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Alumni Awards 2020

May 5, 2020

MSU Engineering honors nine with alumni recognition awards 

Eight distinguished alumni of the Michigan State University College of Engineering are being recognized with 2020 Alumni Awards for their significant achievements and outstanding contributions. The college also praised a high school educator whose accomplishments reflect positively on MSU and the College of Engineering.

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel said the college honors world-class graduates each spring for their demonstrated professional success and a high standard of accomplishments in their personal lives. Awards are usually presented during an annual alumni banquet in East Lansing, but the ceremony was postponed this year due to the current COVID-19 crisis.

“We are very proud to recognize the achievements of these select alumni, who are outstanding leaders and serve as living examples of ways that Spartan Engineers can change communities and the world. On behalf of the College, I send our heartiest congratulations to each of them,” Kempel added.

Engineering Alumni Board Chair Donnie Haye joined Kempel in celebrating this year’s honorees. Haye received an engineering arts degree in 1981.

“It is my honor, on behalf of Spartan Engineering Alumni and the Alumni Board, to extend our collective congratulations to you,” Haye said. "Each of you are exemplary examples of the high quality, high integrity, and highly impactful engineers that makes all of us so very proud. Enjoy this well-deserved recognition.”

The Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award

Receiving this year’s Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award is Kevin Conroy, who has distinguished himself as a technical leader, entrepreneur, and innovator in his field. Conroy is chairman and chief executive officer of Exact Sciences Corp., a company that strives to change lives through earlier detection and smarter answers for cancer patients.

Kevin Conroy will receive the college's highest alumni award.
Kevin Conroy will receive the college's highest alumni award.

The Erickson Award is the highest honor presented to an alumnus by the college. It recognizes professional accomplishment, volunteer service, and distinguished service to the college and the engineering profession. 

Conroy received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1988. He lives in Madison, Wisc.

During his 11-year tenure as CEO, Exact Sciences collaborated with Mayo Clinic to develop Cologuard, a noninvasive DNA based colorectal cancer screening test, and grew from three employees to more than 4,000. In 2019, Exact Sciences’ acquisition of Genomic Health, Inc., united two of the industry’s strongest brands, Cologuard and Oncotype DX, and established the company’s position as the global leader in advanced cancer diagnostics.

Before joining Exact Sciences, Conroy served as president and chief executive officer of Third Wave Technologies, a molecular diagnostics company, which developed innovative DNA and RNA analysis products until the company’s acquisition by Hologic, Inc.  Conroy also held leadership positions at GE Healthcare, a global leader in medical imaging and information technology.

He serves as a director of the biopharmaceutical company Epizyme, Inc. and Adaptive Biotechnology Corp.; director of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, and on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Advisory Council. He also has served as chair of The United Way of Dane County’s 2016 annual campaign, board member of Overture Center for the Arts, and Badger Advocates, a non-profit organization that represents the interests of improving and expanding support for the University of Wisconsin.

Among his many awards, he was honored with the 2019 In Business Madison – Person of the Year; the 2018 Wisconsin Biohealth – Business Achievement Award; the 2018 Best in Biz Awards – Large Company Executive of the Year; the 2015 In Business Madison – Large Company Executive of the Year; and in 2014 was presented the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Midwest Biotechnology.

Seven other alumni received departmental honors, and the Green Apple Teaching Award goes to:

Joseph Podulka
Joseph Podulka

Applied Engineering Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award -
Joseph Podulka

BS, 1994, Engineering

Joseph Podulka has built a career around his broad finance and analytic experience from strategic, financial, and operational roles – in the United States and abroad. He has created global teams and functions from the ground up, consolidated operations and refocused failing businesses, acquired companies, and provided strategic insight to both large and small organizations.

Podulka is the chief financial officer for Cred, a global financial technology company offering technology solutions for digital assets, partnering with leading crypto wallets and exchanges to enable liquidity in the form of borrowing and lending. Cred serves customers in more than 180 countries.

He is a member of MSU’s San Francisco Bay Area Alumni Club.

Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award -
Dr. Alioune Fall

PhD, 1997, Agricultural Engineering

Alioune Fall
Alioune Fall

Alioune Fall is the director general of the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA) and has spent a career working to provide sufficient, safe, and nutritious food for active and healthy lives. His areas of specialization are the agricultural technology and innovation management system (modeling, artificial intelligence), agricultural research management, research evaluation, post-harvest technology, and mechanization.

His research career spans 35 years. He joined ISRA in 1984 as a researcher in the Casamance region (southern Senegal). After obtaining his doctorate, he was moved to the National Agronomy Research Center (CNRA) of Bambey, where he was appointed national coordinator of the post-harvest technology program.

Red Cedar Circle Award in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science - Karl J. Puttlitz, PhD
BS, 1965, Metallurgical Engineering; MS, 1967, Metallurgical Engineering; PhD, 1971, Metallurgy and Material Science Engineering

Karl J. Puttlitz has won major outstanding innovation and master inventor awards; is credited with more than 50 published inventions including U.S. and foreign patents; won outstanding paper awards for his scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals; co-authored and co-edited two technical handbooks still considered among the best in the marketplace; and in his spare time wrote a fiction suspense novel that won a national book award.

His areas of expertise include component and assembly failure analysis, mechanical and metallurgical testing, metal deposition techniques, micro- and macro-bonding, alloy and plating bath development, and corrosion-related mechanisms and technologies.

His published inventions earned him the IBM designation of Master Inventor (1995). IBM also presented him with its highest innovation award, the Corporate Outstanding Invention Award (1991). He authored 49 scientific papers and presented more than 50 workshops or tutorials related to micro-processing, micro-interconnection technology, and micro-and macro-failure analysis. He has presented internationally as an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award - Stephanie Luster-Teasley
MS, 2000, Chemical Engineering; PhD, 2003, Environmental Engineering

Stephanie Luster-Teasley, PhD
Stephanie Luster-Teasley

Stephanie Luster-Teasley, PhD, is a professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. She has established a strong record of excellence in teaching, research, and service and is known for bringing the excitement of real-world, hands-on experience into all of her engineering courses and mentoring activities.

Her research accomplishments include receiving patents from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada for her development of a controlled release chemical oxidation polymer system for the remediation of water and wastewater. This recognition designates her as the first African-American woman and the first faculty member at NCA&T to receive international patents. Her technology was licensed in 2017 by a company to market nationally as an emerging remediation method for groundwater and soil contamination.

Computer Science and Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award - Marwan Krunz
MS, 1992, Electrical Engineering; PhD, 1995, Electrical Engineering

Marlin Krunz
Marwan Krunz

Marwan M. Krunz is the Kenneth VonBehren Endowed Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His research is in the broad area of wireless communications and networking, with particular emphasis on resource management, distributed protocols, and security. In recent years, he has been involved in projects related to 5G systems; cognitive radios; coexistence of heterogeneous wireless systems over shared spectrum; WLAN protocols; network security; power-controlled channel access; centralized and distributed multi-user MIMO systems; mmWave communications; secure satellite communications; energy management in solar-powered WSNs; full-duplex communications; and media streaming over wireless links.

He is the lead director of the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center (BWAC), which was established in 2013 as a National Science Foundation Industry and University Cooperative Research Center.

Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts

John D. Ryder Electrical and Computer Engineering Alumni Award - Mark Roberts
BS, 1998, Electrical Engineering

Mark Roberts is a vice president of Texas Instruments (TI), a global semiconductor design and manufacturing company that designs and manufactures semiconductors and various integrated circuits to sell to electronics designers and manufacturers globally. He assumed his present position with the Dallas-based company in February 2015.

He is responsible for the Americas Sales & Applications organization. In this role, he leads a large team of sales and applications employees to support TI’s customers across various markets in the Americas, including industrial and automotive. In addition to leading his organization to deliver solid performance, Roberts has a passion for encouraging a culture that revolves around team work and employee development – which he believes are critical to any organization’s success.

Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award -
Thomas Wielenga

BS, 1978, Mechanical Engineering

Thomas Wielenga
Thomas Wielenga

Thomas Wielenga believes that the creative process is fundamental to invention, the arts, science, evolution, and most life processes. He has spent many years interested in processes that produce new designs. He is president of Engineering Insight, LLC – a consulting firm in the field of vehicle rollover. He has been involved in analyzing and simulating rollover accidents and vehicles since 1992. He is an expert at reconstructing rollover accidents, accurately simulating what happened in the accident and why. His career includes working for Mechanical Dynamics Inc. on extending the ADAMS simulation program, and the modeling of vehicles and rollover accidents for Chace and Associates Engineering.

Wielenga patented a braking system that saves around a thousand lives a year in the U.S. and is implemented world-wide on SUVs and vans. He has a patent on a system for preventing rollover accidents called ARB and has licensed it for production. He also patented a method to reduce injuries and fatalities that occur in a severe second collision after an initial accident.

Green Apple Teaching Award - Meghan Wagner
Established in 2006, the Green Apple Teaching Award honors a K-12 teacher who has inspired students to study math, science, and engineering.

Meghan Wagner loves applied mathematics as much as she enjoys watching her students learn why things work the way they do. She has been teaching math for eight years. For the past four years, she has taught Algebra 2 at South Lyon High School, where she sometimes gets to teach her favorite subject, physics.

Previously, she taught math for two years at Pinckney High School and two years at Madison High School. Her favorite part of teaching is getting to know students and helping them move toward their goals, whether the goals are in math and science, or not.

She was nominated for the Green Apple Teaching Award by Leah Williams and Gabrielle Wink, both seniors in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering.