The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Outstanding Alumni Awards 2020

Distinguished Alumni Award

Visionary leaders in their field, recipients of this honor have reached exceptional levels of professional and personal achievement. This award recognizes distinguished leadership, service, teaching, innovation, and other exemplary accomplishments that positively impact society and the engineering profession.


Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Emerging leaders in the early stages of their careers, recipients of this honor are no more than ten years out from receiving their UMass Engineering degree. This award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements, and highlights the recipient’s ambitions and potential to positively impact UMass, the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.


Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Amir AminiAmir Amini ’83
Biomedical Engineering
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Amir A. Amini is Professor and Endowed Chair in Bioimaging at the University of Louisville where he leads research in the area of biomedical imaging and image analysis. He received a BS degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1983 - with high honors when at 18 he was the youngest graduate of the university – and a MS ‘84 and PhD ‘90 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. After postdoctoral work in biomedical imaging (1990-1992), he was at Yale as assistant professor (1992-1996). He then moved to Washington University in St. Louis where he was an assistant and then associate professor with tenure (1996-2006). He has been at the University of Louisville since August 2006. He is the recipient of the National Institutes of Health FIRST Award and University of Louisville Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning for his course on medical imaging. He received the Distinguished Lecturer Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) in 2013.  Amir has served on numerous NSF and NIH study sections and has mentored 45 MS, PhD, and postdoctoral advisees throughout his career. He has ~190 publications including a number of books and proceedings, and has five provisional or issued US patents.  Amini Chaired the IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging in Washington, DC in April 2018 and was elected vice president for publications for the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society for the term 2020-2021. He is a Fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), International Society for Optics, Photonics, and Imaging (SPIE), and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).


Rena BiziosRena Bizios 68
Chemical Engineering

Rena Bizios, a chemical/biomedical engineer by training, has pursued a career in academia. She is now the Lutcher Brown Chair Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio, in San Antonio, TX. Professor Bizios has taught various undergraduate and graduate fundamental engineering and biomedical engineering courses as well as developed new courses for biomedical engineering curricula. Her research interests include cellular and tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, biomaterials (including nanostructured ones) and biocompatibility. She has co-authored a textbook (entitled An Introduction to Tissue-Biomaterial Interactions), co-edited a book (Biological Interactions on Material Surfaces: Understanding and Controlling Protein, Cell and Tissue Responses), authored/co-authored scientific publications and book chapters, and is coinventor of several patents/disclosures. She has given numerous presentations at scientific conferences and invited seminars/lectures in academic institutions and industry. She has also organized and/or co-chaired numerous symposia and sessions at regional, national and international conferences. Professor Bizios is a member, and has been an active participant (including elected officer positions) in several professional societies. She is a member of the Editorial Board of five scientific/engineering journals. Professor Bizios is Fellow of five professional societies, specifically, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering (IUSBES), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is also member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the Academy of Athens, Greece, the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST), International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE), and of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI).


Nicholas BowenNicholas Bowen ’92 PhD
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nicholas (Nick) Bowen is a professor, consultant and retired senior IBM Executive. His experience spans 35 years in the field of information technology in research, product development, supply chain and manufacturing, sales operations, and corporate strategy. He was head of strategy and global operations at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, leader of the technology team for CEO Sam Palmisano, and created and ran the $1billion plus Software/Hardware Appliance branch of the company.  Nick has led and contributed to many critical projects including reinventing (saving) the mainframe business, taking AIX/Power to the #1 UNIX position, establishing Linux servers as an enterprise technology & business, building the first Bladed architecture for Intel’s x86 market. Nick has a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an M.S. degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University, a B.S. degree in computer science from the University of Vermont, and a MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Technology, Operations, and Value Chain Management. He has been on advisory boards at many Universities where a recurring theme has been leveraging the academic assets outside the walls of the institution.  These included North Caroline State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Florida International University, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. He was a founding member of the IEEE Industrial Advisory Board.  He has over 30 published articles and patents and is a senior member of the IEEE, a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, and an ACM Distinguished Engineer.  In his “after IBM” life Nick has been a Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology and co-created a new Master program on cybersystems for Lockhead Martin’s leadership program.  He has consulted with Lenovo on their technical strategy, a Boston Robotic startup on Software Quality, and the Malaysian Government on creating a science and technology park.  He is currently the Vice Chair of the URI Research Foundation Board and Executive-in-Residence at Brown University. 


Lizetta FennessyLizetta Fennessy ’92, ’94 MS
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Liz Fennessy has more than 25 years of experience in the built environment.  As General Manager for Haley & Aldrich’s Buildings & Infrastructure Business Unit, Liz leads the strategic direction and has operational responsibility for the staff and projects in the unit, which includes clients in the developers, healthcare, infrastructure, and higher education markets.  Liz has served in a range of roles from Project Engineer to Project Executive on a wide variety of geotechnical and environmental projects, providing both office and field engineering services.  Project types have ranged from low to high rise buildings on shallow and deep foundation systems, deep excavations in urban environments, sports facilities, tunnels and other infrastructure, building underpinning, due diligence evaluations in support of real estate transactions, geotechnical instrumentation monitoring, site characterization and remediation, and environmental regulatory compliance.  She recently provided geotechnical engineering services for the recently completed McGuirk Stadium Practice Bubble, the ongoing New Worcester Dining Commons project, and is currently involved in the design phase for the upcoming Goodell Hall renovation all at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Liz is a registered Professional Engineer in Massachusetts. She received both her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Emanuel MelachrinoudisEmanuel Melachrinoudis ’80 PhD
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Emanuel Melachrinoudis, Ph.D., is the Director of Industrial Engineering and Associate Chair in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University. He received dual degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, an MBA in 1976 and a PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1980. Melachrinoudis conducts research within the Operations Research discipline. In particular, he is doing research in Multiple Criteria Optimization, Facilities Planning and Location, Production/Manufacturing Systems, Project/Technology Selection, and Stochastic Modeling and Network Reliability. Published examples include the location or relocation of manufacturing facilities and airports using multiple criteria optimization, the routing of hazardous transport vehicles, and the optimal location of service centers in a network to maximize network reliability. Of recent interest is the location of base stations in cellular radio communication systems and the distribution network design in supply chain management. He has over 120 publications in refereed journals and conference proceedings and supervised 11 student Ph.D. Dissertations and 14 Master Theses. Before moving to academia, he worked in industry for 6 years at Hellenic Cables SA. He has received many awards, among them from ARO, DOT and SME.


Outstanding Young Alumni Award Recipients

David BabsonDavid Babson ’04
Chemical Engineering

David Babson is a Program Director for the Advanced Research Projects Agency –Energy (ARPA-E) at the U.S. Department of Energy where he focuses on bioenergy, biotechnology, agriculture systems innovation, and carbon management technologies. Before joining ARPA-E David was the Senior Advisor for Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment in the Office of the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. David detailed in his USDA role from the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) where he was a Technology Manager. At USDA, David led R&D coordination efforts on carbon management, climate change mitigation, sustainability, agricultural systems innovation, bioenergy, and biotechnology. At BETO David oversaw projects for its Conversion Program and worked to understand how to leverage new technologies to advance the emerging bioeconomy and address global energy and climate challenges. Based in Washington, DC, David has extensive research and policy experience. Before joining DOE he worked as a Senior Fuels Engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists and as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. David completed post-docs at the University of Minnesota’s Biotechnology Institute and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. David has a PhD in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Rutgers University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Ivan BercovichIvan Bercovich ’09
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Months before arriving for his first year, Ivan Bercovich attended the UMass Amherst graduation ceremony for his stepbrother. Flipping through the event program, he noticed the profiles of the recipients of that year’s 21st-Century Leader Awards— the top honor for seniors. “I thought it would be cool to be one of them when I graduated”, he recalls. “That became a primary goal for me.” As a freshman in the Electrical Engineering program, he toured the booths for the Senior Design Project (SDP), and set another personal goal to aim for the first prize when the time came. Ivan accomplished both, graduating in 2009 with Summa Cum Laude degrees* in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, in addition to the Commonwealth College requirements, and honored as a 21st-Century Leader. After college, Ivan joined Cisco Systems, alongside 5 of his classmates, and headed to California, followed by a brief stint in a Financial Mathematics PhD. at the University of California in Santa Barbara. As a PhD student, he met Kevin O'Connor, CEO at Graphiq and founder of Google's DoubleClick. "It was immediately clear we had similar views on what it takes to be an effective engineering leader. When Kevin offered me the opportunity to build a team from the ground up, I decided to pause my PhD and join the burgeoning Graphiq team. It was a no-brainer.”  In 2011, Ivan joined the engineering organization at Graphiq (fka FindTheBest) during the startup phase eventually becoming Vice President of Engineering. Amazon acquired Graphiq in 2017 to become part of Alexa, with Ivan as the executive leader. Today, he manages an organization of 120 software developers and knowledge engineers in Santa Barbara and focuses on making Alexa the world's most knowledgeable virtual assistant.


Christina JonesChristina Jones ’07, ’09 MS
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Christina Jones received her BS in Civil & Environmental Engineering in 2007 and MS in Environmental Engineering in 2009 from UMass Amherst.  As a student she became involved with the UMass chapter of Engineers Without Borders and led a team of students on two trips to Kenya to implement water projects.  Since graduating she has spent 10 years working on water and wastewater projects as a consulting engineering at Tighe & Bond, and is now serving as Deputy Director of Water Operations for Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, in Springfield, Mass.   For the last five years, she has served as the EWB UMass chapter Auction mentor, working closely with students to run the chapter’s annual fundraiser that helps to fund the chapter’s water projects and activities.   She loves staying connected with the students and contributing to bringing clean water to Kenya!


Paul WitherellPaul Witherell ’04, ’06 MS, ’09 PhD
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Paul W. Witherell is a Mechanical Engineer in the Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) Group of the Systems Integration Division (SID) of the Engineering Laboratory (EL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). His primary objectives at NIST are to develop and transfer knowledge to industry, including knowledge about information models for additive manufacturing and system level analysis.   Research efforts aim to leverage engineering and information sciences to benefit design flexibility, cost, and cycle times in additive manufacturing.  His specific job focus is on identifying integration and technology issues that promote industry acceptance of information models, product representation standards, and open architecture that will enable rapid design-to-product transformations. Dr. Witherell's primary areas of interest are Design for Additive Manufacturing, Digital Thread for Additive Manufacturing, Design Optimization, Knowledge Representation in Product Development, Ontology and Semantic Relatedness for Design and Manufacturing, and Sustainable Manufacturing. In 2014, he received the Young Engineer Award from the Computers and Information in Engineering (CIE) Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  In 2016-17, he was accepted into the ASME Early Career Leadership Intern Program to Serve Engineering (ECLIPSE).  Witherell received his Ph.D. (2009), M.S. (2006), and B.S. (2004) in Mechanical Engineering from the MIE department. As a graduate student, Witherell was a member of the NSF Center for e-Design team, developing semantic methods and ontologies to support mechanical design.