Azia Harris-Martin wins prestigious Rumler Prize

Azia Harris-Martin wins prestigious Rumler Prize

Azia Harris-Martin

Analyzing water filtration systems for the Flint water crisis, marketing a diabetes sock, and starting a community girls’ club are just a few of the accomplishments of Azia Harris-Martin ’17, recipient of this year’s prestigious Hugh G. Rumler Prize, an award presented annually by the College of Engineering to an outstanding senior “on the basis of sincerity, integrity and goodwill.”

Harris-Martin is the first MSE student to win the prize, which comes with a $10,000 stipend, in more than 13 years.

“I’m so delighted that this very deserving student won the Rumler Prize at this year’s Student Leaders Honor Brunch,” said MSE professor and undergraduate advisor Richard Robertson. “The Rumler Prize is the College of Engineering’s ultimate award, given after all the others have been presented, and the only award for which the student is asked to make some remarks. Azia’s speech was terrific.”

“I was really shocked and humbled by the award,” stated Harris-Martin, who plans to pursue a master’s in public health this fall at Emory University in Atlanta, with the goal of someday working for the government to help shape public health policy, specifically standardizing hospital costs.

A native Detroiter, Harris-Martin said she always wanted to be engineer. As a girl she participated in DAPCEP (Detroit-Area Pre-College Engineering Program) from 5th-11th grade, and the highly competitive 6-week MITES program (Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science) at MIT the summer before her senior year. Fresh off a summer science program at Michigan Tech, Harris-Martin came to U-M in Fall 2013 intending to pursue a career in prosthetics as a biomedical engineering major. An M-STEM (Michigan Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academics Majors Fair during her sophomore year, however, compelled her to switch to MSE.

Her interest in public health piqued two years later with her two senior MSE design projects – marketing a diabetes sock made with a thermochromic material that detects body temperature changes in diabetics (and thus a potential foot ulcer), and researching water filtration systems in Flint. “The whole Flint water crisis was really emotional for me because I had studied abroad twice where I couldn’t drink the water, and knew how hard that was,” she said. “And here they couldn’t do the same thing just an hour from my home. I wanted to see what more I could do to help, so that’s when I looked into public health.”

Helping others was also her goal when she founded a local chapter of Pretty Brown Girls’ Club (PBG) her sophomore year. A mentoring group, PBG is dedicated to empowering young girls ages 5-12. Harris-Martin estimates around 60 girls from the Ann Arbor area have participated in the program since its inception.

“Some of the girls have really grown in their identity, which has been really cool to see,” commented Harris-Martin, who intends to donate a portion of her prize money to the club.

Harris-Martin’s impressive list of accomplishments comes as no surprise to her MSE professors.

“In my class this past term, even after the lecture had ended, there was Azia, still at her seat, writing on her computer,” recalled Robertson. “With that kind of diligence, she’s sure to be a success wherever life takes her.”