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

SHPE Technical Achievement and Recognition Awards

The 2021 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Technical Achievement and Recognition (STAR) award recipients and the Excellence in STEM recipients were recognized during the organization’s 2021 national convention, held in November. Of the 19 individual awards, half of the recipients were women.

Jasmin Vanessa Guerrero

The Professional Role Model Award was presented to Jasmin Vanessa Guerrero, a systems engineer at Raytheon Technologies in El Segundo, California.

She is pursuing an M.S. in systems architecture engineering from the University of Southern California and holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. Working in the secure sensor solutions business area, she supports reliability, requirement verification, and failure analyses for GPS. Her attention to detail and strategic approach has led her to be a reformer of the team’s previous process flow. As a SHPE lifetime member and Raytheon Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Advancement leader, Guerrero helps others to realize their fullest potential.

Andrea Lastra

Recipient of the Student Role Model – Undergraduate Award Andrea Lastra is a senior pursuing a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics from the University of Houston.

Since becoming a SHPE member as a first-year student in 2018, she has been active through numerous events and in leadership roles, including secretary, president, and currently as a regional student representative. Lastra has interned at GE Aviation as a technical intern, Lockheed Martin as an electromechanical engineer, and currently at NASA as a project management intern.

Lesley Caridad VanDen Heuvel

Lesly Caridad VanDen Heuvel, recipient of the Corporate Achievement Award, works in digital technology solutions in manufacturing for Kimberly-Clark (KC).

She researches and studies industry revolution 4.0, smart manufacturing, and supply chain transformation. Recently, her focus has been on artificial intelligence and digital twins technology and how to apply these into the supply chain. She is a member of the Latin American Network and the Society of Women Engineers. She has volunteered in multiple ways, including mentoring new employees from Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In 2018, she received the KC Working Mother of the Year award and was featured in Working Mother magazine, representing Kimberly-Clark.

Monica Ochoa

Monica Ochoa, The Boeing Company, was named the SHPE Star of Tomorrow. Ochoa attended the University of Notre Dame, where she joined the rocket team and solidified her passion for space exploration.

She became a first-generation university graduate in 2018 when she received her B.S. in aerospace engineering. Ochoa realized her dream when she joined The Boeing Company as a loads and dynamics engineer on the Space Launch System program. She was later selected for the prestigious Engineering Career Foundation Program, a two-year rotation program designed to develop early-career engineers. Ochoa earned an M.S. in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California and is currently working on an International Space Station team.

Melanie L. Weber

Dr. Ellen Ochoa Award recipient Melanie L. Weber made history in December 2019 when the Boeing CST-100 Starliner launched from Kennedy Space Center on its orbital flight test.

She was the first woman — and the first Hispanic — to lead a launchpad team on the day of launch for a human-rated spacecraft. Weber has been a structural and mechanical design engineer supporting the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft program since 2011. She is currently the CST-100 Starliner subsystem lead for crew and cargo accommodations, and the Boeing lead for the launchpad team at Cape Canaveral. She joined SHPE in 1999, becoming a lifetime member in 2007.


Lizzie Santiago, Ph.D.

Lizzie Santiago, Ph.D., was named Advisor of the Year.

She is a teaching professor for the Fundamentals of Engineering Program in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University (WVU). She holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and has postdoctoral training in neural tissue engineering and molecular neurosciences. Since 2013, Dr. Santiago has served as an advisor to the WVU SHPE chapter, guiding the group’s campus activities and participation in organizational events. She teaches first-year engineering courses and serves as an academic advisor to at least 125 students each semester. Her research interests include neural tissue engineering and STEM education.

Leilani C. Rebolledo

The Promising Engineer Award was presented to Leilani C. Rebolledo, an operational excellence performance engineer with Chevron.

In 2012, she began her engineering studies at the University of Southern California and held internships with Chevron all three summers of her university career. In 2016, she graduated with a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering with a petroleum emphasis and began a full-time position with Chevron. She has quickly moved up the ranks of the company, from commuting to work on a helicopter as Chevron’s youngest lead field engineer on an ultra-deepwater drillship to her current role, in which she supports multimillion dollar operations.

Esther Ledesma Pumarol

Diversity Award recipient Esther Ledesma Pumarol, global portfolio manager with Medtronic, is originally from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

With more than nine years of experience, she has held various engineering and marketing roles across the U.S. for Fortune 500 companies. She holds an M.S. in new product development from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin. Pumarol is an active advocate for education, diversity, and equity in her community. Previously, she served as president and vice-president for the SHPE Twin Cities chapter and currently chairs the Hispanic Latino Network Twin Cities at Medtronic.

Julibeth Martinez De la Hoz, Ph.D.

The Young Investigator Award was presented to Julibeth Martinez De la Hoz, Ph.D., a research scientist for Dow Chemical.

Following graduation as a chemical engineer, she received a six-month exchange program opportunity to work on her undergraduate thesis at Texas A&M University. Through that experience, she decided to further her education by pursuing a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Texas A&M. After graduating in 2014, she joined Dow Chemical. She is currently a steering team member of Dow’s global diversity and inclusion team and created a dedicated local D&I team with the aim of increasing awareness and improving the culture within her own organization.

Wendy A. Wert, P.E. CREDIT: AAEES

Kappe Lecturer Announced

Wendy A. Wert, P.E., a board-certified environmental engineer with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, has been named the 2022 Kappe Lecturer. Inaugurated by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) in 1989, the Kappe Lecture Series offers the opportunity to share the knowledge of today’s practitioners with tomorrow’s environmental engineers and scientists.

The program was inspired by a grant from the estate of Stanley E. Kappe, P.E. Kappe served as the academy’s executive director from 1971 to 1981 and envisioned effective cooperation between professors and practitioners in the education of future engineers and scientists.

Each year, the AAEES awards committee selects a board-certified individual from the environmental engineering and science community who best encompasses the organization’s vision of “leadership and excellence in environmental engineering and science” as the Kappe Lecturer. This individual presents formal lectures to selected universities while providing students the opportunity to actively engage with the lecturer regarding their profession and career. The Kappe Lecturer is the AAEES ambassador to young engineers and scientists and to the faculty and staff of the hosting university.

Wert, who serves as 2022 AAEES vice president, holds a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.S. in environmental engineering, water resources specialty, both from the University of Central Florida. She is a licensed professional engineer in California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. She is offering two lectures: Converting Waste into Resources: Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Solutions, and Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Sustainable Green Fleet.

Emily Liu, Ph.D. CREDIT: RPI

RPI Appoints New Department Head

Emily Liu, Ph.D., a condensed matter physicist and nuclear engineer, has been named head of the department of industrial and systems engineering (ISE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the oldest and one of the most renowned technological research universities in the U.S. Dr. Liu, a professor of nuclear engineering and engineering physics, brings extensive experience leading and managing multidisciplinary research, including collaborations with engineers, scientists, economists, and psychologists.

“While I am particularly interested in data science and engineering, sociotechnical systems, and sustainability, I believe that a modern ISE department can respond to global challenges in human health and well-being, energy, environment, smart systems, climate change, and security,” Dr. Liu said. “ISE research is particularly important to supply chains, which have become increasingly important considering COVID-19 and the geopolitics of our time.”

Dr. Liu’s research interests include energy-related economic issues and energy policy, and she has taught nuclear phenomena for engineering applications, modeling analysis and uncertainty, and introduction to engineering analysis, among other courses, for 15 years at RPI. She joined RPI as a tenure-track assistant professor in 2006, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2013, and promoted to professor in 2019.

Collaborating with financial engineers from RPI and Idaho National Laboratory, Dr. Liu has done economic analyses to measure sustainability of advanced hybrid energy systems and is currently developing new economic models for nuclear fuel cycles.

In 2018, Dr. Liu received an ELATES at Drexel fellowship, and in 2017, she was awarded an Arab-American Frontiers fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She is the recipient of a Faculty Development Grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and numerous teaching and research awards from the School of Engineering at RPI, as well as the Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She has published 62 peer-reviewed journal papers, 17 peer-reviewed conference proceedings, and 34 non-refereed conference abstracts. She has presented her research work around the world with 60 invited lectures. Her research has garnered 25 grants to date, enabling approximately $10 million in funding.

Karen M. Swindler

Engineering Department Renamed in Honor of Alumna

The South Dakota Mines chemical and biological engineering department has been renamed the Karen M. Swindler Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering after the Mines alumna who died in 2018. This is the first time in the U.S. that a university chemical and biological engineering department has been named after a woman. The Swindler family has also made the largest gift in university history, a $4 million donation, in memory of Karen.

“This is a gift that will make a direct impact on our students for generations to come,” said Mines President Jim Rankin, Ph.D. “Karen was an instrumental leader who was a passionate supporter of her alma mater. This endowment extends her legacy in perpetuity. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of her family.” 

Swindler graduated from Mines in 1988 with a degree in chemical engineering. She went on to build an illustrious career that included more than 25 years of leadership in the chemical engineering industry. She began her career at Exxon working with the isoamylene and linear paraffins units. She received three improvement awards for 55% chemical cost reductions and improving performance in the utilities area at Exxon. In 1993, Swindler transferred to LyondellBasell, the third largest independent chemical company in the world, as an olefins production engineer in Clinton, Iowa. She excelled quickly, serving as olefins production superintendent, manager, and plant manager. She was promoted to director of global operations planning and scheduling; vice president of health, safety, and operational excellence; general manager of manufacturing; and divisional vice president of polymers manufacturing, North America; and included service as senior vice president of manufacturing, Americas. She was one of the only women in charge of manufacturing for an S&P Fortune 500 company.

Carol Dahl, Ph.D. CREDIT: The Lemelson Foundation

ASME Announces Launch of Idea Lab, Celebrates Award Recipients

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)’s Engineering for Change (E4C) hosted its fifth annual Impact.Engineered, a celebration of the sustainable development ecosystem that convenes leading engineers, philanthropists, scholars, and social entrepreneurs who are working to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and improve the quality of life globally.

Event highlights included the launch of the Idea Lab incubator, extending the reach of the ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) hardware accelerator platform, and the announcement of the recipients of the 2021 Impact.Engineered Awards.

The Woman Champion: Powering Impact award was presented to Carol Dahl, Ph.D., former executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. Established in 1992, the foundation’s mission is to use the power of invention to improve lives. Under Dr. Dahl’s leadership, the foundation focused on enabling the next generation of inventors and invention-based enterprises to develop products and businesses that underpin the economy and solve big problems in the U.S. as well as for the poorest populations in low- and middle-income countries. In addition, the foundation’s Oregon regional initiative strengthened the invention ecosystem in the state by providing K-12 invention education programs and resources for emerging entrepreneurs.

The Impact.Engineered Awards recognize innovators and influencers in the sustainable development ecosystem who are helping to improve life in underserved communities.

Myra Blanco, Ph.D. CREDIT: VTTI

SAE Contributor of the Year

SAE International honored Myra Blanco, Ph.D., with its third annual Contributor of the Year Award. Dr. Blanco, director of advancement, partnerships, and outreach at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), was recognized for her ongoing commitment to advancing the future of the mobility industry through her involvement with SAE activities.

SAE presented the award to Dr. Blanco during a recognition ceremony for the entire 2021 Contributor of the Year class on Nov. 5 as part of a Contributor of the Year celebration in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Blanco has been an active member of SAE since her undergraduate days at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, where she worked with a group of other members to build a solar car. In 2020, her nomination for the InterRegs Awards was selected as winner. Her support of the Breed and Baranescu awards has helped to generate awareness, while her leadership in submitting nominations for colleagues and peers aids in encouraging others to nominate.