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Outstanding Alumni Awards 2017

College of Engineering 2017 Outstanding Senior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of the Outstanding Senior Alumni 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 2017 Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of the Outstanding Junior Alumni 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

Jon W. Dietrich ’69, ’74 MS
Civil and Environmental Engineering

As an associate/senior transportation engineer for Fuss & O’Neill, Inc., Jon Dietrich has been responsible for conducting transportation planning and traffic-engineering studies and design projects for over 40 years. He has completed projects throughout New England and New York State, as well as Ohio, Georgia, and New Jersey.

He began his engineering education at Berkshire Community College with an associate degree, transferring to UMass Amherst and earning his BS in civil engineering in 1969. He holds a master’s in civil engineering, also from UMass Amherst, which he was awarded in 1974. He is a registered professional engineer (P.E.) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as in Vermont.

Dietrich has worked as a staff engineer, project manager, and client manager on a wide range of civil engineering projects. These have included local and regional transportation planning studies, traffic-impact studies for a variety of land-development projects, and intersection and roadway designs, including traffic-signal design and traffic-safety studies. He has also managed the design of transportation and roadway construction projects, bikeway and rail-trail projects, as well as parking studies and master plans. In addition, he has provided expert-witness testimony at environmental (ACT 250) hearings in Vermont and has served as an expert witness in numerous land-development cases in the Massachusetts land court and superior court.

Dietrich has taught transportation engineering courses as an adjunct faculty member at UMass Amherst and has served for many years as a member of the CEE advisory council. He is a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section/ASCE, and a life member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and a member of the New England section of ITE. He is an army veteran.

Dietrich lives in Northampton, Mass., with his wife, Deb. They have two sons, Seth and Andrew, and two grandchildren.


Ellen J. Ferraro ’89, ’94 PhD
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ellen Ferraro, PhD, is the director of research and technology within the Raytheon Company’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) Advanced Technology business area. She was appointed to this position in August of 2016. In this role, she is responsible for driving the development of technologies and differentiators for future generations of Raytheon programs while working with government science and technology contract agencies, businesses, suppliers, and universities. Prior to this position, she was Raytheon’s director of the Systems Architecture, Design, and Integration Directorate, responsible for all aspects of systems engineering, including requirements definition, modeling, and simulation efforts, system effectiveness and operational analysis, and algorithm development.

Raytheon Company, with 2015 sales of $23 billion and 61,000 employees worldwide, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government, and cybersecurity solutions. Headquartered in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, IDS has 33 locations around the world. Its broad portfolio of weapons, sensors, and integration systems supports its customer base across multiple mission areas, including air-and-missile-defense systems; missile-defense radars; early warning radars; naval-ship operating systems; command, control, communications, computers, cyber, and intelligence products and services; and other advanced technologies. IDS provides affordable, integrated solutions to a broad international and domestic customer base, including the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Since joining Raytheon Company in 1994, Ferraro has held the roles of director of engineering operations, director for the Strategic Architecture Directorate and acting IDS technical director, deputy director for the System Validation Test and Analysis Directorate, department manager, and systems engineering integrated product team lead. In addition, Ferraro has spearheaded efforts for the business in model based systems engineering, program protection planning, and agile methodologies for systems engineering. She has also done analysis of scattering and propagation over the ocean and investigated spread-clutter-mitigation techniques for enhanced small-target detection, as well as the use of expert system technology to aid in the counter-drug mission. Ferraro has authored and presented more than a dozen technical papers at conferences, universities, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) meetings around the world.

Ferraro received her PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1994 under a NASA graduate student research fellowship. While working in the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory at UMass Amherst, she completed graduate research on an airborne radar altimeter for the investigation of surface and volume scattering from the Greenland ice sheet. 

Ferraro is a member of the IEEE. As such, she was a member of the IEEE 2007 Radar Conference Committee and vice chair of the IEEE 2010 Phased Array Conference. She is an active member of the Boston Section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and is the recipient of the Mass High Tech “Women to Watch in 2006” Award, the SWE 1999 Distinguished New Engineer Award, the SWE 2007 Emerging Leaders Award, and the SWE 2016 Fellow Award.


Spyros Michail ’88 MS, ’91 MS
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Spyros Michail is a director at Apple Inc. and leads the Worldwide Operations Team for Soft Goods. He joined Apple in 2000 and has held various positions in the Manufacturing Design Group responsible for the manufacturing and supply chains of enclosure parts for all Apple products. Previous to Apple, Michail held engineering, marketing, and sales positions at GE Plastics. He holds a diploma in mechanical and electrical engineering from National Technical University of Athens, Greece, an MS in mechanical engineering and MS in manufacturing engineering from UMass Amherst, and an MBA from Thesues Institute (currently part of EDHEC or the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales du Nord) at Sophia Antipolis in France. 

Michail grew up in Athens, Greece, and moved to the USA in 1985 to join the graduate school in the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst. He has been living in the U.S. since, spending considerable time in France and various countries in Asia for job assignments. Michail is married and has three children.


Karin Rotem ’99 PhD
Chemical Engineering

Karin Rotem, PhD, is senior vice president for Beverages Regional Research and Development teams in the global beverage category of PepsiCo. She is responsible for the beverage research and development (R&D) centers in North America, Latin America, China/Asia Pacific, Middle East Africa/India, and Europe. Rotem’s team objective is to meet the needs of the local consumer by bringing to life the business annual operating plan while working with R&D partners to secure a robust and healthy portfolio for the future. Rotem has been with PepsiCo for 16 years. While her background expertise is technical, she has a range of experience from product innovation and commercial development to innovation strategy, portfolio management, and venture capital investment.
Prior to her current role, Rotem was vice president for research and development for the global snacks R&D category. In that role, she had responsibility for delivering reframe and breakthrough innovation for the Global Core Salty Frito Business. She was also responsible for building global capability in process optimization and efficiency, and global culinary capability.

Before joining Frito-Lay, Rotem was part of the management team leading global beverages group portfolio innovation strategy in the corporate arm of R&D. Rotem has also served as chief of staff to PepsiCo’s chief scientific officer.

Rotem served as PepsiCo’s first venture director at Physic Ventures, LLC. She scouted investments in the food and nutrition sector and was exposed to the venture ecosystem of entrepreneurs, academia, and institutional investors.

Prior to venturing, Rotem was based in China where she created PepsiCo’s first beverage R&D center in Shanghai. There she built a state-of-the-art R&D lab, a strong and sustainable R&D team of Peoples Republic of China nationals, and was responsible for launching locally relevant and differentiated beverages for the China market. With her leadership, Pepsi China launched Ready to Drink Soy, Tropicana Juice Drinks with botanicals, and kick-started a Traditional Chinese Medicine Functional Water category. 

Prior to China, Rotem championed the new product commercialization process for Asia. She also spent time in the Water Technology and Quality Group focused on purification, surface chemistry, and packaging materials. 

Before her tenure with PepsiCo, Rotem worked at Nestle, Merck, and IBM. She earned her PhD in the field of Ab Initio Computational Chemistry from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University.

Rotem considers herself a global citizen. Her passion is experiencing global cuisine and understanding the connection to local culture. She grew up playing tennis and soccer, enjoys hiking through urban jungles (aka big cities), and now more than ever dabbles with lifestyle technology that can enhance healthy living. Rotem is a STEM ambassador and advocate hoping to introduce science and technology to the up and coming generation. Along those lines, Rotem and her husband Jeroen spend most of their free time “tinkering” alongside their two-year old twins, Jade and Justin.


Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients

Marnie A. Bonner ’09
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Marnie Bonner became a structures manager at Pratt & Whitney after earning her degree in mechanical engineering, graduating summa cum laude from UMass Amherst with MIE departmental honors. She holds a Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Certificate from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 
After graduating from Lexington High School, Bonner attended Ave Maria College of the Americas in Nicaragua before transferring to UMass Amherst in 2006. Under the supervision of Professor Sundar Krishnamurty, she completed the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program and a bachelor’s thesis on deep-pressure touch simulation modalities used to treat patients with anxiety disorders. 

In 2009, Bonner began working in the High Cycle Fatigue (HCF) Group at Pratt & Whitney. Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines are widely used in both civil aviation and military aviation.  While in the HCF group, Bonner supported PW1100G Certification and became one of the company’s leading experts in structural validation tools. In 2015, she transitioned to the Fatigue & Fracture Mechanics Group, where she was responsible for leading three major company initiatives addressing crack growth, rotor “lifing,” and usage based “lifing.” In May 2017, Bonner accepted a position as an HPC structures manager in the Compression Systems Engineering Group on one of the company’s latest military products.

Bonner is passionate about learning and following the unbeaten path. Her latest hobbies include learning to ride her CRF250X dirt bike, the SR-71, and antique motorcycle restoration. 


Dawn T. Eriksen-Stapleton ’07
Chemical Engineering

Dawn Eriksen-Stapleton, PhD, is a senior scientist at Pfizer in Andover, Massachusetts. She achieved a BS in chemical engineering and biochemistry at UMass Amherst in 2007. During her time at UMass, she was an active participant in undergraduate research at the university and was involved in summer research programs at MIT and Caltech.

Eriksen-Stapleton pursued a doctoral degree in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, graduating in 2014. Her research focused on developing novel and impactful techniques for protein and pathway engineering in yeast. Her work contributed to major biofuels research endeavors at the Energy Biosciences Institute.

After a post-doc at a small biotechnology startup in Medford, Mass., she began her career at Pfizer in cell culture process development where she leads portfolio projects and research initiatives. Currently, she is pursuing management courses at Tufts University. Her accomplishments include multiple first-authored and co-authored research publications, a patent, several notable research presentation awards, and prestigious fellowships including a Goldwater Scholarship and an NSF graduate research fellowship.


Yong Liu ’02 PhD
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Yong Liu, PhD, graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China with BS and MS degrees in 1994 and 1997 respectively, both with the highest honors. He joined UMass Amherst as a PhD student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in the fall of 1997 and graduated with a PhD degree in 2002. He worked as a postdoctoral student in the Department of Computer Science at UMass Amherst from February 2002 to February 2005. He joined the ECE department in the Tandon School of Engineering of New York University as an assistant professor in March of 2005 and is now an associate professor.

Liu’s general research interests lie in the modeling, design, and analysis of networked systems. His current research directions include multimedia networking, network measurement and analytics, software-defined networks, online social networks, and recommender systems. He is the winner of the Best Paper Award at the Association for Computing Machinery Internet Measurement Conference in 2012, the National Science Foundation Career Award in 2010, the Best Paper Award of the IEEE Conference on Computer Communications in 2009, and the IEEE Communication Society Multimedia Communications Best Paper Award in 2008. He is a fellow of IEEE for his contribution to multimedia networking.


Heather A. Rothenberg ’03 MS, ’09 PhD
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Heather Rothenberg, PhD, is the director of Trust and Safety Research at Uber Technologies, Inc. Her team is responsible for global safety research that supports Uber's product development. Prior to joining Uber, she was the director of Policy and Federal Projects at Sam Schwartz Engineering. While there, she was responsible for guiding companywide business development strategies for federal projects. She also provided insight for state and municipal projects on federal policies and funding mechanisms.

Rothenberg began her post-UMass career with the U.S. Department of Transportation. While completing her PhD, she worked at the Volpe Center in Boston. Upon degree completion, she moved to Washington, DC, to serve in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Government Affairs, Policy, and Strategic Planning. She provided leadership for agency strategic planning efforts and representation of NHTSA on cross-department teams. She conducted policy analyses for agency use and external distribution. She subsequently served in the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Safety. In this position, she developed guidance and rulemaking for implementation of MAP-21 programs, including performance management, safety data, and strategic highway safety plans. She held a temporary position to help the Federal Transit Administration set up a new safety office per MAP-21 requirements.

Rothenberg has held a variety of international leadership positions, including co-chair of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Women’s Issues in Transportation, and a planning committee for two international conferences on Women’s Issues in Transportation. She served as chair of the U.S. Department of Transportation Traffic Records Coordinating Committee Subcommittee on Data Standards and Integration.