Commencement 2018: Norwood, Mass. resident to leave URI with success as a scholar, leader, athlete

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Charles Watson and ThankGod Ugochukwu
Charles Watson, assistant director of recruitment and retention at the College of Engineering, left, presents the Saint Elmo Brady Award to ThankGod (TG) Ugochukwu at the URI Black Scholar Awards ceremonies. URI photo by Michael Salerno.

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 15, 2018 — Researcher, leader and rugby player ThankGod (TG) Ugochukwu, can add another superlative to his name on May 20–University of Rhode Island graduate. The senior from Norwood, Mass., will earn his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in just a few days.

But before he leaves though, he can take additional pride in receiving the Saint Elmo Brady Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science at URI’s 21st annual Black Scholar Awards ceremony on April 24.

“I was very surprised when I found out that I won the award, but it wasn’t until I understood what the Saint Elmo Brady Award really was and the number of people that could have been chosen instead of me, that I felt a huge sense of accomplishment,” said Ugochukwu.

In 1916, Saint Elmo Brady became the first person of African descent to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree in chemistry. He had a distinguished research and teaching career, including appointments at Fisk University, Howard University, Tuskegee Institute, and Tougaloo College.

As a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minorities Participation program scholar, Ugochukwu has conducted research in URI’s Biomeasurement and Biomedical Instrumentation Design Laboratories and completed an electrical engineering internship at 21st Century Fox in Los Angeles, where he assisted the engineering team in repairing damaged technology.

In the biomedical engineering capstone design course this year, Ugochukwu and two teammates developed a novel balance board that uses electronic sensors and a customized smartphone app to aid rehabilitation of ankle injuries. They successfully achieved the design goals and presented their functional prototype at the Northeast Bioengineering Conference at Drexel University in March.

“I have taught TG in several courses over the past three years,” said Biomedical Engineering Professor Ying Sun. “It’s been a pleasure to see him continuously build his engineering skills and confidence.”

Ugochukwu was active in the URI community. He was president of URI’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, this year, a member of the URI rugby team and a member of the Student Alumni Association.

“Participating in these clubs has been important to my development,” Ugochukwu stated. “I learned a lot about professionalism and leadership in NSBE; discipline and camaraderie from playing rugby; and planning and executing events in SAA. All of those experiences helped me become a more well-rounded person.”

“TG’s philosophy on life is to have no regrets, and that is what pushes him with no real boundaries,” said Christopher Hunter, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and coordinator of the awards ceremony. “He has a positive spirit and he seems to elevate those around him.”