Alums in the News: Tobin, Dzirasa receive top honors

David Tobin. Photo by Bryce Richter.

Triple alumnus David Tobin ’91, physics, M.S. ’93, applied physics, and Ph.D. ’96, applied physics, has received the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research. Tobin, an atmospheric researcher at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) at UW, was honored for his extensive work with satellite instruments, which has contributed a great deal to modern understanding of weather trends. Read more about Tobin and the award here.

Delali Dzirasa, third from left, on stage at the Baltimore Innovation Awards. Photo by Stephen Babcock.

The Baltimore-based software company Fearless (formerly Fearless Solutions), founded by Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maryland Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year for 2017. This isn’t the first honor for Fearless, or for Dzirasa himself: just last fall, the company was named the Design/Dev Firm of the Year at Baltimore Innovation Week, and Dzirasa took home an Alumni Rising Star Award back in 2011. The company, which got its start in the bwTech incubator and expanded to a new Inner Harbor office last year, counts 13 alumni and two current students among their ranks.

Got news for us? Send in a class note for the next issue of UMBC Magazine!

Alums in the News: Paper Flowers and Thoughtographs

Our alumni aren’t just Retrievers: they’re curators, makers, and doers. Let’s see who’s made the news…


Erin Terwilliger ’09, music, now an instruction and research specialist at the Glenwood branch of the Howard County Library, talked with the Baltimore Sun about a class she recently hosted for teens and adults on how to upcycle books into paper poinsettias. “It’s fun to make something beautiful out of common, everyday objects,” says Terwilliger, who hosted the second in the “Art Escape” craft class series on December 12.


Emily Hauver ’06, visual arts, curator of exhibitions here at UMBC, recently spoke with Hyperallergic about Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a psychiatrist who attempted to capture psychic projections on film in the 1960s. Eisenbud’s photographs were displayed at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery in 2011, and have now been digitized by Special Collections.

Made anything cool lately? Share it with us in a class note!

Alums in the News: Nov. 16-22, 2016

Let’s see who made the news this week…

stubenbergMatthew Stubenberg ’09, political science, received the Award for Legal Excellence in the Advancement of the Rights of the Disadvantaged from the Maryland Bar Foundation last month. Stubenberg, who works with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service as a staff attorney and IT director, created, which expedites the process of removing eligible criminal charges from citizens’ records. Read more at The Daily Record.

Ana Isabel Leal Lobato, M.A. ’13, intercultural communication, was one of over 1,500 Fulbright scholarship recipients to sign an open letter, published on The Huffington Post, in response to the results of the U.S. presidential election. Leal Lobato is originally from Spain, and now works as a “conference interpreter, intercultural trainer, and teacher.” You can read the letter here.

Share your big news with us in a class note, or email!

Alums in the News: Harvard M.D./Ph.D. candidate Kinde; UMBC staffer Banerjee

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Let’s see which of our alums have made the news this week.

benyamBenyam Kinde ’10, M18, biological sciences, was recently featured in a homepage profile on Harvard Medical School’s news site. Kinde, an M.D./PH.D. candidate at Harvard, is perhaps best known for his research on the MECP2 protein, which has a role in the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome. The profile discusses his parents’ influence on him and his brother, Isaac Kinde ’05, M13, biological sciences, his research career, and how he hopes to mentor young scientists in his father’s homeland of Ethiopia.

poulomiPoulomi Banerjee ’16, health administration and policy, was featured in a Baltimore Sun story about adjusting math requirements for liberal arts students. Banerjee, who took statistics over calculus at UMBC to fulfill her graduation requirements, said the former discipline has proven to be helpful in her current line of work as a program assistant for the Division of Student Affairs: “I think it’s great that they’re allowing that option for students. I couldn’t imagine not having that option.” Current student body president Bentley Corbett-Wilson ’17, music, was also interviewed for the article.

Head to to send us your updates!

Alums in the News: The Brothers Dzirasa

Happy fall, and happy return of the Alums in the News feature! Here’s a brief update on the goings-on in a very accomplished UMBC family…

Kafui Dzirasa ’01, right, on a panel with President Barack Obama and Atul Gawande at the White House Frontiers Conference. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Kafui Dzirasa ’01, M8, chemical engineering, spoke alongside President Barack Obama on the Presidential Panel on Brain Science and Medical Information at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh last week. Dr. Dzirasa, now a researcher and professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers earlier this year for his work with neural pacemakers. You can watch the stream of the event here.


Delali Dzirasa ’04, third from left, takes a selfie with his Fearless Solutions team on stage at the awards ceremony. Photo by Stephen Babcock.

Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, and his software company, Fearless Solutions, took home the Design/Dev Firm of the Year award at this year’s Baltimore Innovation Week. Fearless, formerly housed at bwtech@UMBC, was recognized for their work on a federal program that helps small businesses in Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zones.

Any professional or personal accomplishments you’d like to share with us? Head to Retriever Stories today.


Spaces in Between: Sondheim Prize finalist Christos Palios ’02 discusses his art

Christos Palios ’02, visual arts, a photographer whose work is displayed in public and private collections across the country, is a finalist for the 2016 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize. Before the award is announced tomorrow, Palios talks about his approach to his art, and how his education and background inform his photography.
Give me a brief overview of your post-UMBC career trajectory. After a brief stint doing multimedia design for a firm in Baltimore, I quickly realized I preferred the liberty of navigating on my own schedule. Subsequent voyages abroad (France, Morocco, Greece, the latter being where my heritage resides) forged a deep interest in subjects and stories that transcend mere beauty. Since 2007 I’ve been practicing my art full-time and selling directly to individual collectors, corporations, and the government.
Markopoulo I
Markopoulo I, by Christos Palios. From the Unfinished series.

Your body of work focuses a lot on empty spaces and non-populated areas. What draws you to those spaces? What makes you want to document that type of isolation? There’s a compelling surrealism to unoccupied spaces usually peopled to the brim or at least with a constant flow; a sociological intrigue arises without their expected human counterparts. Think Miami Beach in the dead of night, or an abandoned new structure frozen in the construction phase — such spaces transmute and take on alternative meaning.

I’ve somehow always gravitated to forgotten, ambiguous environments for the potential to tell alternative stories in universal ways. Aside from serenity and thought-provoking aspects to such spaces, I seek irregularity, deviation, and discreet subtleties to make a connection. I ask “why?” a lot.

What in your background has influenced your art? Is there anything about your UMBC experience that has influenced your work? My parents’ openness and encouragement was paramount. Additionally, I recall my professors constantly encouraging honest discourse and unabashed personal expression. Depending on student personalities, it wasn’t always pretty, but nonetheless we expected honesty and a semblance of politeness among one another during critiques. In the beginning, this was very new to me; suffice it to say, I learned to appreciate that quickly.

During one of my first art history lectures, I well recall a classmate not understanding one of Jackson Pollock’s abstract drip paintings as art. In response to this sentiment, he politely interrupted, and as all heads rose in eager anticipation, he boldly asserted his opinion: “I’m sorry, but this is total s***!” The lecture that day veered toward a different and serendipitous course of personal expression in art.

Your bio says you started out in design and animation. What made you decide to move into photography? Demand for the kind of work I aspired to do (special effects) required a move out-of-state to NYC or Los Angeles, for example. Which is something I didn’t wish to pursue at the time, particularly since it entailed moving further away from my family. (Greeks stick together, it’s a thing.) Additionally, by then my dabbling in photography grew into a more serious interest. So looking back, it wasn’t a decisive moment where I just knew this was it; rather, it became something I transitioned into experientially beginning with my travels in Southern France and while visiting family in Greece.
Catharsis, by Christos Palios. From the Conversations series.

What advice do you have for young artists, particularly those in college? There is much truth to the overdrawn maxim of “get out and shoot.” To that I’d add: be open. The more commonplace images I’ve captured [and thought were awesome], the greater my desire grew to hone my craft, to look deeper into subjects. I’m a proponent of unyieldingly challenging oneself and to consider conceptual aspects of stories. Search for narratives untold, or familiar ones expressed uniquely and cohesively from one’s point of view. This is a good way to gradually foster a unique visual style. If one feels a project hasn’t matured, try putting it aside and look back in a short while, as hard as it may be; a lot of truth and clarity may rise to the surface as a result of that discipline.

I’ll echo one more piece of advice I was given by a photographer friend: visit galleries and museums frequently, it’s a tremendously invaluable source of education and inspiration.

— Julia Celtnieks ’13