Seven Alumni honored with Penn State's Outstanding Science Alumni Award

October 03, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In its tradition of honoring high-achieving science alumni, the Penn State University Eberly College of Science will honor seven alumni with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award for the year 2013. Receiving this award are:

Donald Abraham, '58, chemistry
Peter Emanuel, '94, Ph.D., molecular and cell biology
Kay Mooney, '89, B.S., mathematics
Christopher Olivia, '84, B.S., science
Jonathan Pritchard, '94, B.S., biology; '94, B.S., Mathematics
Jane Rigby, '00, B.S., astronomy; '00, B.S., physics
Robert Baltera, '87, B.S., Microbiology; '90, M.S. Genetics

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.

Donald Abraham
Donald Abraham is the Alfred and Francis Burger Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, and Emeritus Director of the Institute for Structural Biology and Drug Discovery at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Abraham has conducted research in a variety of therapeutic areas, but he is perhaps best known for his studies of the structure of hemoglobin and the use of that structure in computer-based drug design. During his career, he founded or co-founded three successful companies: Allos Therapeutics, which produced an FDA-approved anticancer drug, eduSoft; a software company that markets the structure-based design program HINT; and kSERO that specializes in teaching children science through game playing. He also founded and was the first director of the Institute of Structural Biology and Drug Discovery at the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Abraham has published over 175 peer-reviewed articles; he edited the sixth edition of Burger's Medicinal Chemistry; and he co-edited the seventh edition. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Humboldt Prize in 1973, the Virginia Outstanding Scientists of the Year in 2001, the Amgen Paul Dawson award in Biotechnology in 2002, an honorary doctorate from the University of Parma in 2005 and many others. He is also an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition, Abraham was inducted into the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame in 2010 at the Boston ACS Meeting.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Penn State in 1958, Abraham received a master's degree in chemistry from Marshall University in 1959 and a doctoral degree from Purdue University in 1963. He completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Virginia. He joined the faculty in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh in 1964 and became a full professor in 1972. He was chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, a position he held until 2007.

Peter Emanuel
Emanuel is the BioScience Division chief at the United States Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. As the lead for all biological research, he oversees 100 life scientists and more than 60,000 square feet of laboratories at the premier nonmedical research institute for defense science and technology.

Prior to assuming his role with the United States Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Emanual served for three years in the administrations of Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama as the assistant director for chemical and biological countermeasures within the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. He managed the chemical and biological defense and medical countermeasures portfolio and coordinated research-and-development efforts across the federal government. In addition, Emanuel has served as a scientific advisor at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, where he developed more than 100 highly specific and sensitive tests for pathogen detection, developed recombinant antibodies using a process called combinatorial phage display, was part of a team that developed and patented a novel biological sampling device, and oversaw bacterial-fermentation production and tissue-culture production of antibodies.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in microbiology from the University of Maryland in 1988, Emanuel received a doctoral degree in molecular and cell biology from Penn State in 1994.

Kay Mooney
Kay Mooney has over 20 years of corporate health care experience. She has held a variety of senior leadership roles focused on pricing, underwriting, product management, mergers-and-acquisitions integration and medical-cost analytics at Aetna Health Insurance. She previously served as chief of staff for the Office of the Chairman and CEO, where she provided advice and support to Aetna's Chairman and CEO on critical business, financial, strategic and enterprise issues. Mooney currently leads Aetna's national Health Care Reform Exchange Program Management Office, where she is responsible for driving the development and implementation of Aetna's strategy for public exchanges, one of the most critical pieces of the Affordable Care Act.

These roles have made her a sought-after speaker on health care issues in numerous internal and external forums. She helps to influence policy and she acts as an advocate for consumers, members, employers and other constituents impacted by the Affordable Care Act. Her efforts have helped to position Aetna as a leading voice in the industry.

Mooney's advocacy efforts extend into the community as well. She served as co-chairwoman of the American Heart Association's Circle of Red and Tell 5 for its 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns, spreading the word on the risks of heart disease in women and raising money for this life-saving movement. She also served as co-chair for the 2010-11 Go Red for Women campaign for North Central Connecticut. In addition, she also developed and launched a program where actuaries partner with local schools to help children to understand and appreciate the power and fun of math.

Mooney graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Penn State in 1989. She is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries. She is a member of the Penn State Actuarial Advisory Board, counseling on changes to the program to improve effectiveness that will benefit and support those graduating from the program.

Christopher Olivia
Christopher Olivia is the president of the Continuum Health Alliance. In this role, he leads Continuum into the future as the organization develops its ambulatory service model, refocusing efforts on the broader care continuum outside the traditional hospital walls. Olivia has extensive experience working with venture-backed health care information-technology startups, having served on the board of nine such entities. He presently is a board member of Foundation Radiology, a teleradiology company, and Eviti, a cancer-care-management company.

Olivia has nearly 20 years of experience and diversified accomplishments in the fields of health insurance, health care services and health-information technology. Olivia most recently served as managing director of Philadelphia-based Navigant, where he was responsible for the company's health-information technology and in charge of HealthAware, Navigant's technology subsidiary business. Previously he was senior vice president for strategic planning and new-venture development at Highmark/West Penn Allegheny in Pittsburgh where he helped complete the West Penn Allegheny Health System merger with Highmark, the largest payer-provider merger in the United States to date. Olivia initiated the merger with Highmark as president and CEO of West Penn Allegheny Health System. He also led the turnaround and growth of the Cooper Health System in Camden, N.J., while serving as its president and CEO.

Olivia was recognized as one of the nation's 50 most powerful physician executives in 2010 by Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician magazines. In addition, he received Drexel University College of Medicine's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005, and was recognized in 2003 and 2004 as a "Top Doc" in New Jersey by South Jersey magazine.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Penn State in 1984, Olivia earned a master of business administration degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned an medical doctorate degree at Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia and completed his residency in ophthalmology at the University at Buffalo.

Jonathan Pritchard
Jonathan Pritchard is a professor of biology and genetics at Stanford University and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In addition to receiving a Penn State Outstanding Alumni Award from the Eberly College of Science, Pritchard was selected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. In the same year, he also received an Edward Novitski Prize from the Genetics Society of America. This award recognizes "creativity and intellectual ingenuity in the solution of significant problems in genetics."

In his research, Pritchard tackles the central problem facing modern human genetics, which is how to make sense of the vast quantity of human genetic variation that exists. Specific questions related to this problem include: Which of the 10-million common single nucleotide polymorphisms, and thousands of deletions and duplications in the human genome contribute to complex diseases or other traits? How important are rare variants in driving variations in traits? How can researchers identify the functional variants that underlie observed disease associations? What impact do purifying selection and adaptation have on genetic differences within and between populations, or between different species?

After graduating with bachelor's degrees in biology and mathematics from Penn State in 1994, Pritchard earned a doctoral degree from Stanford University in 1998. He completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Oxford in 2001. In that same year he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago and was promoted to professor in 2006 before assuming his current role at Stanford University in 2013.

Jane Rigby
Jane Rigby is an astrophysicist at the Observational Cosmology Laboratory of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where she serves as a project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Her research interests include galaxy evolution, and rapid-star-forming galaxies, star formation, metal enrichment and black-hole growth histories of the universe. She also studies gravitational lenses as natural telescopes, active galactic nuclei, obscured accretion, X-ray and infrared backgrounds, and diagnostic spectroscopy. The primary tools Rigby uses to accomplish this research are the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, as well as the Keck and Magellan ground-based telescopes.

In addition to receiving a Penn State Outstanding Alumni Award from the Eberly College of Science, Rigby received a Spitzer Space Telescope Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2006 and a Carnegie Fellowship in 2009, and, in 2013, she received a Robert H. Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement for Science.

After graduating with bachelor's degrees in astronomy with honors and highest distinction, and in physics with highest distinction from Penn State in 2000, Rigby earned master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Arizona in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

Robert Baltera Jr.
Robert Baltera Jr., who graduated from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in microbiology and a master's degree in genetics in 1987 and 1990, respectively, will be honored in November 2013 as the seventh recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Science Alumni Awards. Information regarding Baltera's achievements and background will be published in a future issue of Science Journal.

  • Images of six of the award winners

    Oustanding Science Alumni Award winners for 2013, clockwise from top left, are Donald Abraham, Peter Emanuel, Kay Mooney, Christopher Olivia, Jonathan Pritchard and Jane Rigby.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015