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Outstanding Graduates Spring 2013

Nine outstanding graduates will be honored at Spring 2013 commencement ceremonies.

Campus News  |  May 17, 2013  |  By Afsha Bawany, Megan Downs
Editor's Note: 

UNLV's 50th Commencement will be held Sunday, May 19. Join us in congratulating our newest alumni on Twitter with the hashtag #UNLVGrad or on our Facebook page.  For full ceremony details, visit the commencement website.


A military spouse with dreams of pursing a Ph.D., a poker player turned pupfish researcher, and a student who overcame tough obstacles to become a businessman and child health advocate — these students are among the graduates to be honored at the spring 2013 commencement ceremonies. UNLV President Neal Smatresk will highlight nine graduates for their academic achievements, community outreach, and ability to overcome adversity. They were chosen after a semester-long nomination process.

Morning Ceremony

Alexia Hsin Chen, Master of Architecture

Alexia Hsin Chen has the solar energy world on her shoulders. She’s project manager, communications lead, and architecture designer for the team of students and faculty that is constructing DesertSol, a solar-powered, energy-efficient home for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. UNLV is one of just 20 teams from around the world participating in the prestigious competition, to be held in October in Irvine, Calif. She has been instrumental in the proposal, design, and construction phases for DesertSol’s complex project.

Chen graduates with a 3.84 GPA. She interned at local architecture firm Lucchesi Galati architects in Las Vegas and worked as an interior designer for UNLV Lied Library Graduate Commons and new Lied Discovery Children’s Museum. Her community outreach activities include representing DesertSol to Downtown Podcast, Clark County School District teacher workshops, the National Clean Energy Summit, UNLV Alumni Association, UNLV Governor’s BBQ, and the Technology Business Alliance of Nevada. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture from UNLV in 2011 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre from University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2007.

After graduation, Chen will remain project manager for DesertSol and will make sure the house is perfected for the competition in October.

Matt Heuton, B.S. Biological Sciences, School of Life Sciences

Professional poker player and pupfish researcher – that’s Matt Heuton. He is the first in his family to get a college degree. He started working at age 14 to help his family through medical and financial challenges. After he graduated high school, he became a professional poker player and moved to Las Vegas, but soon found another calling and went back to school.

As a leading researcher on desert pupfish along with UNLV professors Stan Hillyard and Frank van Breukelen, he is working to understand the interbreeding population of pupfish, which were dominant during the Ice Age. Heuton’s research has shown the pupfish were isolated to warm springs and have poorly adapted to warmer temperatures. He authored a paper on desert pupfish that is now in consideration for publication in Science, one of the most influential research journals.

Heuton graduates with a 4.0 GPA. He has been accepted to Harvard Medical School’s class of 2017. At Harvard, he plans to earn a master’s degree in public policy at John F. Kennedy School of Government in addition to his medical degree.

Ed Mausolf, Ph.D. in Radiochemistry

During his studies at UNLV, Ed Mausolf took first place in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) student competition for his investigation into the behavior of radioactive waste of nuclear energy.

His continued work on nuclear fuel cycle research enabled UNLV’s top-ranked program in radiochemistry to expand through a programmatic partnership with the DOE and to collaborate with many top national research labs.

He published six research articles as a graduate student and three more are in development. He is completing his doctorate with a 3.796 grade point average. He also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNLV.

Mausolf currently works for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., one of 10 national laboratories managed by the DOE Office of Science. He is working with a team of scientists whose innovative research on nuclear fuel corrosion helps the DOE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and other government agencies, universities and industry.

Mausolf aspires to start his own business producing advanced energy forms.

Nervik Roy, B.S. in Biological Sciences, School of Life Sciences

As a child Nervik Roy was mentored at the Boys & Girls Club. As a college student he gave back to the organization by completing more than 300 hours of service as a tutor and mentor.

He balanced his volunteering with his intensive studies as a biology major on the preprofessional track at UNLV. He is graduating with University Honors, cum laude, and an impressive 3.51 grade point average. He plans to attend medical school.

During his studies, Roy conducted bioinformatics research on HIV drug therapies with professor Marty Shiller. He was named an Engelstad Scholar for his academic achievements and commitment to the community. He also helped revive the Honors Student Council, which promotes social service activities within the Honors College.

Afternoon Ceremony

Abigail Hasberry, Ph.D. Curriculum and Instruction

While raising three children and being relocated multiple times as a military spouse, Abigail Hasberry never wavered from her dream of completing her Ph.D. She graduates with a 3.9 GPA. Her research focuses on ways to increase teaching and learning opportunities for African-American teachers and students in independent private schools. Her own story of being born to African-American parents and adopted by a white American family drives her research into furthering multicultural education, promoting minority student achievement, and advancing minority teacher recruitment and retention. In addition to being a full-time student and a parent, Hasberry volunteers her time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate to help children who have been victims of abuse and neglect. 

Brett Abarbanel, Ph.D. Hotel Administration

Brett Abarbanel graduates with a 4.0 GPA and is a prior recipient of the UNLV President’s Graduate Research fellowship.  She already has established herself as a leading international scholar in gambling studies and her multidisciplinary research extends over the entire gaming industry, ranging from online gaming and casino operations to gambling addictions and global policies. Her doctoral dissertation explores the online gambling user experience.

She serves as managing editor for the major journal in her field, Gaming Research and Review, and has been deeply involved in the peer review process of every submission since the summer of 2011.

Abarbanel has served as a project manager for several research grants, including a multiyear health grant for “The Nevada Problem Gambling Project," and a grant that teamed UNLV and Harvard University, which involved interviews with more than 1,000 local casino patrons about their gambling behaviors. She also was project manager on a Hilton Foundation grant to investigate the role of gender in poker games.

She has presented to the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, the most prestigious gambling studies conference in the field. She helped build the e-Health Summit at UNLV's International Gaming Institute, bringing together top minds on gambling and technology for discussions on the industry’s future. She has also consulted for the Discovery Channel as an expert on gambling.

She completed her master’s degree at UNLV in 2009 and this fall she will be joining the research team at the Gambling Studies Program at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine. 

Annie Bouck, B.S. Civil Engineering

Every day villagers in Moshi, Tanzania, embark on a three-mile trek to obtain water from a spring at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. Annie Bouck and a team of student engineers developed a water pipe and cleaning system to bring fresh water to the village and a nearby orphanage. The project impressed judges in the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering’s prestigious Senior Design competition and earned the grand prize.

Although much of Bouck’s attention this year was spent on perfecting that senior design project, she still attained a 3.845 grade point average, the highest among students in her major. She also has made the dean’s list each semester of her academic career. 

She continues her philanthropic efforts, spending what little free time she has mentoring other young adults to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and love others. She is a member of the Tau Beta Phi honor society and received the Senior of the Year award from the UNLV Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction department.

Anthony Alegrete, B.S. in Marketing

Anthony Alegrete embodies the true spirit of entrepreneurship at UNLV. He already made a mark in the Las Vegas community through business ventures, nonprofit leadership, and student government before receiving his diploma. 

Alegrete was raised in some of the roughest areas of Los Angeles and overcame many personal obstacles to find tremendous academic, professional, and personal success. 

He is the founder and chairman of the Jump for Joy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that combats childhood obesity and provides resources for the community through education and physical activity. Under his direction, Jump for Joy has served thousands of children across the Las Vegas Valley and shared information with parents about healthy diets and nutrition. 

In 2011, Alegrete was a member and leader of the team that won first place in the Donald W. Reynolds Nevada Governor’s Cup, for a business called 18at18. It develops e-books to help young adults achieve financial and physical fitness by age 18.

Alegrete served as the president of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and served six semesters as a CSUN senator from the College of Business. Alegrete also is the chief operating officer for Real Results Fitness and has completed his autobiography, Rabbit in the Jungle, which shares his path to rehabilitation, success, and education. 

Alegrete is a full-time parent of two boys, ages 12 and 9.

Ernesto Zamora, B.S. in Computer Science

Ernesto Zamora is the first in his family to graduate and will do so with a 4.0 grade point average. Zamora was a participant in the McNair Scholars Institute, a federally funded program that gives first-generation and underrepresented students a chance to spend the summer working with top UNLV researchers to learn what it’s really like to be a college professor.

As a McNair Scholar, Zamora conducted research that culminated in a presentation titled “Using Image Processing Techniques to Estimate Air Quality.”

Zamora works as a math tutor at the College of Southern Nevada. In the fall, he will begin his doctoral studies in computer science at UNLV.