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Outstanding Alumni Awards 2012

College of Engineering Outstanding Senior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of this award have brought recognition and honor to the College of Engineering through their professional achievements, leadership, and service to the profession, university, and society.

College of Engineering Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of this award are worthy ambassadors for the UMass Amherst College of Engineering and have shown extraordinary effort and notable success in their early careers.

Outstanding Senior Alumni Award Recipients Bios

Najmi Jarwala M.S. '86, Ph.D. '88, Electrical and Computer Engineering

For more than 20 years, Dr. Najmi Jarwala has been a leader in the research, product development, operations, and sales/marketing fields of the telecom/wireless industry – across network infrastructure, mobile devices, and carriers. Currently Dr. Jarwala is a corporate vice president for Program Operations with Motorola Mobility. In this role, he is responsible for the planning and execution management of all Motorola's technology platforms (silicon and software) as well as smartphone and tablet products.

Prior to his current position, Dr. Jarwala was with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications as the president of Sony Ericsson US, Inc. As head of the legal entity, he had oversight responsibility for all of Sony Ericsson's operations in the US and was a member of the board. He also led the Sales and Marketing area for Region North America and the Mobile Computing Product Business Unit.

Prior to his appointment at Sony Ericsson, Dr. Najmi held several senior positions within AT&T Wireless Services, a leading GSM operator acquired by Cingular Wireless. He was a senior vice president with its Mobility Division, where he defined and executed an end-to-end transformation of the company's handset and accessory supply chain. He was also with the company's Fixed Wireless Division, where he played key roles in maturing a proprietary OFDM-based Wireless Local Loop technology to a product and service, leading Engineering, Supply Chain, and Network Operations.

Dr. Najmi started his career with AT&T Bell Labs, where he worked on research as well as product development of a number of wire line and wireless telecom systems. While at that company, he was granted eight patents for techniques in designing high-reliability, defect-free electronic products. He also led IEEE Standards and was widely published.

He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UMass Amherst. He has also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.

Roberto Leon, B.S. '78, Civil Engineering

Dr. Roberto T. Leon is the David H. Burrows Professor of Engineering in the Via Department of Civil Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Leon earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering from UMass Amherst, his M.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Over a 30-year career in experimental structural engineering, his research interests have centered on dynamic behavior and design of composite and hybrid steel-concrete structures, composite action in beam-slab systems, bond of reinforcement under cyclic loads, testing of full-scale and model structures in the laboratory, and field instrumentation of structures. 

Dr. Leon has been, and still is, extensively involved in national and international technical committees, including the Building Seismic Safety Council Provisions Update Committee, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) TC-5 Composite Design, TC-9 Seismic Design, the Committee on Specification, and American Concrete Institute Committees 408 (Bond and Development length) and 352 (Beam-Column Joints). 

He is a registered professional engineer in Minnesota, the co-author of a book on composite construction and a non-technical book on bridges and tunnels, and is the author and co-author of more than 90 articles in refereed journals. Among his professional recognitions are the AISC 1993 Higgins Award for his contributions to the steel construction industry and the 2000 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Norman Medal for the most outstanding paper published in all ASCE journals that year.

Dr. Leon is past president of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering and of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, currently serves as past president of the Board of Governors of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of ASCE and is on the boards of Direction of the Applied Technology Council (ATC) and the Earthquake Engineering Institute. He is a Fellow of ASCE, SEI, the American Concrete Institute, and the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.

F. Michael Mahoney, B.S. '83, Civil Engineering, M.S. '85, Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Michael Mahoney is the North American manager for Saint-Gobain's External Venturing group, which identifies and evaluates start-up companies for potential partnerships with Saint-Gobain businesses. Focus areas for the External Venturing group include new products and technologies related to sustainable habitat: construction products, advanced materials, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability.

He received his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering in 1983 and his Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1985 from UMass Amherst. He earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science in 1992 from the University of Stuttgart in Germany because, as he recalls, he couldn't figure out what kind of engineer to become.

In addition to fundamental scientific studies at the Max-Planck-Institute in Stuttgart and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he has worked on leading-edge ceramic technologies that are always ten years away from commercialization and commodity materials technologies that, as he says, "make lots of money, but are far less interesting." His main interests lie in materials solutions to energy and environmental issues and the utilization of global collaboration to accelerate progress in solving engineering problems.

Since 1995, when he returned to New England, Dr. Mahoney has been increasingly involved with UMass Amherst. For the past 16 years, he has recruited engineers for Saint-Gobain at the Annual Engineering Career Fair. For the past 11 years, he has been an invited lecturer in the MIE Professionalism Seminar at UMass Amherst on the global nature of corporate R&D and has been invited twice to present in the MIE Faculty Seminar Series on the historical development of fuel cells. 

In 2007, Dr. Mahoney helped secure a five-year platinum sponsorship by Saint-Gobain for the UMass Innovation Challenge, for which he has been an annual mentor and judge. He has been a member of the Industrial Advisory Board for the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department for five years. Outside of the College of Engineering, Dr. Mahoney has been on the Board of Directors of the UMass Amherst Alumni Association for the past four years.

Above all, Dr. Mahoney explains, he is very proud of his UMass education and will do whatever it takes to ensure that his alma mater attains due credit for its great value in education and the production of engineering talent.

Barry Siadat, M.S. '77, Polymer Science and Engineering, Ph.D. '79, Chemical Engineering

Dr. Barry B. Siadat is co-founder and managing director of SK Capital Partners. He is also chairman of the board of Ascend Performance Materials, as well as chairman of Aristech Acrylics and Calabrian Corporation - all components of SK Capital's $3-billion portfolio of chemical businesses.

Dr. Siadat also serves on the boards of Mount Sinai Medical Center and Dynasty Financial Partners.

Prior to founding SK Capital partners in 2007, Dr. Siadat was a managing director of Arsenal Capital Partners, which he co-founded in January of 2001. In that capacity, he built a $1-billion portfolio of chemical and related businesses and served as the chairman of the board of Rutherford Chemicals, Reilly Industries, Sermatech International, and Velsicol Chemical. He also served on the Board of Directors of Vertellus Specialties, Interdynamics, Renaissance Mark, and TallyGenicom.

Prior to Arsenal, Dr. Siadat held senior management positions at AlliedSignal/Honeywell International, a $24-billion aerospace and chemicals company, serving as corporate vice president and chief growth officer, vice president of technology and engineering, and president of Honeywell's Avient Technologies subsidiary. Prior to AlliedSignal, Dr. Siadat was vice president of corporate technology at W.R. Grace, a $7.5-billion specialty chemicals and healthcare company.

Dr. Siadat holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, and an M.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UMass Amherst.

Eric Swanson, B.S. '82, Electrical Engineering

Eric Swanson is an entrepreneur, researcher, board member, advisor, and active participant in a wide variety of high-tech academic research, industry, entrepreneurial, venture capital, government, and non-profit initiatives. Mr. Swanson serves as a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a consultant at Draper Laboratory, and affiliate of the MIT Deshpande Center for Entrepreneurship. He also does a variety of volunteer activities and is editor of

Mr. Swanson was a co-founder of three successful start-up companies and is a founding board member of two more that collectively have shipped over $1 billion in products. Mr. Swanson is currently a founding chairman of Acacia Communications, a startup company focused on next-generation ultrahigh speed DWDM subsystems, a founding board member of Curata Incorporated, a web technology company making content curation SaaS products for B-to-B and B-to-C markets, and a board member of NinePoint Medical, a company making optical diagnostic imaging technology for the gastroenterology and other markets. Prior to this, Mr. Swanson cofounded Sycamore Networks, a company developing optical networking products that had a successful $14-billion Nasdaq IPO in 1999. He served in various roles including chief scientist and general manager.

Prior to Sycamore, Mr. Swanson was a co-founder and CTO of LightLab Imaging, a biomedical imaging company focusing on commercializing optical coherence tomography (OCT) for a wide range of medical markets including cardiology and endoscopy. Lightlab was acquired in 2010 by St. Jude Medical, a world leading cardiovascular company, for $100 million.

Prior to LightLab Imaging, Mr. Swanson was a co-founder of Advanced Ophthalmic Devices, a startup focused on ophthalmologic imaging using OCT. AOD was acquired in 1994 by Carl Zeiss Meditec, a leading ophthalmic instrumentation company, and served as a foundation for Zeiss's highly successful world leading ophthalmic OCT product line, which has shipped about $1 billion in OCT products to date. OCT has had a massive impact on treatment of eye disease around the world and is one of the top ophthalmic inventions in the last 25 years.

Prior to AOD, Mr. Swanson was involved in R&D at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory for 15 years. He served in various technical and managerial roles of a large R&D group working on Optical networks and Inter-Satellite Laser Communication Systems. Some notable results include development of one of the world's first WDM All-Optical Networks and pioneering work in developing the world first successful inter-satellite laser communication system that was demonstrated on the GEOLite spacecraft.

Swanson has authored about 200 technical papers and conference presentations. In addition, he holds more than 32 US patents and numerous foreign patents. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 1992 he received the prestigious Rank Prize for contributions to mankind in Opto-Electronics for his work in the field of Optical Coherence Tomography. Mr. Swanson holds a B.S. summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering from UMass Amherst and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients Bios

Shawn P. Kelley B.S. '94, MS '97, Ph.D. '03, Civil Engineering

Shawn P. Kelley is an associate with the privately held engineering consulting firm GeoDesign Inc. A shareholder, Dr. Kelley works out of GeoDesign's Windsor, Vt. office and manages a number of different engineering projects, which include geotechnical engineering design work, construction observation services, and geotechnical instrumentation. He specializes in earth retention and slope stabilization projects, deep and shallow foundation design, geotechnical instrumentation, and in-situ soil testing. Dr. Kelley also manages GeoDesign's soil-testing laboratory in the company's Vermont office.

He is currently a Region 1 governor and the past president (2007-2009) and former secretary (2004-2007) of the Vermont Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dr. Kelley also serves on the ASCE National Web Advisory Task Committee and the Committee on Geographic Units (CGU).

As a volunteer, Dr. Kelley has worked on Habitat for Humanities projects, Listen Community Center Dinners, and the Board of Directors for the Stony Creek Condo Association. He has his Master Scuba Diver Certification through the National Association of Underwater Instructors, and he enjoys mountain biking, road biking, water skiing, snow skiing, snowmobiling, and hockey. Dr. Kelley was also in the UMass Minuteman Marching Band for 4 years during his undergraduate career and marched with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps from Boston, Massachusetts during the summers of his Junior and Senior years as a percussionist.

Borislava Kostova, Ph.D. '06, Chemical Engineering

After finishing her PhD in Chemical Engineering at UMass Amherst in 2006, Borislava Kostova joined ExxonMobil's real-time optimization section where she developed mathematical models of complex refinery processes, created and implemented supervisory control systems above the advanced control systems currently on-line, and worked on the integration of economic targets with the process operations of North American, European and Asia Pacific refineries.

In 2007, she went on to apply her optimization skills to one of the largest US Gulf Coast refineries; Beaumont, TX, where she worked as the real time optimization site lead for the crude unit, fluid-catalytic cracking unit and hydrocracker.

In 2009, Borislava returned to Downstream headquarters in Fairfax, and joined the Logistics Technology section, where she worked to develop the advanced scheduling models for Port Jérome-Gravenchon, and Singapore Chemicals and Refineries. Her work was recognized with an ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Leadership award, and was nominated for a Global Operations excellence Award (the highest level of recognition within Global Operations).

In 2012, she joined the Offline-Optimization section, working to deliver the next-generation planning and scheduling optimization platform utilized throughout ExxonMobil operations.

She still finds time to play tennis in the local Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC tennis leagues.

Jessica Townsend B.S. '94 Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Jessica Townsend (M.S. '96, Mechanical Engineering, UC Davis; and Ph.D. '04, Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT) is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academic Programs at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, a new engineering school dedicated to redefining engineering as a profession of innovation encompassing human and societal needs, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking. She is a passionate proponent of undergraduate engineering curriculum innovation and is dedicated to finding pathways to innovation in traditional educational settings.

Jessica contributed significantly to the development of innovative pedagogies, courses, and curricula at Olin College in the areas of design and mechanical engineering. She has also worked as a facilitator and consultant with universities and professional organizations looking to improve engineering student engagement. She credits her mentors at UMass Amherst, particularly Dr. Nancy Bottone Hellman and Professor George A. Russell, for their early influence in pointing her towards a career in engineering education.

Her technical area of interest is experimental thermal-fluids with a focus on projects that effectively engage undergraduates. Recent projects include the development of innovative coolants for low-cost milk chilling systems for the dairy industry in India and testing and characterization of a miniature solid hybrid rocket motor. Jessica has industry experience in both air-breathing propulsion, as a gas turbine performance engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand Power Systems, and in rocket propulsion, as a visiting engineer at Blue Origin, a commercial spaceflight company based in Seattle.

While at UMass Amherst, Jessica was actively involved in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student chapter, and in recent years has worked extensively with ASME to diversify and expand its student offerings internationally. Jessica also spent part of a recent sabbatical in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department at UMass Amherst and helped the department with the redesign of student innovation and project spaces in ELAB. She was pleased to find many local institutions still in place and thriving, such as the People's Market and Antonio's Pizza.

Jessica is a proud resident of the Union Square neighborhood in Somerville, Mass. and spends her free time traveling, volunteering in her community, and perusing the restaurant scene in the Boston area.

Joel Voldman, B.S. '95, Electrical Engineering

Joel Voldman received the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Physics from the UMass College of Engineering in 1995. While at UMass, he first lived in the Orchard Hill residential area for two years and then in North Amherst, and was part of the Honors Program (now transformed into the Commonwealth College). Joel's ECE advisor, Kei May Lau, and his unofficial Physics advisor, John Brehm, introduced him to the joys of research, first in the Physics Department and later in Kei May's own laboratory.

After graduating from UMass Amherst, Joel went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received the M.S and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering in 1997 and 2001, developing microsystems for single-cell analysis. Following this, he was a postdoctoral associate at Harvard Medical School, where he studied developmental biology.

In 2002 he returned to MIT as an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at MIT. In 2004 he was awarded the NBX Career Development Chair, and in 2006 was promoted to associate professor in the department. During his time on the faculty, he has been awarded an NSF CAREER award, the American Chemical Society Young Innovator Award, and the Louis Smullin Teaching Award. His research focuses on developing microtechnology for cell biology, with an emphasis on cell sorting and stem cell biology. He also teaches both undergraduate and graduate students and serves as an undergraduate advisor in the department.

Joel now lives in Belmont, Mass. with his wife and two-year-old daughter.