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2022 Outstanding Science Alumni holding statues at ceremony with Dean Langkilde

Eleven Alumni Honored with Penn State’s Outstanding Science Alumni Award

21 April 2022

The Penn State Eberly College of Science has selected eleven alumni to be honored with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award. The Board of Directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society established this award to recognize alumni who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field and who are outstanding role models for students in the college. Seven alumni were selected for the 2022 award and four for the 2020 award, which were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Winners from both years were presented with their award during an event held on the University Park campus on April 7, 2022. 

Recipients of the 2022 Outstanding Science Alumni Award are:

  • Gideon Bollag, 1984 B.S. Chemistry
  • Emmanouil Dermitzakis, 2001 Ph.D. Biology
  • Hank Foley, 1982 Ph.D. Chemistry
  • Katie McPeak, 1997 B.S. Science
  • Janet Tomezsko, 1987 B.S. Premedicine
  • Joy Ward, 1991, B.S. Biology
  • B. Vindell Washington, 1986 B.S. Science

Recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Science Alumni Award are:

  • Danielle Bassett, 2004 B.S. Physics
  • Aaron Gitler, 2000 B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Lara M. Mangravite, 1997 B.S. Physics
  • Steve Maslowski, 1995 B.S. Biology

Danielle Bassett

Danielle Bassett

Bassett is the J. Peter Skirkanich Professor in the departments of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a pioneer in the field of network neuroscience, which combines concepts from mathematics, physics, biology, and systems engineering to better understand how the overall shape of connections between individual neurons influences cognitive traits. Her lab explores questions at the intersection of science, engineering, and medicine using systems-level approaches, exploring fields such as curiosity, dynamic networks in neuroscience, and psychiatric disease.

Bassett was named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” in 2016 and received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” in 2014. She was honored with Penn State’s Alumni Achievement Award in 2012.

Bassett graduated from Penn State in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in mathematics. She received a Certificate in Postgraduate Studies in Physics (CPGS) and a doctoral degree in physics from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom in 2005 and 2009, respectively. She completed postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbra, before joining the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

Gideon Bollag

Gideon Bollag

Bollag currently serves as chief executive officer of Opna-IO, a startup biotech company focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat caner. Prior to this position, he served as chief executive officer of Plexxikon, a member of the Daiichi Sankyo group based in California. In this role, Bollag’s responsibilities included coordination of drug discovery and development efforts, and management of internal and external resources necessary to build a pipeline of compounds to treat cancer and other diseases. Among other achievements, the Plexxikon team developed several FDA-approved products to treat various forms of cancer, including the RAF inhibitor vemurafenib, and the CSF1R inhibitor pexidartinib.

Bollag started his career at Cetus Corporation in 1989, and then joined as one of the initial scientists at Onyx Pharmaceuticals, where he eventually became senior director of small molecule therapeutics. He led Onyx teams in collaborations to discover sorafenib and palbociclib, both now approved cancer treatments. He joined Plexxikon in 2002, where he held management positions of increasing responsibility, culminating in his role as CEO. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Penn State and a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

Emmanouil (Manolis) Dermitzakis

Emmanouil Dermitzakis

Dermitzakis is currently vice president and head of computational biology at the pharmaceutical company GSK. He was a previously a professor of genetics, director of the Health2030 Genome Center, and director of the Institute of Genetics and Genomics at the University of Geneva Medical School and a senior investigator at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge. His research has explored the genetic causes and mechanisms of human diseases. He has had leading roles in the ENCODE, Mouse Genome Sequencing, International HapMap, 1000 genomes, and GTEx projects.

Dermitzakis was previously vice-chair of the Swiss Personalized Health Network Genomics Task Force, a member of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, chairman of the National Council for Research, Technology and Innovation, and advisor to the prime minister in Greece. He also served as president of the World Hellenic Biomedical Association from 2014 to 2015. 

Dermitzakis is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and has been honored with the 2017 Scientific Award from the Bodossakis Foundation and the 2021 Curth Stern award from the American Society of Human Genetics. He has been named a "highly cited researcher” by Clarivate every year since 2014.

He obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Crete in Greece in 1995 and 1997, respectively, and a doctoral degree from Penn State in 2001. His post-doctoral work was at the University of Geneva Medical School. 

Hank C. “Hank” Foley

Hank Foley

Foley is the fourth president of the New York Institute of Technology. He previously served as the University of Missouri’s (MU) interim chancellor, where he led the university through a challenging period of unrest, change, and, ultimately, real progress toward inclusion and equity. He joined the MU system in 2013 as executive vice president for academic affairs. Prior to that, Foley served at Penn State as department head of chemical engineering, associate vice president for research, dean of the college of information sciences and technology, and vice president for research and dean of the graduate school. He has held faculty appointments in chemical engineering and chemistry at MU, Penn State, and the University of Delaware.

Foley was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science by Providence College in 2015, earned the Distinguished Science Alumni Award from Purdue University in 2017, and received an Executive Circle Award from the Long Island Business News in 2019.

Foley holds a bachelor's degree from Providence College, a master’s degree from Purdue University, and doctoral degree from Penn State, all in chemistry. He holds 16 patents and has written over 150 articles and a textbook. Foley has mentored nearly 50 graduate and undergraduate thesis students and post-doctoral fellows.

Aaron Gitler

Aaron Gitler

Gitler is the Stanford Medicine Basic Science Professor in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University. He uses yeast as a model system to study the molecular pathways involved in age-related neurodegenerative disorders in humans, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). His laboratory has made several fundamental discoveries into the role of aggregation-prone proteins in neurodegeneration and has helped uncover unexpected and novel therapeutic targets for ALS. His laboratory also uses data from humans to explore the genetic contributors to ALS and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Among Gitler’s awards and honors are the Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research from the American Academy of Neurology in 2019, being named a “Scientist to Watch” by The Scientist in 2010, and the Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2008.

In 2000, Gitler received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Penn State, where he performed research with Claire Thomas, associate professor of biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology. He received a doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004, working on mechanisms of cardiovascular development, and conducted postdoctoral research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. He started as assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and moved to Stanford in 2012.

Lara M. Mangravite

Lara Mangravite

Mangravite is president of Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit research organization focused on the development and implementation of open systems to advance health research. Mangravite’s team consists of scientists, engineers, and data governance experts that, together, have developed tools and practices for broad data sharing and collaborative research practices. These tools have supported dozens of collaborative research projects. Mangravite also supports open science practices designed to increase the identification of high confidence scientific claims that are poised for translation to medical applications.

Due to her experience with open-access science practices, Mangravite was just selected as a co-principal investigator of a $37M Open Drug Discovery Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the National Institute on Aging’s two new research centers designed to diversify and reinvigorate the Alzheimer's disease drug development pipeline. 

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics at Penn State in 1997, Mangravite received a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco, in 2002. She was a postdoctoral fellow and later an assistant staff scientist at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute. She joined Sage as a genomics researcher in 2010 and ascended to the role of president in 2016. 

Steve Maslowski

Steve Maslowski

Maslowski is a partner in the Philadelphia office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP where he is head of the firm’s national intellectual property practice.  His practice focuses on patent litigation and client counseling in the life sciences, including highly complex biological and chemical inventions, such as monoclonal antibodies, small molecule drugs, and polymer compositions, as well as medical devices.  

Maslowski has been a leader on trial teams for some of the biggest life science cases in recent years. For example, in Bristol-Myers Squibb et al. v. Merck, he represented the plaintiffs, including a Nobel laureate, in asserting patents covering revolutionary immuno-oncology treatment methods, ultimately reaching a worldwide multi-billion-dollar settlement. He has also worked on matters involving a number of other cutting-edge therapies, including those related to autoimmune disorders, hypercholesterolemia, and cancer immunotherapy.

In addition to his law practice, Maslowski is an adjunct professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law where he has taught patent litigation for more than a decade. He graduated from Penn State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in business law. In 1999, Maslowski graduated with honors from George Washington University Law School and then began practicing law in Philadelphia.

Katie McPeak

Katie McPeak

McPeak is a primary care pediatrician at the West Philadelphia Care Network, medical director for health equity of the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) Primary Care Network, and an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. McPeak is the faculty co-facilitator of Health Equity Advanced Skills for CHOP pediatric residents and also serves as a consultant for the Primary Care Innovation team, the Possibilities Project. She has over 15 years of experience in quality improvement, system redesign, and primary care management in predominantly Medicaid-insured/underserved communities. She previously served as the medical director of the Center for the Urban Child at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and prior to that served as the Director of Pediatric Quality and Associate Chief of Pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital/UCSF.

McPeak is a certified Spanish-speaking provider. Her goals are to reduce disparities in care for children and to put the family and patient at the center of care redesign. She has a strong interest in improving care for patients with limited English proficiency and children with special healthcare needs, and for strengthening care teams. McPeak is also heavily involved in the Academic Pediatric Association and has served as the co-chair for the region that encompasses New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Ontario.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Penn State in 1997, she attended medical school at the Drexel University College of Medicine.

Janet Tomezsko

Janet Tomezsko

Tomezsko is a physician specializing in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery who has been practicing in the Chicago area since 1995. She was the head of Urogynecology at Northwestern University from 2001 to 2009 and currently runs a private practice in the north suburbs of Chicago. Tomezsko is the vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Amita St. Francis Hospital, Evanston, IL. 

Tomezskois has focused on education throughout her career, participating in the education of medical students, residents, fellows, and advanced practitioners. She has proudly cared for patients in Bolivia through her surgical mission work with Solidarity Bridge.

After graduating from Penn State in 1987, she earned a medical degree from the Hahnemann University Medical School in Philadelphia in 1991. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown.

Joy K. Ward

Joy Ward

Ward is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University. She is internationally recognized for her research on how plants respond to changing climate and atmospheric CO2. By incorporating the fossil record dating back to the last glacial period, she has uncovered novel insights into how plants responded to rising CO2 and changing climates over thousands of years, as well as into how plants will respond to environmental conditions predicted for the future. She has published a multitude of peer-reviewed research articles, along with the recent book, Photosynthesis, Respiration and Climate Change.

Ward has advanced the research and scholarship of faculty and students through multiple initiatives spanning the sciences, arts, and humanities. Currently, Dean Ward serves as chair of the advisory committee for the Earth and Biological Sciences Directorate at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is a member of their overall advisory committee. She also served in advisory and leadership roles for numerous federal and nonprofit agencies, including chairing advisory committees and grant reviews for the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Israel Science Foundation.

Ward received a bachelor’s degree from Penn State in 1991 and a master’s and doctoral degree from Duke University in 1994 and 1997, respectively.

B. Vindell Washington

Vindell Washington

Washington is the chief clinical officer for the Verily Health Platforms group, as well as the CEO of the medical technology company Onduo. In these roles, Washington is responsible for clinical thought leadership, strategic planning, and high-level product development. He focuses on strategies that will enable advanced technology solutions for healthcare transformation, engaging internal and external partners in developing tools and platforms for improving health outcomes, and reducing costs of care.

Previously, Washington worked as the chief medical officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana from 2017 to 2019. Prior to his tenure at BCBS, Washington led clinical teams and health IT initiatives as national coordinator for healthcare information technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also served as chief executive officer of Piedmont Emergency Medicine Associates, a large private group in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Washington is a board-certified emergency medicine physician and a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He received a bachelor’s degree from Penn State and a medical degree from the University of Virginia. He also received a master’s degree in healthcare management from the Harvard University School of Public Health.