The Department of Materials Science and Engineering announces the follow department awards for 2021:
Outstanding Safety Award
The MatSE Safety Awareness Organization (MSAO) selects an outstanding undergraduate or graduate student who consistently goes above and beyond the high safety standards set by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State. This is someone who watches out for others, constantly strives to improve the safety perspective of their lab, and works to spread a message of the importance of safety.
Ama Agyapong and Alex Vera
"Ama Agyapong has been an active advocate for laboratory safety since she arrived on campus as a new graduate student. She serves as one of two student representatives on the Materials Research Institute (MRI) safety committee. Over the past year, AMA led efforts at MRI to guide return to work efforts and ensure that all researchers were educated prior to returning to work in research labs after the initial COVID shutdown. She organized a town hall as well as participated in making a video on building entry protocols. Also, she was an invited panelist at a “COVID-19 Impacts” discussion at the 62nd Electronic Materials Conference in June of 2020. As the only student on the panel, her participation garnered positive feedback on her poise, knowledge, and articulate speaking. She is not only a shining light for safety at Penn State, but in the broader scientific community as well."
"Alex Vera demonstrates a consistent commitment to laboratory safety through his actions as the laboratory manager for the Josh Robinson group. He is proactive in completing the tasks required for that job, but also goes above and beyond to help the materials community in general. He was the first lab manager to develop a COVID-19 Safe SOP at MRI, which served as a template for the SOPs put into place by other groups. As a student representative on the MRI safety committee, he is an active participant in meetings and provides leadership beyond expectations. One area in which he has been active since he started graduate school was as an organizer of the annual Materials Safety Olympics. Last year, when there was a question of how to put on such an event during the pandemic, he single-handedly developed online events that allowed the Olympics to go on and promote safety in a fun manner. Alex’s example of living a safety culture leadership in enhancing that culture is inspiring."
Dr. David Green Materials Faculty Service Award
The David J. Green Materials Faculty Service Award Fund was established to enrich the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE) within the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences by recognizing a faculty member who has performed outstanding service work. This award is intended to provide support to faculty to further their contributions in teaching, research, and public service in MatSE.
Joshua Robinson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
"Dr. Robinson led the MatSE strategic planning initiative in 2020 and is the organizer of the Safety Olympics each year. Thank you, Dr. Robinson, for your many contributions to MatSE."
MatSE Faculty Member of the Year Award
The MatSE Faculty Member of the Year Award recognizes a faculty member who displays excellence in teaching, research, advising or outreach. Nominations for this award are sent to the student advisory committee and the students choose the recipient.
Ismaila Dabo, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
One of the nominators wrote, “I cannot think of anyone better who embodies these criteria than Professor Dabo. He is an effective educator by not only teaching the course material, but also making sure students understand the course material. As an advisor, he regularly meets with both undergraduate and graduate students whether it is related to classwork or academic research. He always makes himself available to meet with me at any time that works best for my schedule, even sometimes early in the morning or late at night. His commitment of time goes beyond this: he always makes sure that the students can take their time. Professor Dabo always works with me on solving problems, and he often tells me that ‘we are scientists and humans, and we are meant to make mistakes and correct them ... be patient and take your time’.”
Another nominator wrote, “In addition to Professor Dabo's passion for teaching and research, he demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to mentorship and outreach in the materials science community. He is always looking to collaborate and make inroads with other research groups, including those outside the department."
MatSE Staff Member of the Year Award
To qualify for this award, the nominee must meet one or more of the following criteria: excellent job skills, knowledge of departmental goals, ability to motivate others, creative problem-solving skills, takes a leadership role, dependable and efficient, professional demeanor, positive attitude, enthusiastic and dedicated in carrying out duties, cooperative and courteous interaction with others, and/or good supervisory skills. The 2021 MatSE Staff Member of the Year Award goes to not one, but three deserving individuals.
Valerie Stere, Administrative Support Assistant
Laura Tetrault, Proposals and Grant Coordinator
Shana Wagner, Engineering Support Specialist
Since beginning her career at Penn State in MatSE, Valerie Stere has taken her responsibilities most seriously. She always handles herself in a professional and confident manner. Sere manages the key/swipe card access system and completes most of the purchases for the department. She does not hesitate to pitch in where help is needed regardless of the position or duties the job may entail. In addition, Valerie stepped up to take additional training in order to assist in the areas of finance and student services. Most recently, Valerie assisted Scott Henninger and the department in a huge space inventory project required by the College of Earth and Mineral Sceinces and the University. She asked for little assistance, and she was proactive in finding answers to questions. Valerie works independently to get the job done in an accurate and efficient manner. She is a joy to work with and is a true asset to MatSE.
Shana Wagner brings a unique set of skills to the technical support staff in MatSE. She not only excels at diagnosing and repairing malfunctioning equipment, she has an extensive knowledge of computers and electronics. There were many times that Shana has been called upon to work on a problem involving lack of communication between a piece of equipment and the computer controlling that equipment. She quickly diagnoses the problem and comes up with a solution. The most important and impressive aspect of Shana’s activities is as MatSE Safety Officer, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. She took her role as department safety office to new levels over the past year during the pandemic, and much of the success we have enjoyed in maintaining a safe and COVID-free Steidle Building are due to Shana's efforts and leadership. In the short time that Shana has been with MatSE, she has become a valued, reliable and irreplaceable member of the MatSE community."
For nearly thirteen years in MatSE, Laura Tetrault has been performing her job at an exemplary level. Many faculty nominated Laura this year, all noting that her work during the COVID remote period is above and beyond. One nominator wrote, “When I work with colleagues from other institutions on collaborative proposals, they often envy us for having Laura who provides exceptional support. Laura is helpful, caring and resourceful." Another nomination wrote, “Laura’s dedication and extraordinary efforts have greatly enhanced my productivity in preparing so many proposals and managing so many projects over the years.” Yet another nominator wrote, “Laura’s dedication and extraordinary efforts have greatly enhanced my productivity in preparing so many proposals and managing so many projects over the years.”
MatSE Alumni of the Year Award
This award is given to recognize a Department of Materials Science and Engineering outstanding alumna or alumnus. The award salutes their dedication and contributions to the department through service. This year, MatSE recognized two individuals who obtained their degrees from Penn State.
John Hellmann, Ph.D., MatSE 2021 Alumnus of the Year
John Hellmann earned his B.S. in ceramic science and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering, both from Penn State. He went on to work in the ceramics development division at Sandia National Laboratories for five years before he returned to MatSE to help start the Center for Advanced Materials that was focused on the design of, and with, ceramics in high-temperature systems. With funding from industry and federal agencies, John and his team were able to grow the center into a $3M/year operation over the next eight years as they worked to develop components for the Rockwell X-30, NASA’s National Aero-Space Plane, and develop radiant ceramic tubes for industrial heating, a technology that is commonplace today. John went on to focus on undergraduate education in materials science and became associate head for undergraduate programs in MatSE, associate dean of education in EMS, and associate dean of graduate education and research in EMS, roles in which he had many significant accomplishments. John retired earlier this year from the University.
Elizabeth "Libby" Kupp , Ph.D., MatSE 2021 Alumna of the Year
Elizabeth “Libby” Kupp is an associate teaching professor who received her B.S. in ceramic science and her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering both from Penn State. After her graduation, she accepted a postdoctoral position at Penn State for almost a year and then accepted a postdoctoral position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). After ORNL, she began her career as an engineer at Kennametal providing project leadership for the development of silicon carbide whisker reinforced alumina metalcutting tools. In 2004, Libby returned to campus as a research associate developing and optimizing processing for fabrication of transparent ceramic gain materials based on YAG for high power lasers. In 2007, Libby began teaching MatSE 468 Ceramic Processing Laboratory. Since than she has taught many different classes many times over the years, including developing new courses that enhance the curriculum. She has mentored countless undergraduate researchers, women in science and engineering (WISER) and international internship students as part of the MatSE International Internship. In addition to her teaching and advising, Libby has published many articles, receiving external funding grants, and provided countless hours of service to the department, college and University. Since her return to Penn State, she has been actively involved in laboratory safety, and she has taught a course on laboratory safety management since 2017.