The Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence is awarded annually to an outstanding student currently pursuing a PhD who has completed at least four semesters of study.
With a dual undergraduate degree in nursing and mechanical engineering, Caroline Black is unique among the PhD candidates in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. She declined a lucrative job offer in health care informatics to study medical robotics at UT. She has been working on the development of minimally invasive robotic tools for fetal surgery—a project that could have enormous impact on the one in 33 children born each year with congenital defects. At the same time, she has been enthusiastic about outreach and volunteer service. Recognizing that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, Black spearheaded an educational research program, STEMpunk: A Reverser Science Fair, to encourage young people to pursue engineering. Black received a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in her first year and won the Best Manipulation Paper Award at the 2014 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong for her first authored paper. She has produced five refereed publications and last year received UT’s Extraordinary Professional Promise Award.