From breaking the glass ceiling in industry, academia, and research to an array of accomplishments, these women are making news.

Grace Bulltail, credit: AISES

U.S. Department of Interior Commission Gains New Member

Grace Bulltail, Ph.D., P.E., has been appointed to the Not Invisible Act Commission, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice to identify, report, and respond to instances of missing and murdered Indigenous people and human trafficking.

In this role, Dr. Bulltail will serve with tribal, state, and local law enforcement representatives, tribal judges, and health care and mental health care professionals who have experience working with survivors of human trafficking and with family members of missing and murdered Indigenous people. She holds a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Stanford University and completed master’s degree programs at Montana Technological University and Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell University and is a licensed professional engineer.

Dr. Bulltail is a member of the Crow tribe and a descendant of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes of Fort Berthold, North Dakota. She is an assistant professor in the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and an affiliate in the department of biological systems engineering, both at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She was invited to submit her nomination for the commission based on her academic research and practical experience with tribal resource sovereignty, natural resource management, and environmental justice on tribal lands.

Her appointment is particularly meaningful because she lost a loved one under suspicious circumstances. Her 18-year-old niece went missing in 2019 and was later found dead in Hardin, Montana, a town bordering the Crow reservation. Dr. Bulltail and her family have launched their own investigation because the incident has not been investigated as a homicide as determined by the Big Horn County law enforcement office.

The Not Invisible Act, passed by Congress in 2020, is intended to address the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native people by involving law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, and service providers.

Deneen Hernandez, credit: AISES
Angela Teeple, credit: AISES
Rachel Yellowhair, credit: AISES
Sonia Ibarra Marquez, credit: AISES

AISES Issues Annual STEM Awards

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), which advances Indigenous people in STEM professions, has issued its annual awards recognizing the significant contributions of Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, First Nations, and other Indigenous people to various STEM fields.

Among the AISES’s 2022 awardees are Deneen Hernandez, Ph.D., who received the Professional of the Year award; Angela Teeple, who received the Most Promising Engineering or Scientist award; Sonia Ibarra Marquez, Ph.D., who received the Indigenous Excellence award; and Rachel Yellowhair, who received the Blazing Flame award.

Dr. Hernandez, recipient of the Professional of the Year Award, is enrolled in the Seneca Nations of Cattaraugus Reservation and has served in law enforcement for 28 years. The award recognizes leadership and technical achievement across all categories. She is a forensic examiner for the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit. In this role, she examines suspected gambling records (such as bookmaking and gambling devices) to determine if they are illicit. She also examines and deciphers codes and symbols that might identify suspected criminal and gang activity. She is one of two Native American forensic examiners in the FBI lab.

Prior to her work with the FBI, Dr. Hernandez served as a forensic examiner and investigator in the National Indian Gaming Commission and as a senior inspector with the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. She also served as a tribal officer for the Seneca Nation. Earlier Dr. Hernandez served for many years as an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice courses and was a forensic instructor at the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) and Jamestown Community College, respectively. She continues to visit schools and colleges to promote careers in STEM and forensic science.

Dr. Hernandez holds a B.A. in political science from the State University of New York at Fredonia; an M.A. in criminal justice from Buffalo State College; and a Ph.D. in public service leadership from Capella University. She is a national trainer for the National Partnership for Careers in Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security and volunteers with the Forensic Outreach Program in London.

The AISES Most Promising Engineer or Scientist Award this year was presented to young professional Angela Teeple, who originates from Gnoozhekaaning, or Bay Mills Indian Community, a tribe of 1,000 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Teeple serves as a water contamination researcher, Indigenous law consultant, and nuclear engineer for the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. As part of a close-knit team of seven, whose mission is to analyze nuclear effects on aircraft, environments, and personnel for the Air Force, Teeple directs analyses and manages software handling critical nuclear data. Her contributions have earned several accolades and awards.

Teeple is also a member of the Indigenous Barrier Analysis Group for the entire Air Force that identifies obstacles Indigenous people in the Air Force face and creates initiatives that combat these found barriers.

Apart from her work at the nuclear center, she contacts tribes offering water testing services and legal advice. In 2017, she performed neutron activation analysis (NAA) on her tribe’s water sources and discovered contaminants not previously known since federal water testing only detects specific elements. NAA testing, however, indicates the full spectrum of elements in a sample.

This discovery left unanswered questions about how tribes pursue clean water once contamination is detected. This prompted Teeple to pursue a Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous People’s Law and Policy from The University of Oklahoma. With her research capability and legal background, she now provides NAA testing and natural resource law mentoring for tribes.

Teeple holds a B.S. in mechanical and nuclear engineering from Kansas State University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in medical physics from the University of Minnesota Medical School, where she is a Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholar.

The AISES Most Promising Engineer or Scientist Award recognizes a professional engineer or scientist with less than five years of workforce experience after earning a professional degree. The candidate’s early technical contributions must indicate a promising career.

AISES Blazing Flame Award honoree Rachel Yellowhair is a member of the Navajo Nation. Born in Phoenix, she grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from The University of Arizona and a master’s degree in management information systems from the University of Phoenix.

Yellowhair has been an active member and volunteer with AISES for more than 25 years and became an AISES Sequoyah lifetime member in 2017. She also volunteers with the Arizona Trail Association by providing office support each month.

She began her career with Raytheon Missile Systems as an IT systems administrator. Subsequent positions of increasing responsibility followed, including serving as a technical individual contributor to leading teams. Currently Yellowhair serves as senior manager of the West Region Raytheon site services, where she oversees all digital technology operations and site service activities in the west region of the United States. Her team of two design and technology site leads and five technical professionals supports several thousand employees in seven businesses and remote locations.

Yellowhair interacts and coordinates with resource management division, design and technology service owners, and other key stakeholders on projects and strategic initiatives. She is also involved in business location strategy with regards to growth and closures, and design and technology initiatives rollouts and operations support.

AISES presents the Blazing Flame Award to an individual who “blazes” a path for Indigenous people in STEM careers. This award recognizes individuals with 10 or more years of professional experience with significant accomplishments in advancing STEM education and careers.

The AISES Indigenous Excellence Award acknowledges an individual who has done substantial work for 10 or more years to advance programs and opportunities for Indigenous students and professionals within their Indigenous communities and or in support of Indigenous people at the national level.

Awardee Sonia Ibarra Marquez, Ph.D., is Apache, Caxcan, Mexican, and Latina and grew up in the traditional territories of the Nomlaki people in Northern California. Her parents migrated to California from México. She holds a B.S. in marine biology from Humboldt State University with minors in leadership and scientific and recreational Scuba diving. Thereafter she worked as a scientific diver and field researcher in the Philippines, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Belize, and the southern California Channel Islands. She continued her graduate work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, earning a Ph.D. in fisheries. She was also awarded two National Science Foundation grants. Her work has focused on co-creating a project with tribes and Indigenous youth in Southeast Alaska to weave Indigenous and Western knowledge systems and document a holistic picture of the relationship between Indigenous people, sea otters, and shellfish that has largely been ignored by marine ecologists.

Dr. Ibarra Marquez currently serves as the program coordinator for Tamamta (“all of us,” an Indigenous-centered graduate training program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks). The program seeks to strengthen the connection between Indigenous and Western sciences to transform graduate education, research, and resource management in fisheries and marine sciences to encourage more Native Alaskans to enter this field of study.

All AISES photos from Winds of Change (c) 2022 by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)

Xiaoqing Li, credit: DuPont
Carmen Covelli, credit: DuPont

DuPont Recognizes Two with Prestigious Pedersen Medal

DuPont awardees of the Pedersen Medal are selected by the DuPont Laureates (fellows), a group of the highest technical professionals in the company. The medalists’ deep technical knowledge, skill, achievements, and commitment in their respective areas have resulted in important new products for DuPont customers. The award is named for DuPont’s Charles J. Pedersen, who received the Nobel Prize in 1987 for his discovery of macrocylic polyethers, a novel class of chemical compounds considered the ”crown” of ethers because of their molecular shape.

Among this year’s Pedersen Medal winners are Xiaoqing Li, Ph.D., and Carmen Covelli, Ph.D.

Dr. Li serves as a principal scientist in DuPont’s Electronics and Industrial Solutions division. She has more than 20 years of experience in polymer design, synthesis, characterization, and scale-up for adhesives, coatings, and inkjet inks applications. She has been recognized for creating two foundational polymer platform technologies within the DuPont Digital Inks business that continue to produce differentiating product offerings today. The development of waterborne polyurethane dispersion binders and crosslinked pigment dispersions enabled success in direct-to-garment apparel printing; roll-to-roll textile printing for fashion, upholstery, and home furnishings; and commercial applications such as transactional printing.

She joined DuPont as a principal investigator with a focus on polymer research and developing aqueous inkjet ink application after serving as a senior development chemist at Ashland Specialty Chemical Co.

Dr. Covelli serves as a DuPont technical laureate in the mobility and materials division. She is a noted innovator who works across applied polymer, fiber, and formulation sciences to develop new products including plastics for electrical applications; thermoplastic polyester resins for use in automotive electronic components and sensors; thermoplastic polyester elastomers for use in athletic goods, and medical and consumer devices; and a heat-resistant, synthetic, lightweight fiber used across many industries and applications.

During her more than 35 years of experience, Dr. Covelli has made significant contributions to earlier DuPont products including an eco-efficient polymer made in part from annually renewable plant-based ingredients and used in textiles for home and apparel and a synthetic elastic fiber commonly known as spandex.

Her inventions have contributed to significant growth in sales to textile, carpet, ballistics, and resins applications. In addition to her technical skills, she is known for her leadership and mentorship. She joined DuPont as a research and end-use application engineer in new product development after serving as a senior research associate with INVISTA.

Jill Tietjen, credit: NAC

Elected to National Academy of Construction Hall of Fame

The National Academy of Construction (NAC) has elected Jill Tietjen, P.E., F.SWE, president and CEO of Technically Speaking Inc., a member of its class of 2022 and a member of the NAC Construction Hall of Fame. She is one of 34 industry practitioners from various sectors that includes academics, researchers, owners, contractors, designers, lawyers, and consultants to be inducted.

Tietjen was recognized for being an “exceptional leader in the electric utility sector, strong advocate for women worldwide, and prolific author on women and women’s issues.” Technically Speaking Inc. is a consulting firm for electrical utilities that represents the outgrowth of Tietjen’s wide-ranging experience as an engineer and technical consultant, STEM champion, author, and motivational speaker.

An electrical engineer by training, Tietjen has spent more than 45 years as a consultant to electric utilities and organizations in the electric utility industry. She has been an expert witness before public utility commissions and other government agencies. Tietjen has also written 12 books including Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America and Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies. She has served as a blogger for The Huffington Post profiling women in various industries from athletes to educators to entertainers; and served as a series editor for Springer International Publications.

A SWE life member and Fellow, Tietjen served as 1991-1992 SWE president. She has received numerous awards and honors, including Tau Beta Pi’s Distinguished Alumna Award. She is a senior member of the IEEE Power Engineering Society and is listed in Who’s Who in Engineering, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and Who’s Who in Technology.

Tietjen holds a B.S. in applied mathematics with a minor in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is a registered professional engineer in Colorado.

Kerrie Greenfelder

Promoted to Principal Group at Burns & McDonnell

Kerrie Greenfelder, P.E., engineering director of the Water Group at Burns & McDonnell, has been promoted to the company’s Principal Group. She is one of 35 employees selected for the new leadership class.

Principals are selected based on demonstrated exceptional performance and technical excellence, as well as recognition of their ability to take on future leadership roles and contribute to the success of Burns & McDonnell. The employee-owned company coordinates the work of engineers, construction and craft professionals, architects, planners, scientists, and technologists to design and build infrastructure.

Greenfelder has more than 20 years of experience in the water sector. She joined Burns & McDonnell in 2015 and serves in its Kansas City, Missouri, location. Greenfelder regularly supports the design and management of both small and large water and wastewater treatment processing projects using her expertise in areas such as project management, reporting, bidding services, construction management and oversight, and scheduling and startup for various public, private, federal, and design-build clients. Her background as a chemical engineer has provided opportunities for her to develop and use her advanced design-build experience in water, wastewater treatment processing, and landfill projects.

She is a SWE life member and currently serves on the Society’s board of directors. In 2015, she received the SWE Emerging Leader Award honoring persons who are actively engaged in the engineering profession and have demonstrated outstanding technical excellence while producing significant accomplishments.

Greenfelder holds a professional engineer license in six states: Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and New Mexico. She is a certified environmental sustainability professional and a board-certified environmental engineer with a specialty in water supply and wastewater. Greenfelder also holds a membership in the Water Environment Federation and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Jennifer Bailey, credit: RIT News
Cynthia Tawaf, credit: RIT News

RIT Faculty Named KEEN Engineering Unleashed Fellows

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) faculty members Jennifer Bailey, Ph.D., and Cynthia Tawaf were each named 2022 KEEN Engineering Unleashed Fellows for their outstanding leadership in undergraduate engineering education.

Engineering Unleashed is a national organization comprising more than 160 universities and colleges that focus on graduating engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset. The organization seeks to develop graduates who are technically prepared, understand societal changes, and strategically pursue opportunities to improve upon those changes.

Both faculty members have integrated the organization’s entrepreneurial mindset into course work and projects for students in their colleges. The entrepreneurial mindset is a progressive way of preparing the next generation of engineers who can create personal, economic, and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work. Dr. Bailey and Tawaf were among 21 faculty members from 16 institutions of higher education across the U.S. selected for this year’s KEEN fellowship.

Dr. Bailey is a principal lecturer in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, developing and teaching courses in its biomedical engineering department since joining the college in 2014. She also leads her department’s curriculum and assessment committee and participates on various curriculum-related committees in the engineering college and at RIT.

Previously, Dr. Bailey served as an assistant professor at the University of Southern Indiana. There, she taught courses that introduced first-year students to engineering problems and computational tools. She later taught at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she developed and taught lab courses in cell and tissue engineering and quantitative physiology and taught a course in biomechanics. She was also active in STEM outreach and undergraduate advising.

Dr. Bailey completed a B.S. in chemical engineering and a B.S. in chemistry from Purdue University before earning a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, also from Purdue. Her graduate work focused on tissue engineering. She worked on enhancing naturally derived three-dimensional, purified collagen matrices for both research and medical applications. She utilized the natural occurring cross-links within collagen to control mechanical properties separately from collagen concentration. Her work resulted in two publications and two patents.

Tawaf joined RIT in 2020 as a visiting lecturer in the College of Engineering Technology, teaching courses in the manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology department. She has nearly 30 years of industry experience as a senior project engineer at Delphi Technologies, and she has been able to integrate real-world connections into her statics and mechanical design courses. Tawaf is also involved in RIT’s applied critical thinking initiatives, taking an active role in faculty teaching circles focused on this practice.

She holds a B.S. in fluid and thermal sciences engineering from Case Western Reserve University and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from RIT.

The fellows designation is given to faculty who participate in the KEEN organizations, faculty professional development programs at the organization’s annual conference, and within their respective colleges. They are nominated by KEEN mentors and are awarded a $10,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation to further work in improving and enhancing engineering education. RIT and its Kate Gleason College of Engineering and College of Engineering Technology have been part of KEEN: The Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network since 2019.