College of Engineering / About Engineering / Awards / NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program / Students


Grace Gray

I am a rising junior in mechanical engineering from Birmingham. I was initially attracted to engineering because of how it combines subjects that I enjoy, namely math and science. However, it was not until I experienced first-hand in Haiti the impact engineering has on the world that I decided to pursue a career in engineering. I am excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Engineering is a unique discipline with potential for direct global impact unlike any other profession. Through this program, I have the ability to live out my passion for helping others through the field of engineering. Specifically, I am interested in advancing health informatics and working to provide access to clean water. I am also fascinated with the development of medical devices and equipment design predominately for use in developing countries. I would like to design low-cost, easy-to-use medical devices that would help fill the gap in healthcare in the absence of medical professionals.

John Guglielmi

I’m from Orlando, Florida and followed in my family’s footsteps by coming to Auburn. I decided to study engineering because I saw its great capacity to impact so many fields and applications. What truly draws me to engineering is how everything that is done is justifiable, provable and calculated.

What attracted me about the Grand Challenge Scholars Program is that they are working to make an impact on the world that would allow everyone to reap benefits. I believe that there’s nothing more fulfilling than being able to impact the world and leave your mark through your career, so a program like this is exactly what I have in mind when it comes to using my degree.

The two challenges that speak to me the most are “Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery” and “Engineer Better Medicines,” which I believe go hand in hand. There is a need for new and more effective medications worldwide, and having the tools necessary to manufacture those medications will help save lives.

I would love to get a job for an automotive company after I graduate. I have always loved cars and would enjoy a chance to help work and produce them. Later in my career, though, I would like to shift to a job more geared to making a positive impact on society. Whether I work directly on a Grand Challenge or not, the goal for my career is to be impactful, and to leave a mark on the world somehow.

Ayden Kemp

I am double majoring in Aerospace and Biosystems Engineering as a member of the class of 2022. My family is military, so I currently call Ramstein-Miesenbach Germany home. I have always loved science and math, and after trying to be an astronomer, biologist, chemist, geologist, mathematician and physicist all at the same time, I discovered that with engineering I could use all of my talents and passions to solve problems.

The Grand Challenges Program stood out to me as a way to use my abilities to give back to the world. Having spent more than half my life abroad, I have seen firsthand how many parts of the world are home to immense amounts of suffering that can easily be relieved through modern science. Through the Grand Challenges Program I want to do my part in making the World a better place.

After graduation I intend to pursue a master’s degree in biosystems engineering before beginning my career in the aerospace industry as an environmental control and life support systems engineer. In other words, I want to work to make life better on Earth, and to make life possible on other planets.

Upon finishing the spring 2019 semester at Auburn, I will leave for two years to serve as a missionary for my church within the Vietnamese community of Los Angeles California. I will return to Auburn in the fall of 2021 to continue my education.

Riley Locke

I am from a small town in the middle of Alabama called Clanton. I have been interested in computers and coding ever since I was in middle school. It was not until high school when I got the chance to take some computer science courses that my eyes were really opened to the breadth of the field and its potential for positive change. I decided to major in computer science because there are just so many fields of science and humanities that computer science can impact. I was attracted to the Grand Challenge Scholars Program because I am not in engineering just for the sake of being in engineering. Everyone’s time on Earth is limited and I intend to leave it better than I found it. So I want to use computer science to do that. I am particularly interested in the Secure Cyberspace, Advance Health Informatics and Enhance Virtual Reality challenges. After college, I plan on either studying computer science in grad school or working on research on artificial intelligence and its applications at a tech firm.

Isabel Perry

I’m a senior in mechanical engineering from Mobile, Alabama. I was initially attracted to engineering for its challenges, and for its potential to truly impact the world. I feel that the Grand Challenges Scholar Program will aid me in gaining new perspectives that will help me better define and approach critical problems facing our planet.

In fifth grade, I had a teacher that was incredibly passionate about the environment, and it instilled in me the need to make changes to our lifestyles so that we may better preserve the planet for future generations. Upon graduating from Auburn, I hope to pursue a career where I can make a positive impact on the environment, whether through developing more efficient renewable energy methods or helping solve the water crisis felt in nations around the globe.

Ernest Porterfield

I am from Montgomery, Alabama. I have wanted to be an engineer for years, but never knew what kind. After visiting Auburn on E-Day, I learned about materials engineering, and I immediately knew it was what I wanted to do. As a materials engineer, I aspire to develop new additive manufacturing techniques and make it common place to help promote industries. I wanted to be a Grand Challenge Scholar so that I could have the opportunity to solve global issues with fellow students. My passion for fighting complacency in our society is what ultimately drove me to be a Grand Challenge Scholar. Our members have the drive to be the change that many people around the world need.

Brittany Ransom

I am from Huntsville Alabama. I am currently a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Auburn University. I first discovered what an engineer was when I was in the 5th grade. I remember enjoying learning and working with my hands, but never truly knowing what that meant for my future. It was not until my fifth grade teacher told me “Why not engineering?” The more I learned about engineering, the more excited I became about its infinite possibilities and applications. The Grand Challenges program challenges the bounds of engineering in today’s society. Engineering is a stage upon which anything can happen, and that excites me for the future of this program.

Within the program, I would like to attack the challenge of urban infrastructure primarily because of its effect on people. Without even knowing it, every single person’s environment has a direct effect on who they are and how they live their lives. I desire to play a key role in positively impacting the lives of many by creating homes, places of work and especially schools that purposefully uplift people. My plans are to obtain a professional engineering license, achieve a master’s degree in architecture, and acquire a license to practice architecture. My goal is to be able to function as both an engineer and as an architect, using my versatility to reinvent the world.

Wilson Russell

I am from Anniston, Alabama. I decided to major in engineering because I have always enjoyed building things, and I’ve always been interested in how things work. Another thing that attracted me to engineering is that I have always enjoyed discovering the best way to solve problems. I was drawn to the Grand Challenges Program because I have always wanted to make a difference. I dream of creating something that will change the world. The Grand Challenges Program is an excellent way toward achieving this goal. The program also is pointing me towards working on challenges that affect the entire planet. Working toward solving the grand challenges of engineering is an incredible opportunity. I do not know precisely what I will do or where I will be later in my life. However, I do know in the future, I would like to use my engineering degree to create something significant. In the future, I will be a part of something that helps people.

Not Pictured

Watson Copeland

I’m a sophomore from Atlanta majoring in aerospace engineering with a minor in Business-Engineering-Technology. What attracted me to aerospace engineering specifically was my passion for rockets and airplanes. Some of my achievements include achieving Eagle Scout, acquiring my pilot’s license, winning Gwinnett County’s Athlete-Scholar and U.S. Lacrosse’s Academic All-American for Boy’s Lacrosse, winning Georgia’s Positive Athlete Award for Boy’s Lacrosse, and becoming a fellow in Auburn’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.

What attracted me to this program was seeing the engineering challenges that we are going to be facing, and wanting the tools to prepare myself to take on these challenges. Specifically, I want to help achieve the goal of “engineering the tools of discovery.” Since there is so much of nature that we still don’t know about; creating new ways to study the universe would not only help expand our knowledge for the world around us, it would also create a sustained effort to keep innovating and expanding on what we already have in order to better our society.

My plans for the future include going to work for a larger aerospace engineering firm such as Lockheed-Martin or Boeing, and also possibly inventing a product that satisfies an unmet need in the aerospace industry. I also aspire to use my business influence to create a program similar to Engineering Without Borders in order to show that engineering is not just about creating the next greatest technology, but also using it as a tool to serve those less fortunate than I am.

Devin Taylor

I am a junior at Auburn in mechanical engineering originally from Birmingham, Alabama. My high school offered a four-year elective program called Engineering Academy, which allowed students to explore the opportunities and specifics of what engineering is. The program included 3-D modeling, coding, tool work, and a senior project, to name a few. After taking this program, I knew engineering was the right fit for me. I not only found myself doing well in Engineering Academy, but also thoroughly enjoying it. The program also prepared me well for Auburn’s engineering curriculum as a freshman.

There are several aspects of society that I can help improve through engineering and passion for service. Through the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, I want to find new ideas that contribute to my goals, and compliment my passion for serving my community.

Restoring and improving urban infrastructure is the challenge that currently speaks to me the most; it involves my major and I have some knowledge in the field. My co-op is in mechanical construction, so I see how important good infrastructure is to the well-being of people.

I am currently considering grad school for the next step in life after finishing my undergrad. I enjoy learning what I study, and I would like to take my combined knowledge of mechanical engineering and community and civic engagement and dive deeper into finding solutions to problems involving my interests. If I decide to go job hunting after finishing my undergrad, which is still a possibility, I want to find a job that involves my passion for benefitting my community through engineering solutions.