Penn State honors six with Outstanding Science Alumni Award

December 10, 2009

Six alumni of Penn State's Eberly College of Science were honored recently with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award for the year 2009. Receiving this award were Mark Becker, Jack Dickstein, Laura "Kate" Hutton, Alvaro Umaña, Ching P. "CP" Wong and Carol Zaher. This award, established in 1997 by the Board of Directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society, recognizes alumni who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field and who are outstanding role models for the current students in the college.

Mark Becker is the seventh president of Georgia State University, where he currently is overseeing both a student body of over 30,000 and a billion-dollar campus expansion plan. He came to Georgia from the University of South Carolina, where he served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of the university. Prior to that appointment, he was at the University of Minnesota as a biostatistics professor, dean of the School of Public Health, and assistant vice president of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response. From 1989 to 2000, he was a professor of biostatistics and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He also held academic posts at the University of Washington, the University of Florida and Cornell University.

Becker is recognized internationally as a researcher in biostatistics and public-health sciences, and his research has been published extensively in leading journals.  He has been the principal investigator on research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and he was the co-investigator on numerous research grants from the Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and other granting agencies. He also has served on the editorial boards of scientific journals, was co-editor of Sociological Methodology and has been a guest editor for Sociological Methods and Research and for the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

Becker earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics (Magna Cum Laude) at Towson State University in 1980 and his doctoral in statistics at Penn State in 1985.

Jack Dickstein is the co-founder, president emeritus and director of Kibow Biotech Inc., a company that actively researches methods of developing cost-effective, non-invasive treatment for patients with kidney disease. He also is the founder and recently retired president of a research company named Monomer-Polymer and Dajac Laboratories, known for the development of numerous specialty monomers, polymers, and diagnostic agents. These products have applications in areas such as adhesives, coatings, contact lenses, dental resins, pharmaceuticals, intraocular lenses and biochemical intermediates.

A leading expert on the relationship of chemical structure to the applications of functional and specialty monomers, Dickstein's expertise and experience are highly valued in many polymer fields. He got his start as a research associate at E. R. Squibb & Sons, where he worked from 1951 to 1956 on the original development of tetracycline and other antibiotics and also on insulin. From 1958 to 1974, he served in various divisions of the Borden Chemical Company, including as Development Manager of the Thermoplastics Division and Director of Research and Development (R&D) at the company's central research laboratories. He served as Group Manager and Director of R&D at Haven Chemical Company from 1974 to 1977, and he held the position of Vice President and Director of R&D at Seal Inc. from 1977 to 1979, where he worked on the development of photographic adhesives.

Dickstein received his bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Penn State in 1946. He earned his master's degree in organic chemistry at Temple University in 1951 and his doctoral degree in polymer chemistry at Rutgers University in 1958. He has published over 25 papers and holds 30 patents in polymer chemistry, organic synthesis, adhesives, coatings and emulsion polymerization. He has served as an expert witness in various cases involving polymer chemistry and organic synthesis and he is a member of numerous scientific and technical organizations, including the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industries, the Franklin Institute, the New York Academy of Sciences and Sigma Xi. He also is a member of American Men of Science and Who's Who in America.

Laura "Kate" Hutton (Katherine Laura Hutton), has worked for the California Institute of Technology earthquake center as a seismologist throughout her career, since 1977. She is one of the "Earthquake Ladies" -- a spokesperson for the Seismological Laboratory of California Institute of Technology. She also has been supervising data processing for the Southern California Seismic Network. In this position, she leads the large task of computerizing and improving the consistency of the Southern California Earthquake Catalog, so that statisticians can use the catalogue more effectively to estimate probabilities of future earthquakes. The earthquake catalog, which includes over 460,000 earthquakes and various advances in recording and analysis technology, covers the period from 1932 to the present.

Hutton received her bachelor's degree in astronomy at Penn State in 1971 and her master's and doctoral degrees in astronomy at the University of Maryland in 1973 and 1976, respectively.

The transition from a career in astronomy to earth science was a result of her doctoral work and a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The same data that she and her teammates used to map the fine structure of quasars in radio frequencies also was being used by a group of geophysicists to make one of the first direct measurements of the Earth's tectonic-plate movements.

In 1990, Hutton was a consulting seismologist for the monster movie, "Tremors," and was able to help the movie's producers to present seismology in a not-too-unscientific manner.

Hutton continues to have an interest in astronomy and performs various volunteer functions for the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). She was elected to the AAVSO Council in 2008.

Alvaro Umaña Quesada
is senior research fellow at the Tropical Agronomic Center for Research and Higher Education (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and he is recognized as a leader in policy formulation and in environmental economics. He also is adviser to Oscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica, on conservation, energy and climate change, and recently has assumed the title of Costa Rica's ambassador for climate change and chief negotiator.

Umaña was Costa Rica's first Minister of Energy and Environment, under Arias' first administration, from 1986 to 1990. In this role, he expanded and regionalized the system of protected areas, created new financial mechanisms, developed a unique system of incentives known today as "payment for ecosystem services," and promoted the creation of the National Biodiversity Institute. He also designed and developed a master's program in sustainable development and led it for a decade at INCAE, Central America's School of Business and Management. In 10 years, over 120 students from 20 countries have graduated and the program continues to thrive.

Umaña is the author of numerous publications and books, including "The World Bank Inspection Panel: The First Four Years and Financing for Sustainable Development." International awards that he has received include the President's Public Service Award from the Nature Conservancy in 1988, a Special Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation in 1989, and an honorary doctorate in Law from Williams College for his work on payment for ecosystem services.

Umaña has been a board member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organzation (UNESCO), the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Resources Institute and the Stockholm Environment Institute. He also has been a member of the Goldman Environmental Prize Jury since 1990.

Umaña received his bachelor's degree with honors in physics in 1973 and a master's degree in environmental pollution control in 1974 from Penn State. In 1979 he graduated from Stanford University, where he obtained a doctoral degree in environmental engineering and a master's degree in economics.

Ching Ping "CP" Wong is a regents' professor and the Charles Smithgall Institute Endowed Chair at the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Prior to joining the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1996, he was with AT&T Bell Laboratories for many years and became an AT&T Bell Laboratories Fellow in 1992. Wong is an industry legend who fundamentally changed semiconductor packaging technology while at Bell Labs by pioneering new materials and processes ranging from polymers to nanotechnologies. He also dramatically reduced the cost of manufacturing very large volumes of high-performance electronic components widely used in today's telecommunications, computer networks, cell phones, personal digital assistants and other electronic devices and systems.

Wong received his master's and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Penn State in 1972 and 1975, respectively. He received his bachelor's degree from Purdue University in 1969. After completing his doctoral studies with Professor Bill Horrocks, he was awarded a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with Nobel Laureate Professor Henry Taube at Stanford University.

Wong is the recipient of many awards, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology (CPMT) Society Outstanding Sustained Technical Contributions Award in 1995; the IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000; the IEEE Educational Activities Board Educational Award in 2001; the IEEE CPMT Society Exceptional Technical Contributions Award in 2002; the Georgia Tech Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award in 2004; the Georgia Tech Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis Advisor Award in 2005; the IEEE CPMT Field Award in 2006; Sigma Xi's Monie Ferst Award in 2007; the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' Total Excellence in Electronic Manufacturing Award in 2008; and the IEEE CPMT David Feldman Award in 2009. Wong also holds over 50 U.S. patents, has published over 1,000 technical papers, has co-authored and edited 10 books, and has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 2000.

Dr. Carol Zaher is a Medical Director for the Appeals and Grievance Department at Health Net Inc., a large health plan in California. She also chairs the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee for the plan.

Prior to joining Health Net, she held multiple positions in both medicine and healthcare management. For over a decade she was a practicing cardiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Southern California, and she was the director of the regional electrophysiology service and electrophysiology fellowship training program.

After leaving the practice of medicine, she joined Bristol Myers Squibb in its Advanced Health Care Services Disease Management Division. Later, she accepted a position as vice president of health care services at Health Benchmarks, a corporation that provides health care consulting and data management. She then went on to join Protocare Sciences, a consulting firm specializing in marketing and strategic development for U.S. and international medical companies. Subsequently, she was an independent health care consultant working with a large medical group in Los Angeles to develop population-based interventions for underserved patient populations with diabetes.

Zaher received her bachelor's degree in Zoology in 1971 at Penn State and her medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1977. She completed an Internal Medicine Residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1980 and a Cardiology and Electrophysiology Fellowship at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 1983. She also received a master's degree in business administration from Pepperdine University in 1997, and a master's degree in public health from UCLA in 2001.

In addition to her work at Health Net, Inc., Zaher also consulted on creating national medical education programs for physicians and has co-authored over 35 articles or abstracts for medical journals and several chapters for medical books. She has taught at the University of Phoenix in the College of Nursing and College of Arts and Sciences since 1996. In her spare time, Zaher is an avid fly fisherman, and the author of a published book, "The Better Half of Fly Fishing."

Most recently, she has been elected to serve on the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society Board of Directors.

Last Updated January 09, 2015