Program Notes: Graduate Alumni

Feb 01 2015


Chains-Sun Sunny Sea MS’76 writes that some of his happiest days were spent at Columbia University, at a time when he was young and full of the dream “to succeed and to love.” Almost 40 years later, “my dream is not yet fulfilled, but I still have my Columbia dream in my blood and deep in my heart. I am still searching for my Columbia dream to come true. I have not had a chance to return to my Columbia campus, but I have carried its torch and its working spirit to such places as California, Taiwan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Tennessee, Oregon, Germany, Czech Republic, and Europe, and, at this moment, Discovery Bay near San Francisco. I do not think I am able to fulfill my Columbia dream until I enter the eternal paradise with my dear family and loved ones, surrounded by the heavenly angels, full bloom of flowers, and smiling sun-shining sky.”



Jih-Jiang Chyu MS’73, EngScD’81 writes, “Prior to my graduation, I was working as a consulting engineer/project manager (with a P.E. license) both in the U.S. and in Europe (mainly in Western Germany) doing structural engineering projects. In 1978, I invented and developed the Plane Strain Analogy in the theory of elasticity, while participating in ASCE activities as an active member. Then, structural design (with construction) of buildings and bridges as well as college teaching in mathematics and structural engineering constitutes my ‘integrated career’ for decades. In the meantime, my research results in the fields of constitutive laws of materials, structural dynamics, general theory of elasticity, and wave propagation were published in various technical journals. As a result of all these, I became interested in the interconnected nature of many seemingly unrelated things and started promulgating, via publishing a technical book and presenting an ASCE technical lecture, the Method of Analogy, in addition to the promotion of interactions among engineering research, design, construction, and maintenance in the practical world of structural engineering, as well as the link between teaching and research aspects of engineering, and finally the interconnected characteristics between the theoretical and practical sectors of engineering.


“I have been doing this for the past 10 years and am still ardently involved in promoting the philosophy that ‘open-mindedness induces innovation and reveals the interconnected nature of things (of interest).’ The most recent book in this context was published last November, and I am doing the second volume of the same book title in the New Year.”


After graduation, Michael Milgram Cohen MS’13 started as an associate project manager for Group PMX LLC, providing owner’s representative services for the new Medical & Graduate Education Building (MGEB) at the Columbia University Medical Center. The new construction comprises 107,000 gross square feet and plans to have 15 floors plus one floor below grade. The program for the building includes state-of-the-art assembly and classroom spaces, centralized student support services, and an advanced simulation center. Michael is part of the team responsible for serving as the liaison between the client, construction manager, consultants, and end users. In addition, he is responsible for the project controls; MEP 3D coordination; clean construction within the construction process; LEED certification; presentations; and the procurement of the medical and simulation equipment, low voltage cabling, furniture, signage, and audiovisual and security equipment. The building is scheduled to open in 2016.


Matt Scanlon MS’13 writes, “The Commonwealth of Virginia has recently approved my request to sit for the Civil PE exam, thanks primarily to the quality and rigor of my Columbia graduate engineering coursework. I’m thrilled about this professional opportunity and thankful for the CE department professors from whom I learned so much (Profs. Meyer, Smyth, and others).”


John Akbari MS'86 Esther and Bernard "Bernie" Queneau BS'32, '33CC


Since completing work in artificial intelligence at Columbia, John Akbari MS’86has gone on to work with several early-stage software companies as a sales and go-to-market contributor. He writes, “Two IPOs and four acquisitions at TIBCO, ITRS, SeeBeyond, Zoologic, and counting!” John currently serves as chief business officer with 3Forge, a software start-up in Brooklyn. He helps enterprise customers apply software for cost reduction, margin growth, market share growth, and customer service improvement. He helps innovative vendors find early adopter customers, define initial use cases, and scale these into repeatable solutions.


Riddhi Mehta MS'13 (third from left in blue top), pictured with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (center) Riddhi Mehta MS'13 (third from left in blue top), pictured with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (center)

Riddhi Mehta MS’13 started working at Microsoft as a program manager on Bing in March of 2013. In August 2014, Riddhi was promoted to program manager II. She was also invited to participate in a panel with 11 other recent college hires (one to three years at Microsoft) to talk with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to share their perspective on technology innovation, current work, and culture at Microsoft.


Florian Purguette MS’14 is doing an internship at EGIS in Paris. He is studying the energy efficiency and environmental performances of buildings for several projects.



Geoffrey Akers MS’70 has started a financial services company that utilizes mathematical finance to optimize market returns in these volatile markets but utilizes mutual funds as its core.

Wael Ayache MS'12 Wael Ayache MS'12

Wael Ayache MS’12 writes, “After graduation, I joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s 2-year Quantitative Management Associate program. I finished the program in March 2014 and joined Merrill Lynch Wealth Management as an assistant vice president with the Portfolio Construction & Investment Analytics team. I am also a CFA Level III candidate (Expected June 2015) and currently living in New York City.”

Akshat Pathak MS’11, formerly a senior consultant in the Financial Services Office at Ernst & Young, has taken up a role as an assistant vice president of the internal consulting group at MUFG, Bank of Tokyo, in New York City.

Lingqing Zhang MS’13 is now an analyst at Vidrio Financial LLC.



Sevgin Oktay MS’60 writes, “What started as a career in mechanical engineering with a BS degree in engineering science from Antioch College, followed by graduate school at Columbia Engineering under the guidance of wonderful professors such as Dudley Fuller, Ferdinand Freudenstein, Jerome Weiner, and Herbert Deresiewicz, prepared me well to delve into other fields of engineering and endeavors, including management, history, and politics. It has been a wonderful journey.” Sevgin had a longstanding career at IBM that began in 1963 as a research staff member at the IBM Watson Research Laboratories. He held many technical, managerial, and senior engineering positions at IBM until his retirement in 1993. During his career at IBM, he published extensively in scientific and professional journals and books in the areas of heat transfer, microelectronics, and computer systems technology. He has more than 40 published inventions of which 13 are U.S. patents. He is an elected fellow of ASME as well as a life member of both ASME and IEEE. He cofounded the Society of Turkish American Architects, Engineers and Scientists, and served as its president in 1994. In retirement, Sevgin works in intellectual property protection and as a registered U.S. patent agent. He runs his own firm, Oktay Enterprises International, LLC. He enjoys flying to the extent that he has put his airplane to work in his job as a Flying Patent Agent to reach his clients more readily (, in addition to having provided volunteer work with Angel flight organizations in transporting people who are financially distressed and in need of time-critical but nonemergency medical attention (Sevgin earned his pilot’s license in 1968). Sevgin and his wife have flown in their Turbo Skylane airplane from Poughkeepsie, NY, where they currently reside, to Alaska, Nova Scotia, and the Bahamas. He hopes to cross the Atlantic Ocean someday to visit his home country, Turkey. He writes, “For that, I am considering an amphibian airplane called SeaWind.”

William T. Sha MS'60, EngScD'64 William T. Sha MS'60, EngScD'64

Recently William T. Sha MS’60, EngScD’64 (Nuclear Engineering) authored a book, Novel Porous Media Formulation for Multiphase Flow Conservation Equations, published by Cambridge University Press in 2011, and a paperback edition in 2013. Last year he published a paper, “Recent Improvements on Novel Porous Media Formulation for Multiphase Flow Conservation Equations,” in the International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 73 (2014): 859-874. He has developed a theoretically derived multiphase flow conservation equation for the first time. He writes, “This is a major milestone for conservation of mass, momentum, and energy equations for multiphase flow.”



Jean-Michel Rendu MS'68, EngScD'71 WJean-Michel Rendu MS'68, EngScD'71

Jean-Michel Rendu MS’68, EngScD’71 writes, “After more than 40 years in the mining industry, I am trying to retire while giving a few short courses at universities, writing technical books, and doing some consulting. Over the years, I had senior management roles in mining and consulting companies worldwide, wrote more than 50 technical papers, received multiple awards from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, and was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (1997). I now live in Santa Fe, NM, where my wife and I are enjoying the nice weather, relaxed atmosphere, and the multiple art activities that the city offers. I had a very enjoyable and successful career, which I attribute a great extent to the exceptional education which Columbia University offers to its students.”

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