Alums in the News: September 22-28, 2017

Our alumni are making headlines…let’s see what they’ve been up to this week!

Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, mathematics and computer science, a current Ph.D. candidate at UMBC, has earned research funding through a Microsoft Fellowship and the Google Lime Scholarship, in addition to her grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Krishnaswamy, who is paralyzed from the neck down due to spinal muscular atrophy and attends classes using a Beam telepresence robot, has focused her doctoral research on using robotics to aid people with disabilities and improve access.

Henrietta Akintoye ’07, biochemistry and molecular biology, has joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Reliant Medical Group in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Akintoye completed her OB/GYN residency at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City, and completed her medical degree at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

MaBelle Fomundam ’15, biological sciences and theatre, starred as Margaret in the play Vacation, written by Johns Hopkins University student Michael Feder and produced by the Tentative Digital Theatre Company, a student group that puts on performances in unconventional venues across the JHU area. Vacation tells the story of Margaret and Jerome, a couple who must face their grief over a lost child while packing for a trip.

Prachi Kochar ’17, psychology, spoke to WYPR’s On the Record with Sheilah Kast about the importance of diversity in comic books ahead of Baltimore Comic-Con. A former student staffer at the Women’s Center, Kochar has written on the subject of representation in comics before; you can check that post out here.

Got news to share with us? Submit a Class Note today!

Alumni Awards 2017: Steven Storck ’08, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics, M.S. ’09, Mechanical Engineering, and Ph.D. ’14, Mechanical Engineering

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Steven Storck ’08, mechanical engineering, M.S. ’09, mechanical engineering, and Ph.D. ’14, mechanical engineering, additive manufacturing engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and this year’s Distinguished Service honoree.


As a triple alumnus of UMBC, Steven Storck ’08, mechanical engineering and mathematics, M.S. ’09, mechanical engineering, and Ph.D. ’14, mechanical engineering, knows his way around campus, to say the least. In addition to his day job as an additive manufacturing application engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, he still makes his way back to UMBC frequently, both as an instructor and an advisor for the school’s Baja SAE team. This is the place where he first discovered his passion for research, and he says he had a lot of support throughout his academic career. “If you were willing to put in the work and had a good idea, everyone at UMBC seemed to encourage you to take on the challenge, no matter how large,” he writes. Storck began his research during his sophomore year at UMBC, when he took over a project from a graduate student who had left. As he continued his education, he had more and more opportunities to delve deeper into his study of materials science and engineering, and was eventually able to apply for a Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) fellowship as a doctoral student. That funding allowed him to develop a material over four times lighter and six times stronger than the current state of the art, and his findings earned him top honors from the Society of Advanced Materials and Process Engineering (SAMPE). Today, at the APL, Storck heads up research and development for various projects, most notably an additive manufacturing technology demonstration part for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is hoped to be the first spacecraft ever to “touch” the sun. He’s also lent his considerable project-management skills to the UMBC SAE Baja team; in 2015, he organized UMBC’s first international Baja event. “This was particularly rewarding,” he writes, “because it allowed [our team] to highlight UMBC on a global stage.”

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Alumni Awards 2017: Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, Chemical Engineering

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, associate professor at the Duke University School of Medicine and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in Engineering and Information Technology.


As an associate professor of psychiatry, behavioral science, neurobiology, and neurosurgery at the Duke University School of Medicine, Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, has dedicated his career to creating a kind of “pacemaker for the brain,” a device that can effectively rewire neurological signals in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other illnesses. His research has earned him, among other accolades, the 2013 Sidney R. Baer Prize for Innovative and Promising Schizophrenia Research, as well as a 2016 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest award given to young scientists by the U.S. government. According to Dalton Hughes ’14, M21, chemical engineering, now an M.D./Ph.D. student working in Dzirasa’s lab at Duke, he is not only “a powerhouse in the fields of engineering, neuroscience, and medicine,” but a “phenomenal research mentor, captivating speaker, compassionate physician, and exceptional educator.”

“[Dr. Dzirasa’s] demonstrated commitment to UMBC and its students is truly special,” writes Keith Harmon, director of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, “is truly special, and an inspiring example of a selfless spirit determined to ‘pay forward’ all that was poured into him at UMBC.”

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Dr. Dzirasa will also be giving a Grit-X Talk on Saturday, October 14…sign up to reserve your seat today!

Alumni Awards 2017: Marc Zupan, Department of Mechanical Engineering

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Marc Zupan, associate professor and graduate program director of UMBC’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award winner.


In just over 14 years at UMBC, Marc Zupan, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has become known as a connection-maker. He connects students with internships, job opportunities, and graduate programs. He’s made international connections with Portugal’s Universidade do Porto through the Global Engineering Program. And he’s made connections across disciplines, bridging the gap between STEM and the humanities by incorporating elements of both into his own teaching.  Asynith Palmer ’06, English, a writer who worked with Zupan to secure funding and design the curriculum for the Global Engineering Program, says it’s his genuine interest in his students’ lives and experiences that makes him the kind of teacher and mentor that he is. “Marc…trains his creativity on helping his students,” she writes. “In fact, he feels energized by meeting with them, learning their interests, suggesting — or creating — possibilities for internships and research, and watching them thrive.” As a researcher, Dr. Zupan focuses on characterizing the behavior of and modeling materials across length scales. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University in solid mechanics of materials and completed his undergraduate work at the University of Dayton. He came to UMBC after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge MicroMechanics Centre in the U.K., he is a visiting professor at the Universidade do Porto, Portugal and was an active abroad Fulbright Scholar from 2012 to 2013 at the Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Alumni Awards 2017: Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D. ’06, Public Policy

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D. ’06, public policy, the current Deputy Surgeon General of the United States and our Outstanding Alumna in the Social and Behavioral Sciences.


Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D. ’06, public policy, currently serves as the Deputy Surgeon General of the Unites States. She is a Rear Admiral (RADM) in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. In her role as Deputy Surgeon General she advises and supports the Surgeon General regarding operations of the USPHS Commissioned Corps and in communicating the best available scientific information to advance the health of the nation. She served as Acting Surgeon General from April 2017 through September 2017.

RADM Trent-Adams has held various positions in the Department of Health & Human Services, working to improve access to care for poor and underserved communities. As a clinician and administrator, she has had direct impact on building systems of care to improve public health for marginalized populations globally. She states, “The greatest success of my career has been the opportunity to assist in building programs both domestically and internationally, to serve the underserved.”

RADM Trent-Adams career spans 30 years of public service. She has served on commissions for the United Nations and the World Health Organization, worked to develop HIV/AIDS treatment plans in the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa, and presented her research on HIV, healthcare delivery, public health, nursing and emergency preparedness worldwide. Prior to joining the USPHS, RADM Trent-Adams was a nurse officer in the U.S. Army.

Trent-Adams holds a bachelor’s in nursing from Hampton University and a master’s in nursing and health policy from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She was inspired to pursue her doctorate at UMBC by its “outstanding academic programs” and “the caliber of the policy faculty,” including Dr. Nancy Miller, Dr. Marvin Mandell, Dr. Kevin Eckert, Dr. Chris Hewitt, and Dr. Cheryl Miller. She often returns to campus to speak to classes and participate in panel discussions, and maintains a mentoring relationship with several undergraduate and graduate students.

As for life outside of work, she says, “I am blessed with a husband who is supportive of my career…[and] we have two amazing daughters who keep life interesting! My extended family keeps me grounded by accepting me for who I am, and constantly remind me that I am still a country girl from Virginia.”

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!


Alumni Awards 2017: Dennis Williams II ’14, American Studies

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, head of content marketing at Skillshare and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in the Humanities.

D.Williams 1

Near the end of his time at UMBC, Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, had already begun to break into online media, writing professionally for Funny or Die and the Huffington Post. And in the few short years since he graduated, he’s made a name for himself in the tech industry, heading up a global content marketing team at the startup Augment, receiving an Oculus fellowship, and, most significantly, being named one of LinkedIn’s 2016 Top Voices in marketing. Williams, now head of content marketing at the online learning platform Skillshare, says the community and support he had at UMBC helped him to build his thriving career. “There were many months that I was sleeping out of my car during my time at UMBC, or pressing financially to secure all of the classes that I needed,” he writes. “It was more convenient for me to drop out, but the fortitude that I had then has essentially defined my career moving forward.” He credits fellow Alumni Award winner Dr. Kimberly Moffitt for being “a relentless support system, pushing me to persevere in class and in life,” and Dr. Ken Baron for setting him up for success as a transfer student: “He hadn’t known me beforehand, but treated me as if he had known me for the last 10 years.” In addition to his work in writing and marketing strategy, Williams is also a filmmaker: his short Note to Self, which he wrote and directed, has won three awards and was recently selected for the HollyShorts Film Festival.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!


Alumni Awards 2017: Lauren Mazzoli ’15, Mathematics and Computer Science, and M.S. ’17, Computer Science

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Lauren Mazzoli ’15, mathematics and computer science, and M.S. ’17, computer science, systems engineer at Northrop Grumman and this year’s recipient of the Rising Star award for outstanding graduates of the last decade.

Lauren Mazzoli

As a young woman studying in a traditionally male-dominated field, Lauren Mazzoli ’15, mathematics and computer science, and M.S. ’17, computer science, has faced her share of challenges. “There were numerous times where I could have felt overwhelmed or defeated” by the gender ratio in STEM, she writes, “but instead, I was driven to change it.” That drive has led her into a promising career as a cyber software engineer at Northrop Grumman, as well as an advocate and mentor to female engineers at both her workplace and her alma mater. A former Cyber Scholar, Mazzoli has remained involved with both that program and the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT), helping to organize career development and educational opportunities for students interested in cybersecurity. At Northrop Grumman, Mazzoli earned early accolades for her support of a time-sensitive, mission-critical project. She was recently accepted into the company’s 3-year Future Technical Leaders rotational program, and is also Vice Chair of the Women’s Employee Resource Group. Mazzoli was inspired to attend UMBC by its “friendly campus, diversity of thought, and students hungry to learn,” and she credits Dr. Marie desJardins, Dr. Penny Rheingans, and Dr. Anupam Joshi for their inspiration and support on her path through the cybersecurity field.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!