2009 Distinguished Achievement Awards
The College of Engineering celebrated its 62nd annual Engineers' Day on October 16 as part of the UW-Madison Homecoming Week. These eight outstanding engineers were honored on the basis of their contribution to the engineering profession, the College of Engineering and society as a whole.
The 2009 Early-Career Achievement Award
Andreas M. Lippert
As a child, Andreas M. Lippert would run from his house to catch a glimpse of jets roaring overhead toward a nearby air force base. He dreamed of becoming a pilot until high school when one of his seven older siblings, a mechanical engineer, inspired him to design and build airplanes rather than simply fly them.
Following in his brother’s footsteps, Lippert studied mechanical engineering in his hometown of Pretoria, South Africa, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees before working in aerospace in a national lab. Eager to develop his technical expertise, he applied to PhD programs and selected UW-Madison, thanks to the influence of his wife, Jacqueline, a civil and environmental engineering alumna.
After obtaining his PhD in mechanical engineering in 1999, Lippert joined General Motors as a senior research engineer, where he applied his knowledge of sprays, combustion and computational fluid dynamics toward GM advanced internal combustion engine development. Lippert’s work resulted in methods for spray and combustion analysis in the GM research and powertrain divisions.
He became a leader in next-generation diesel propulsion systems research and exhaust aftertreatment modeling. In 2007, on special assignment, he launched the Global Energy Systems Center, which analyzes energy supply chains and future scenarios to provide GM with timely business insights into energy opportunities and challenges. The center has a key collaboration with the Tsinghua University in Beijing; called the China Automotive Energy Center, it serves as a key advising institution to the Chinese government as the country develops an automotive energy roadmap.
Lippert is listed as an inventor on nine U.S. patents and has authored more than 20 research papers, conference publications and reports. He has won multiple GM technical and corporate awards and a distinguished speaker award from the Society of Automotive Engineers. In 2008, Lippert was named to the corporate scientific advisory board of Mascoma Corp., which is developing new technologies to convert cellulosic biomass into ethanol.
He now leads the Alternative Energy Technologies Lab at GE Global Research in Munich, Germany, where he focuses on renewable energy, waste heat recovery, novel powerplant cycles and carbon capture. The relocation to Germany, where his parents are from, has been an adventure for Jacqueline and their children, Claudia, Karl and Gabi. When not working or spending time with his family, Lippert enjoys surfing and admiring waves, a passion he refers to as active engagement with his love for fluid dynamics.
Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients
Samit Kumar Bhattacharyya
Samit Bhattacharyya is director of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Savannah River National Laboratory, operated by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC. He is responsible for the laboratory management, operations and planned growth.
Bhattacharyya has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India. He earned master’s and PhD degrees in nuclear engineering from UW-Madison in 1970 and 1973, respectively. He has been active in all aspects of nuclear technology, including 19 years in executive leadership positions at Argonne National Laboratory, culminating in a five-year term as director of the Argonne technology development division. One of his major accomplishments was developing several significant new R&D programs for the laboratory.
During his 29-year career at Argonne, he rose to the position of senior nuclear engineer and achieved international recognition for his work in advanced nuclear power systems for terrestrial and space applications. After leaving Argonne, Bhattacharyya created his own technical and management services company, RENMAR Enterprises Inc., which had a broad portfolio of private-sector and government clients. A highlight was his nuclear leadership of the nuclear electric propulsion probe proposed by the Northrop Grumman-led team for Project Promethous — exploring the icy moon of Jupiter — for NASA.
He has more than 200 publications to his credit and has participated in national and international conferences. He also has won a number of awards, including the University of Chicago Distinguished Service Award and the Argonne National Laboratory Director’s Award. He was a principal in the DOE-EM-sponsored Large Scale D&D Technology Demonstration Project on the CP-5 reactor. The DOE recognized the project as one of its top-100 scientific achievements in the 20th century. He is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society and has served on several DOE, U.S. Department of Defense, and NASA advisory board. He currently serves on several technical, corporate and civic boards. In addition to his engineering degrees, he holds a master’s of business administration from the University of Chicago and is a registered professional engineer.
In Madison, Bhattacharyya met his wife, Maryka, a biochemistry doctoral student and now professor of medicine at the Medical College of Georgia. They married in 1971. Their son Roby holds an MD and PhD from the University of California at San Francisco and currently is a resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In his spare time, Bhattacharyya enjoys playing tennis and traveling.
Dean A. Foate
Dean Foate’s career is marked by his loyalty to a pair of colleagues and the company his father co-founded. After graduating from UW-Madison with his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1982, Foate and his wife, Cindy, moved to Indiana, where Foate began his career designing electronic engine and transmission controls for Delco Electronics. However, it wasn’t long before Foat’s college roommates — and two closest friends — persuaded him to return to Wisconsin and join Plexus Corporation. Son Jake’s birth helped Foate and Cindy decide and the family moved back to Foate’s native Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1984.
Foate began working for Plexus on Groundhog’s Day. His father couldn’t believe his son was giving up a secure job in the middle of a recession to work for the small company he had co-founded and retired from. Yet Foate and his friends were determined to become better engineers and leaders to grow the company — and that’s exactly what they did.
Foate held various leadership positions within Plexus, and when he became president of the design and development organization, he decided to seek formal training. He earned a master’s degree in engineering management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1999, graduating with honors.
His business knowledge helped drive the growth and profitability of Plexus, which is now recognized as an industry-leading electronics manufacturing services provider with revenues of approximately $1.7 billion and the best shareholder returns among industry peers. In 2002, Foate was named president and chief executive officer of the company.
Foate credits his engineering education at UW-Madison for the communication and leadership skills he needed to launch his career. He now helps aspiring engineers as a supporter of FIRST, a program for children to develop technological and leadership skills. He also sponsors a scholarship program and created a Plexus foundation to provide technology support to schools. Foate is committed to promoting science and technology education in part because he believes engineering is an especially valuable profession for society. “Engineers have changed the world in everything from technology to infrastructure to communication, and engineers can make a significant impact on the quality of life around the world,” he says.
In his spare time, he and Cindy gather with friends and family, including Jake and their daughter, Allison, at their cottage in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Foate enjoys bicycling, downhill skiing, hiking, boating and many other outdoor activities. He also is an avid traveler.
P. Dan Gilbert
In 1961, the year P. Dan Gilbert entered college, U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced the country would land an astronaut on the moon by 1970. For Gilbert and many of his peers, the race to the moon provided the impetus to study engineering.
Gilbert grew up in the shadow of Camp Randall Stadium, in a house his parents purchased to afford their children ready access to the university. Both the stadium and the greater campus became Gilbert’s playground, where he learned to ski, box, wrestle, swim, climb buildings, and sneak into Badger football games.
At UW-Madison, Gilbert wanted to be a bridge designer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1966. He worked for the Trane Company as a sales engineer until 1971. For the next seven years, he worked for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor, pursuing the design/construct marketplace and becoming certified in Minnesota as a registered professional engineer. During that time, Gilbert realized he wanted to run his own company. With the support of his wife, Marty, he invested their savings, leveraged their house, and founded Gilbert Mechanical Contractors Inc. in 1978.
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the engineering, construction and service company grossed about $300,000 its first year. Over the last 30 years, the company has grown consistently at 18 percent per year, with 2008 sales approaching $40 million. The company designs and installs controls, electrical, fire protection, plumbing, and HVAC systems in buildings ranging from medical and educational facilities to large-scale retail, industrial and office complexes. Gilbert says his Christian faith has helped shape his ethics and values.
He is a past president of the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association and served for 23 years as a trustee on the local plumbers and pipefitters health and welfare fund. As an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, he developed and taught a required course for construction management students. He also extends both personal involvement and financial support to such organizations as the Salvation Army, Hope Academy (a private, inner-city Christian school), local hospitals, and others, including UW-Madison.
After 40 years of racing sailboats, Gilbert now prefers to fish in the Gulf of Mexico. He is an avid golfer in Minnesota and in Florida, where he and Marty spend winters. Their son John is an artist in California, and their daughter Erika is a journalist. She, her husband and their two children in Colorado.
William J. Lenling
“When I started graduate school at UW-Madison, I had no idea what a thermal spray coating was,” says William J. Lenling, co-founder and president of Thermal Spray Technologies Inc., in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He had planned another research project, but when funding was unexpectedly cut, Lenling found himself scrambling. The late Materials Science and Engineering Professor Frank Worzala came to the rescue, involving Lenling in his research for Fisher Barton to develop coatings to make lawn mower blades last longer. After earning a master’s degree in metallurgical engineering in 1986, the Madison native (who also holds a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering) joined Fisher Barton as a materials engineer, where he continued his coatings research.
Shortly after Lenling joined the company, Fisher Barton received a U.S. Department of Energy technology transfer research grant to work on thermal spray coatings at Sandia National Laboratories. Lenling and his newlywed wife, Lynn, moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work at Sandia generated the basis for multiple patents and best paper awards, and Lenling developed a comprehensive understanding of how to create coating solutions for a variety of industrial applications.
The Lenlings returned to Wisconsin in 1990, where Lenling and Fisher Barton owner Dick Wilkey created Thermal Spray Technologies in 1992 as a spin-off from Lenling’s work at Sandia. Lenling was vice president when the company officially opened its doors, and he became president in 2008.
Thermal Spray Technologies has grown into a thriving company with more than 75 employees and annual sales of more than $16 million. The company has developed and produced coatings used on life-saving electro-surgical instruments, aerospace components, national defense systems, food processing equipment, agricultural machines, bicycles and motorcycles, cellular communication devices, and automotive components, among others. The company has received several awards, including the Wisconsin Small Business Innovation Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Wisconsin Innovation and Research Award, and Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, along with various customer excellence awards. Lenling has chaired several committees for the Thermal Spray Society of the American Society of Materials. He is also a member of the Thermal Spray Society Board.
The Lenlings and their daughters, Mia, Ana and Alli, enjoy outdoor activities, such as swimming, biking, running, skiing, boating, and fishing. They are also big fans of Badger sports.
James P. Peerenboom
“The work we do should be useful, usable and used,” says James P. Peerenboom. It’s a comment he once heard from his thesis advisor at UW-Madison, and he and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois continue to follow the advice.
Peerenboom’s work as director of the infrastructure assurance center and associate director of the decision and information sciences division certainly fulfills those three U’s, and he views his work in homeland security as closely tied to his interests in energy systems and engineering. “Energy is the lifeblood of the nation, and natural events or terrorism-related events can dramatically affect energy and other critical infrastructure, as well as the environment in which they are located,” he says. “I use analysis techniques and modeling and simulation tools to improve understanding and inform decisions about infrastructure protection and resilience.”
The Appleton, Wisconsin, native earned a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1973. He says his UW-Madison education was particularly valuable because of the interdisciplinary opportunities in the College of Engineering. He was able to explore his interest in energy systems from a variety of perspectives, earning a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1974.
After graduating, Peerenboom moved to Tennessee to work as a research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he investigated nuclear fuel-related topics. He returned to UW-Madison to obtain his PhD from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in 1981. His interdisciplinary research incorporated engineering and systems analysis into energy and environmental contexts.
He then joined Argonne National Laboratory, where he uses his systems analysis, decision and risk analysis, and advanced modeling and simulation expertise to tackle complex national problems. For the past 15 years, he has focused on critical infrastructure protection and homeland security issues.
He has supported development of infrastructure assurance roadmaps and conducted vulnerability assessments for a variety of federal departments, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Energy and Defense. He is the author of more than 80 technical publications and is a technical reviewer and advisor for multiple journals and organizations.
Peerenboom is an active outdoorsman when away from work. With his wife, Taffy (Jane), and daughters, Katherine and Laura, both of whom are UW-Madison graduates, Peerenboom is a frequent hiker and biker. He also enjoys woodworking.
Joseph B. Powell
Joseph B. Powell likes a challenge. “I chose chemical engineering because it was considered the most difficult undergraduate curriculum,” he says of his studies at the University of Virginia, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in 1978. At the University of Virginia, Powell assisted with continuous bioreactors, wrote a thesis about reactor control, and interned for a coal gasification project (FMC). These experiences led him to pursue an advanced degree at UW-Madison, where he worked with Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Emeritus Stanley Langer on chromatographic reactors and syngas chemistry. He earned his PhD in chemical engineering in 1984.
In 1988, Powell joined Shell Development Company in Houston after four years of enhanced oil recovery research and development for Exxon. Named in 2006 as Shell chief scientist for chemical engineering in addition to his role as principal advisor for process development, Powell advises the company on technology strategy and leads initiatives in multi-throughput experimentation. He heads a network that scouts for new ideas and serves as team lead for advanced biofuels and enhanced oil recovery projects. “I work for a major energy and oil company because I truly believe the work matters and contributes to the public good”, Powell says.
Powell’ achievements include innovation and commercialization of new processes to produce Bisphenol-A and 1,3-Propanediol, which are used in consumer products. He has received several awards, including the Arthur Dehon Little Award for Chemical Engineering Innovation, the R&D Magazine Top-100 Award and an American Chemical Society Team Innovation Award.
He is inventor on more than 45 U.S. patents and has authored numerous technical publications, including a co-edited book titled Sustainability in the Process Industries: Cases and Impact. He is a life member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and program coordinator for its process development division.
He remains connected to UW-Madison through his leadership of Shell’s collaborative efforts with Virent Energy Systems Inc, a UW-Madison spin-off working to commercialize thermocatalytic routes to biofuels.
Powell and his wife, Caryn, have three sons: Jason, Matt and Stuart. On weekends, the family enjoys gathering at the beaches along the Texas coast. In his spare time, he is a youth athletics coach for local roller hockey, basketball and baseball teams.
Steven A. Schopler
Steve Schopler has come a long way from his days biking around UW-Madison, wearing a backpack bulging with human femurs implanted with hip prostheses. A renowned reconstructive spinal surgeon in southern California, he continually bridges the orthopedic and engineering fields.
Schopler frequently toured Midwest factories and engineering facilities with his father, a chemical engineer and professor. His father’s company manufactured biomedical devices, which inspired Schopler to pursue a career that fused engineering with medicine.
He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, next door to the late UW-Madison Kaiser Chair of Mechanical Engineering Ali Seireg, who became a mentor to Schopler. He followed Seireg to UW-Madison, where he worked on Seireg’s famous “walking-machine” for paraplegics. In 1976, Schopler obtained his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduating with honors. He stayed at UW-Madison for medical school, where he honed his interest in orthopedic surgery and earned his medical degree in 1980.
Schopler completed a residency at the University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Orthopedics, where he combined his biomechanics and orthopedic biology studies and discovered his interest in pediatric orthopedics. After his residency, Schopler was a fellow in pediatric orthopedics at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He returned to Van Nuys, California, and joined the Southern California Orthopedic Institute (SCOI) in 1991, where he is a senior partner. He is also a clinical instructor in orthopedics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine and past chair of the orthopedic surgery department at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, in addition to appointments at multiple California hospitals.
Schopler specializes in spinal surgery, and he has additional expertise in pediatric orthopedics and scoliosis. He relies on his engineering and medical training to develop new techniques and equipment. He is the author of numerous articles and lectures internationally on pediatric orthopedic topics and conditions. His work has helped turn the private-practice SCOI into the equivalent of a university orthopedic department.
Schopler enjoys skiing, visiting the beach and other outdoor activities with wife Robin and daughters Lisa and Ellen. He hails from a family of Badgers — Robin, her parents and his parents are all UW-Madison alumni. Ellen will join them when she graduates in 2010.