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Summer/Fall 2018

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Diversity/Careers Summer/Fall 2018 Issue





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News and Views


U of Puerto Rico team wins NASA Rover competition

Huntsville, AL � The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2 won the top prize in the college division at the first NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, held in April at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Organized by NASA�s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and building on two decades of competitive student innovation in the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, the new event challenged students from seventy high school, college and university teams from nineteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Germany, India, Mexico and Russia.

The teams design, assemble and race lightweight, human-powered roving vehicles, solving technical problems along the way just like NASA engineers must do.

The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is sponsored by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, and organized by the Marshall Center�s academic affairs office. Major corporate sponsors for the race are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Jacobs Engineering ESSSA Group and Northrop Grumman.


Coca-Cola Foundation & American Indian College Fund award First Generation scholarships

Denver, CO � The Coca-Cola Foundation and the American Indian College Fund honored thirty-six American Indian scholarship recipients at its 2013-14 Coca-Cola First Generation scholarship banquet at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Conference in Billings, MT.

The Coca-Cola First Generation scholarship program offers $5,000 scholarships to first-year Native American tribal college students who have unmet needs. If students maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average and show strong participation in campus and community life, their scholarships are renewed every year throughout their tribal college careers.

�The life of a first-generation college student is filled with new experiences and opportunities. Our Coca-Cola scholars are the first in their families to focus on receiving their bachelors degrees and we are proud to partner with Coca-Cola to help the dreams of these students come true,� said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund.

Among the 2013-14 scholarship recipients were several with STEM majors: Vienna Kagak of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, biology; Dylan Friisval of Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, environmental science; and Michelle Becenti of Navajo Technical University, mathematics.

For more information on the American Indian College Fund, visit www.collegefund.org.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute names Laurie Leshin president

Worcester, MA � The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, Worcester, MA) board of trustees announced the selection of Laurie Leshin, PhD, as the university�s sixteenth president. Leshin will be the first woman to serve in that role when she takes over from interim president Philip B. Ryan in July.

�In addition to bringing exceptional academic credentials from some of our nation�s leading universities, Laurie also brings tremendous experience and expertise from her time spent in leadership positions at NASA,� said Warner Fletcher, WPI board chair. �We are proud to have her at the helm of this fine university.�

�WPI has been a leading innovator in engineering, technology and science education for nearly 150 years,� said Leshin. �I am energized by the prospect of getting to know the members of the WPI community and raising the profile of this great university. I look forward to many productive years of collaboration, and I can�t wait to get started.�

Leshin, a geochemist and space scientist, began her academic career in 1994 as a University of California President�s postdoctoral fellow at UCLA in the department of earth and space science. She was named a WW Rubey Faculty Fellow.

From 1998 to 2005 Leshin was a scientist and professor at Arizona State University (ASU, Tempe). In 2005 she joined NASA as director of science and exploration at NASA�s Goddard Space Flight Center. Leshin was promoted to deputy center director for science and technology at NASA Goddard in 2008. In 2010 she was tapped to join NASA�s exploration systems mission directorate in Washington, DC. Leshin comes to WPI from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, Troy, NY) where she became dean of the school of science in 2011. At RPI, Leshin continued her research and national service as a funded science team member for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission. During that time she was appointed by President Obama to the advisory board for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to the advisory board of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The International Astronomical Union has recognized her contributions to planetary science by naming Asteroid 4922 Leshin; she has received other honors from NASA and the Meteoritical Society, and served on several boards.

Leshin received her BS in chemistry from ASU in 1987. She earned an MS in geochemistry in 1989 and a PhD in geochemistry in 1994 at California Institute of Technology (Pasadena).


Jelena Kovacevic chosen to head department of electrical and computer engineering at CMU

Pittsburgh, PA � Carnegie Mellon University�s College of Engineering (CMU) has named Jelena Kovacevic to head its department of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), effective in April.

Kovacevic, a professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Bioimage Informatics at CMU, will succeed Ed Schlesinger. Her research involves bioimaging and multi-resolution techniques like wavelets and frames.

�I am extremely pleased that Jelena will join the college leadership as the new department head of ECE. Her exceptional scholarly reputation, her demonstrated commitment to her colleagues and students, her boundless energy and enthusiasm and collegial nature make her an excellent choice for the position,� says James Garrett, Jr, dean of the College of Engineering.

Kovacevic came to CMU in 2003. She received her undergraduate electrical engineering degree at the University of Belgrade (Serbia). She earned her MS and her PhD in electrical engineering from Columbia University (New York, NY). From 1991 to 2002, she was with Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ. She was co-founder and technical vice president of xWaveforms and an adjunct professor at Columbia.

�I am extremely excited about this opportunity. ECE is thriving by all measures of success. I will work together with all the ECE community to push ECE even further toward becoming the creative driving force in the Carnegie Institute of Technology, CMU and the world for its scholarly and entrepreneurial quality in terms of research, education and social impact,� Kovacevic said.

Kovacevic is a Fellow of the IEEE and has served as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, and associate editor, guest editor and editorial board member of numerous publications and special issues.

She is the author or co-author of many papers and several textbooks. She received the Belgrade October Prize in 1986, the E.J. Jury award at Columbia University in 1991 and the 2010 CIT Philip L. Dowd Fellowship award at CMU.


U.S. Army partners with Thurgood Marshall College Fund to expand college opportunities for urban youth

Alexandria, VA � The U.S. Army has renewed its partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) to help make New York City-area high school students aware of the college education benefits available through the Army.

The Army is the nation�s largest provider of college scholarships. Each year, the service grants more than $250 million in merit-based ROTC scholarships for students. The U.S. Army and TMCF partnership began in 2012 to inform educators and students, particularly those with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, of the diverse career opportunities available in the Army.

These objectives support the Army�s long-term goal of ensuring its officer ranks reflect the nation�s diverse population. African Americans currently represent 16 percent of the age seventeen to twenty-four high school graduate population, but are underrepresented in the currently enrolled ROTC cadet population.

�Identifying top-quality students is a critical mission to the strength of our Army and our nation,� says Brigadier General Maria Gervais, deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Cadet Command. �Together with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, we�re working to increase the representation of African American Army officers. To do this, we must ensure students have direct access to ROTC scholarship information, and are aware of the diversity of STEM-related and other career fields available to Army officers.�

Under the partnership arrangement, TMCF representatives work with high schools, community-based organizations and other local groups to provide information about the ROTC program to students and key audiences.

�Through partnerships and innovative programs like this one, we will continue to strengthen the high school to college pipeline for urban students. Our focus this year will be in New York City,� says Johnny Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. �TMCF is committed to creating the next generation of STEM leaders, and our partnership with the U.S. Army will help us empower students to pursue their academic and career goals.�

TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its forty-seven member schools, including HBCUs and medical and law schools.

Learn about and apply for Army ROTC scholarships at goarmy.com/ rotc. Find out about Army education programs and the wide variety of Army career opportunities at goarmy.com. For more information about Thurgood Marshall College Fund programs and scholarship opportunities, visit thurgoodmarshallcollegefund.org.


Huston-Tillotson University students win Ford HBCU Community Challenge competition

Dearborn, MI � The Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, TX) team took top honors at the Ford Community Challenge competition for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in December.

The team competed against finalists from Fayetteville State University, Howard University and Tuskegee University at the Ford world headquarters.

The student project, in partnership with Blackshear Elementary School, focused on transforming a thirty-three-square-foot dumpster into a fully functioning home complete with running water, toilet, shower, bed and solar-generated electricity. The project aims to promote living practices that encourage sustainability.

The Ford HBCU Community Challenge is an extension of one of the Ford Fund�s educational programs, the Ford College Community Challenge. The new program has the theme �building sustainable communities.� It encourages HBCU students to design projects that address a tangible, unmet community need that touches on at least one of four areas: mobility, alternative energy, sustainability/water or a systematic approach to meeting community needs.

Scholarships will be awarded to the Huston-Tillotson University team, and community grants will be awarded to nonprofits to support implementation of the winning project.

�Meeting these students and listening to them present projects to help us strengthen our communities has been refreshing and encouraging,� said Shawn Thompson, Ford�s multicultural marketing manager. �This program has allowed us to make an impact in the students� education, their schools and their communities.�

Each finalist team received funds to support the implementation of its ideas within its community, plus iPads for each student member.

�All these students and their proposals were phenomenal,� said Pamela Alexander, director of community development for the Ford Motor Company Fund. �The process of narrowing the submissions down to just four was tough, so you can imagine how difficult it was to pick the winner.�


University students find new paths to sustainable and responsible development

Coral Gables, FL � Winners of the 2013 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development awards were announced in September at a ceremony in Miami.

The award invites university students to search for innovative technologies and methods to promote sustainable and responsible development. Odebrecht USA, headquartered in Florida, and its subsidiary Braskem America, based in Philadelphia, sponsor the competition. Odebrecht is a Brazilian engineering, construction and petrochemical company with widespread holdings.

University of Cincinnati engineering students Ethan Jacobs, Qingshi Tu and Ronald Gillespie clinched the top prize with an idea that offers value across the supply chain, acting as a remedy for wastewater treatment plants and contributing to the energy security and environmental sustainability of the United States.

The team was advised by professor Mingming Lu of the school of energy, environmental, biological and medical engineering in the university�s College of Engineering and Applied Science. The team�s project, �Using trap grease as the raw material for biodiesel feedstock production,� tackles one of the largest unseen wastes in society: the wastewater stream.

A team from University of California-Berkeley took second place. Students David Campbell, Henry Kagey, Vivek Rao, and advising civil and environmental professor Slawomir Hermanowicz submitted the proposal �Solar photocatalytic greywater recycling in building facades.� The project was co-advised by architecture professor Maria Paz Gutierrez.

Third place went to students Amanda Velazquez, Paola Davalos and Sergio Baltodano, advised by professor Andres Tremante, from the Florida International University department of mechanical and materials engineering, whose entry was �Education, renewable energy and disaster resistant housing for rural Haiti: An integrated design for reconstruction.�

This is the second year of the Odebrecht Award in the United States.


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