor Diana Farkas in the area of molecular dynamics computer modeling, he co-authored a paper that was published in 2005 in the journal Physical Review Papers.

In the summer of 2005, Willemann studied at Clemson University and Donetsk National Technical University of the Ukraine as one of four U.S. students chosen to participate in an International Research Experience for Undergraduates (IREU) on nanomaterials, a program sponsored by The National Academies and the National Science Foundation. He spent the summer of 2003 in a REU program at Cornell University’s Center for Nanoscale Systems.

He also worked two stints as a Cooperative Education student for General Electric, in the company’s transportation division in Lynn, Mass., and in the aircraft engines division in Evandale, Ohio.

Willemann has been awarded nine different scholarships as an undergraduate, including the Virginia Department of Education Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, the Alfred Knobler Materials Engineering Scholarship, Wayne and Claire Horton Engineering Scholarship, and the Morgan Williams Memorial Scholarship from the Washington, D.C. chapter of ASM International.

An active leader among engineering students at Virginia Tech, Willemann has been a member of the Hillcrest Honors Community, Residence Hall Federation, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, General Aviation Design Team, and the Materials Advantage Professional Society. He also served as co-chair for the National Association of Engineering Student Councils conference that the Virginia Tech Student Engineers’ Council hosted in April near Washington, D.C.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.


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