Five alumni honored with Penn State's Outstanding Science Alumni Award

Gail McCormick
October 02, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Eberly College of Science has selected five alumni to be honored with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award for the year 2017. The winners will receive their awards Oct. 6 during an event held on the University Park campus.

The board of directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society established the 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. This year's recipients are:

Jason Bacha

Bacha works for the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) and Texas Children’s Hospital Global Health Corp programs in Mbeya, Tanzania. He currently serves as the medical director and co-clinical director for the site, where he supervises clinical research projects; oversees the program’s core pediatric HIV/AIDS activities; and has helped create additional clinical programs focusing on childhood tuberculosis, malnutrition and oncology care in Mbeya. In Tanzania, Bacha has cared for more than 3,000 children and adolescents, implemented psychosocial support groups for at-risk adolescents and families, worked with community empowerment and HIV prevention campaigns, and taught and mentored hundreds of local health care workers. He sits on Tanzania’s national childhood tuberculosis technical working group and has helped develop numerous national guidelines for pediatric care. Previously, Bacha has worked with children in Haiti, Kenya, and Malawi.

Bacha’s dedication to community service and research excellence have been recognized on numerous occasions throughout his career, including with the Evan Pugh Scholar Award from Penn State in 2002; the Certificate of Research Excellence from the University of Michigan in 2007; and the Outstanding Pediatric Resident Award from the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in 2011.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in biology at Penn State in 2002, Bacha received a master’s degree in clinical research from the University of Michigan in 2007 and a doctoral degree in medicine from the University of Michigan in 2008. He completed his residency in pediatrics at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, California, in 2011.

Joseph Berry

Berry is a senior research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, and has contributed to the Department of Energy’s Condensed Matter Physics Program since 2015. He also is a lecturer in the Department of Physics and an affiliate of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Berry’s research on semiconductors and photovoltaics has resulted in advances in solar power technology and optoelectronics devices — electronic devices that use or are affected by light.

Berry’s graduate research was foundational to semiconductor spintronics — a field of electronics in which the spin of electrons is manipulated — and was cited by the Nobel Prize Committee in the scientific background for the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics. He later developed high-precision spectroscopic imaging techniques to understand quantum effects in nanostructured semiconductors. Berry is currently studying the basic physics and functional device properties of halide perovskite solar cell materials and oxide semiconductor systems.

Berry’s commitment to training undergraduate researchers has been recognized with mentoring awards from NREL in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and from the Department of Energy in 2009. Berry also has been recognized for his research contributions as a co-recipient of the NREL Staff Award in 2016 and the Department of Energy Illuminating Ideas award for work in solid-state lighting research and development in 2007.

Berry completed a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics at Goshen College in 1994 and a doctoral degree in physics at Penn State in 2001. He was a postdoctoral researcher and then a research associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, from 2001 to 2007.

Wanda Jones

Jones has long been recognized for her leadership in the federal and state public health communities. Throughout her career with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Jones has focused on improving policy and research practices related to HIV/AIDS, women’s health and public health.

Jones currently serves as the senior adviser to the HHS assistant secretary for health. In this role, she oversees activities related to research integrity, bioethics, and the rights and welfare of human research participants. She recently helped update the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan which is in place to prevent, control and mitigate the effects of the flu virus. From 2009 to 2016, Jones served as the HHS principal deputy assistant secretary for health. Before that, she was the director of the HHS Office on Women’s Health.

Prior to joining the HHS, Jones worked at the CDC in various capacities, including as the associate director for women’s health and as the assistant director for science in the Office of the Associate Director for HIV/AIDS. There, she focused on policies related to health care workers, neonatal screening, women and HIV/AIDS, vaccine development, and HIV reporting. In 1994, she established the CDC’s Office of Women’s Health.

Her continued record of achievement was recognized by the United States government in 2011 with the Presidential Rank Award as a Meritorious Executive of the Senior Executive Service.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in medical technology at Penn State in 1975, Jones received a doctor of public health degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1988.

Harold Kohn

Kohn is a Kenan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and professor emeritus in the division of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry and the department of chemistry. In addition to a thriving research program, Kohn developed an epilepsy drug to control partial-onset seizures, which is marketed in 72 countries including the United States. Kohn founded the company NeuroGate Therapeutics Inc. in 2011 to continue development of new neurological therapeutics.

Kohn’s research focuses on drug discovery and understanding the function of clinical agents used in the treatment of cancer, bacterial infections and neurological disorders. His work has led to 180 scientific articles, 10 U.S. patents and more than 25 international patents. Through his academic career, he trained more than 60 doctoral and postdoctoral students. Kohn’s research and mentoring have been recognized on numerous occasions, including with the University of Houston President’s Medallion in 2013; the University of North Carolina Faculty Mentoring Award in 2011; the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Paul R. Dawson Biotechnology Award in 2010; the University of Houston Research Excellence Award in 1993; the Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award from 1977 to 1982; and a Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship from 1977 to 1981. Kohn is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the Royal Society of Chemistry (London).

Kohn recently established the Harold Kohn Endowed Alumni Lectureship Fund at Penn State to bring distinguished Penn State alumni to the University Park campus to develop broad interest in the chemical sciences through their lectures.

Kohn completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Michigan in 1966 and a doctoral degree in chemistry at Penn State in 1971. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University from 1971 to 1973 and was a faculty member at the University of Houston from 1973 to 1999. He retired from the University of North Carolina in 2015.

Louise Sabol

Sabol broke barriers throughout her career, pursuing her passion for medicine and mentorship in the face of adversity. Despite her high school principal telling her that college was not necessary for her to find a good husband — and that women did not pursue a career in medicine — Sabol matriculated at Penn State in 1951. She was one of only two women in the premedicine program and one of 1,000 women out of 13,000 students on campus. Sabol later became the first female surgeon on the staff of Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. Sabol helped develop Geisinger’s program in pediatric ophthalmology, ultimately becoming the division chief. She mentored many generations of resident physicians before retiring after 32 years in practice. To honor her dedication to mentorship, Geisinger created the Louise Justin Sabol Teaching Award to recognize faculty who share her passion for teaching resident physicians. Upon Sabol’s retirement, her portrait was placed in the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital Hall of Fame. Sabol passed away at the age of 83 in March 2017.

Before she died, Sabol’s family created the Dr. Louise Justin Sabol Undergraduate Scholarship in Pre-Medicine to help Penn State students to complete their studies and become outstanding physicians and role models.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in premedicine at Penn State in 1955, Sabol earned an M.D. at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania — now the Drexel University College of Medicine — in 1959. She completed her residency in ophthalmology at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

  • Jason Bacha headshot

    Jason Bacha, 2002, bachelor of science, biology

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Joseph Berry headshot

    Joseph Berry, 2001, doctorate, physics

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Wanda Jones in front of the American flag.

    Wanda Jones, 1975, bachelor of science, medical technology

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Harold Kohn headshot

    Harold Kohn, 1971, doctorate, chemistry

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Louise Sabol headshot

    Louise Sabol, 1955, bachelor of science, premedicine

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated October 02, 2017