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Outstanding Science Alumni Award

Recognizing outstanding alumni

Outstanding Science Alumni Award

This award recognizes and rewards outstanding Penn State science alumni for their success as leaders in science and for the impact they have had on society and their professions. The award was established in 1995 by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society Board. Nominees should exemplify the Penn State Values: Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence, and Community. 

Submit a nomination here.

2024 Recipients of the Outstanding Science Alumni Award

Randal R. Betz

Randal R. Betz

1973 B.S. Premedicine

Randal R. Betz is a pediatric spine surgeon with the Institute for Spine & Scoliosis in Princeton and New Brunswick, NJ. He was previously on the staff at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia, where he served as the Chief of Staff from 2000-2012 and was the Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program from 1983-2014. He is board-certified in both orthopedic surgery and spinal cord injury medicine.

Betz became a member of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) in 1986 and served as Education Committee Chair. He started the International Meeting on Advanced Spinal Techniques in 1994. He proposed the initiation of the SRS Traveling Fellowship in 1990. He served as the senior mentor for the Scoliosis Research Society Traveling Fellows in 2013. He also served as president of the Scoliosis Research Society in 2005.    

He has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Scoliosis Research Society, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Spinal Injury Association, and the A. Estin Comarr Memorial Award for Clinical Service from the American Paraplegia Society.

Betz cofounded several multi-surgeon pediatric spine clinical study groups including the Harms study group and the Childrens Spine Study Group.

He is married to Betsey Betz and has four 4 children and 13 grandchildren. He enjoys fishing, golf, and skiing and sharing time with family.

W. Howard Cyr

W. Howard Cyr

1972 Ph.D. Biophysics, 1966 M.S. Biophysics

As a Ph.D. candidate in Biophysics at Penn State from 1965 to 1970, W. Howard Cyr envisioned a career as a radiation biologist.  By the time he retired in 2007, he had completed laboratory research and scientific reviews in areas he never anticipated, including cancer risk assessments, sterilization of medical devices, and the photobiological effects of ultraviolet radiation from sun lamps. As a Senior Research Biophysicist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Cyr was part of an AIDS-related research team which determined that latex condoms are the most effective barrier to viruses.  He and Dr. David Lytle, who is also a Penn State graduate, were awarded a U.S. patent for the test device, which they used in experiments. Cyr also assisted a friend in writing articles for the gay community of Washington about this research and about new discoveries presented at the International Conferences on AIDS.  Later in his career, he led a group to monitor three laboratory studies sponsored by FDA designed re- evaluate the safety of cell phone emissions. They determined that the small amount of thermal heating generated by cell phones does not cause adverse health effects.

Cyr joined the FDA as a Commissioned Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1974.  In 2012, he received the FDA Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He also served on the Alumni Society Board of Penn State’s Graduate School for six years. He resides in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with his husband.

Maria Demaree Hutchinson

Maria Demaree Hutchinson

1990 B.S. Computer Science

Maria Demaree Hutchinson has been a part of Lockheed Martin for over 30 years. She is currently the Vice President and General Manager of the National Security Space line of business at LM Space. She leads a workforce of over 7,500 team members while managing a $6B+ customer portfolio.

Within Lockheed Martin Space, Hutchinson is a proven thought leader in Software Defined Satellite architectures, Joint All Domain Command and Control, Software Factory and digital transformation and remote workforce initiatives. Moreover, she is an ardent advocate of digital and business transformation, workforce engagement, technology methods evolution and integration (Agile, AI, cyber), and embodies an unwavering commitment to the Customer Mission.

Hutchinson is passionate about developing the next generation workforce across the Space industry and is ardent advocate for diversity and inclusion as well as women in STEM. She has served on the corporation’s Executive Inclusion Council, Chairman of the Zeta Associates Board of Directors, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the National Space Security Association, and the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.  

Hutchinson was spotlighted on the 2023 Executive Mosaic Wash100 list and the 2018 FedScoop’s Top Women in Tech list. She is also a March of Dimes Heroine in Technology Lifetime Achievement award recipient.

Rashid S. Njai

Rashid S. Njai

2000 B.S. Biology

Rashid Njai is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Public Health Service, where he serves as lead for the Minority Health and Health Equity Science Team at the Center for Disease Control’s Office of Health Equity. He holds a Ph.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, where he was both a W.K. Kellogg Health Policy and American Psychological Association Doctoral Fellow. His public health credentials are complemented by a master’s in social work from Boston University's School of Social Work, Clinical Track.

Njai’s accomplishments include co-creating a dynamic ecosystem to enhance non-profit impact assessment through UPHOLD, a venture he founded to support community wellness and amplify the impact of community serving organizations. He champions work focused on the epidemiology of mental and physical health disparities among disproportionately affected populations, as they relate specifically to the social determinants of health, social behavioral resiliency and wellness.

Njai’s accolades include a Commendation Medal from the United States Public Health Service, Commencement Speaker at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, the National Minority Quality Forum's 40 Under 40 Leaders in Health Award, and recognition for his contributions to emergency response efforts during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. Njai has a passion for helping individuals develop achievable personal wellness plans and realize visionary career goals as well as working with organizations to create strategies that redefine their workplace culture.

Mitchell Weiss

Mitchell Weiss

1980 B.S. Biophysics

Mitchell Weiss is a physician-scientist who cares for pediatric patients with blood diseases and performs related laboratory research. In addition to his Penn State degree, he also holds an M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He also completed postgraduate training in pediatrics and pediatric hematology at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University.

He served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for 15 years and rose to the rank of Professor of Pediatrics with Tenure. In 2014, he became Chairman of the Hematology Department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Weiss’ research focuses on understanding the biology of blood development and adapting modern genome engineering tools to treat genetic blood disorders. He is currently leading a team of scientists and physicians in a project to treat sickle cell disease by using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to modify blood forming cells. He has published over 170 original research papers and has been funded continually by the National Institutes of Health since 2002. He has mentored more than 40 trainees, most of who have progressed to higher learning and productive careers in academia or industry. Dr. Weiss’ mission as Hematology Chairman at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to facilitate cutting edge basic, translational and clinical research, foster faculty and trainee development, and promote outstanding clinical care for patients with classical hematology disorders. 

Previous Recipients of the Outstanding Science Alumni Award


Trevor Brown, 2005 Ph.D. Integrative Bioscience
Sarah Gallagher, 2002 Ph.D. Astronomy
Kristen Ries, 1962 B.S. Secondary Education, 1963 M.S. Biological Science


Gideon Bollag, 1984 B.S. Chemistry
Emmanouil Dermitzakis, 2001 Ph.D Biology
Hank Foley, 1982 Ph.D. Chemistry
Katie McPeak, 1997 B.S. Science
Janet Tomezsko, 1987 B.S. Premedicine
Joy Ward, 1991 B.S. Biology
B. Vindell Washington, 1986 B.S. Science


Danielle Bassett, 2004 B.S. Physics
Aaron Gitler, 2000 B.S. Science
Lara Mangravite, 1997 B.S. Physics
Steven Maslowski, 1995 B.S. Biology


Bruce Booth, 1996 B.S. Biochemistry
Judd Moul, 1979 B.S. Premedicine


Fred Allendorf, 1971 B.S. Zoology
Nicholas Hartman, 2003 B.S. Chemistry
Alexandra Heerdt, 1985 B.S. Science
Danielle Pasqualone, 1990 B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology


Jason Bacha, 2002 B.S. Biology
Joseph Berry, 2001 Ph.D. Physics
Wanda Jones, 1975 B.S. Medical Technology
Harold Kohn, 1971 Ph.D. Chemistry
Louise Sabol, 1955 B.S. Premedicine


Ronald Boxall, 1984 B.S. Science
Jayatri Das, 1999 B.S. Biology, B.S. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Christa Hasenkopf, 2003 B.S. Astronomy & Astrophysics


Donna Bortner, 1984 B.S. Microbiology
Alexa Dembek, 1991 Ph.D. Chemistry
Sudhir Kumar, 1996 Ph.D. Genetics
Caryl Russo Singer, 1982 B.S. Biology
Larry Travis, 1971 Ph.D. Astronomy


Eric Freed, 1985 B.S. Molecular and Cell Biology
Ann Hornschemeier, 1999 M.S., 2002 Ph.D. Astronomy and Astrophysics
John Pierce, Jr., 1976 B.S. Biochemistry
Kathryn Roeder, 1988 Ph.D. Statistics


Donald Abraham, 1958 B.S. Chemistry
Robert Baltera, 1987 B.S. Microbiology, 1990 M.S. Genetics
Peter Emanuel, 1994 Ph.D. Molecular and Cell Biology
Kay Mooney, 1989 B.S. Mathematics
Christopher Olivia, 1984 B.S. Science
Jonathan Pritchard, 1994 B.S. Biology, B.S. Mathematics
Jane Rigby, 2000 B.S. Astronomy. B.S. Physics


Eliav Barr, 1984 B.S. Science
Gary Fleisher. 1971 B.S. Science
Howard Gordon, 1963 M.S. Physics, 1965 Ph.D. Physics
Joellen Schildkraut, 1978 B.S. Microbiology
Robert Shaler, 1966 M.S, Biochemistry, 1968 Ph.D. Biochemistry


David Dunson, 1994 B.S. Mathematics
Susan Gardlik, 1983 B.S. Biochemistry
Albert Hartman, 1965 B.S. Science
Allan Silberman, 1968 B.S. Science
Bruce Wellman, 1991 B.S. Science


Judith Davenport, 1961 B.S. Medical Technology
Richard Gottscho, 1974 B.S. Chemistry
Steven McCrystal, 1992 B.S. Mathematics
Monica Morrow, 1974 B.S. Science
Fletcher Wicker, 1968 B.S. Mathematics, 1969 M.A. Mathematics, 1975 Ph.D. Mathematics


Mark Becker, 1985 Ph.D. Statistics
Jack Dickstein, 1946 B.S. Agriculture & Biological Chemistry
Laura Hutton, 1971 B.S. Astronomy
Alvaro Umaña, 1973 B.S. Physics, 1974 M.S. Environmental Pollution Control
CP Wong, 1972 M.S. Chemistry, 1975 Ph.D. Chemistry
Carol Zaher, 1971 B.S. Zoology


George Cimochowski, 1963 B.S. Premedicine
David Heymann, 1966 B.S. Science
Vance Moss, 1994 B.S. Science
Vince Moss, 1994 B.S. Science
*Robert Schiessler, 1939 B.S. Chemistry, 1945 Ph.D. Chemistry
John Senior, 1950 B.S. Physics


Mildred Christian, 1965 M.S. Zoology
Stephen DiBiase, 1978 Ph.D. Chemistry
Susan Grove, 1966 B.S. Mathematics
John Patton, 1967 B.S. Zoology
Angelo Scopelianos, 1982 Ph.D. Chemistry
Chi Kong Shu, 1978 M.S. Computer Science


Ken Adelberg, 1974 B.S. Biophysics, 1974 B.S. Psychology
Neal Flomenberg, 1974 B.S. Science
Susan Hardin, 1982 B.S. Biology
F. Matthew Rhodes, 1979 B.S. Physics


Charles M. Buchas, 1971 B.S. Mathematics
Stephen Mayo, 1983 B.S. Chemistry
Mary Osborn, 1963 M.S. Biophysics, 1967 Ph.D. Biophysics


Barbara J. Dalton, 1974 B.S. Biology
Charles E. Grier, 1984 M.S. Microbiology, 1987 Ph.D. Microbiology
Chad A. Mirkin, 1989 Ph.D. Chemistry


Bruce L. Gewertz, 1970 B.S. Science
Gail Folena-Wasserman, 1979 M.S. Biochemistry; 1982 Ph.D. Chemistry
Bruce K. Lloyd, 1968 B.S. Premedicine
Stephen Miller, 1969 B.S. Microbiology, 1973 M.S. Microbiology, 1975 Ph.D. Microbiology


Paul M. Doty,1941 B.S. Chemistry
Richard A. Grazzini, 1975 B.S. Biology, 1993 Ph.D. Genetics
Janet Vergis, 1986 B.S. Biology, 1988 M.S. Physiology


Terence J. Dwyer, 1970 M.A. Mathematics
Louise A. Goeser, 1974 B.S. Mathematics
Daniel A. Nolan, 1974 Ph.D. Physics
Robert F. Wilson, Jr. 1973 B.S. Premedicine


Catherine Beath, 1970 B.S. Microbiology
Marcus Hansen, 1968 B.S. Science
Woodrow E. Hoch, 1942 B.S. Commercial Chemistry
Morris Taradalsky, 1970 B.S. Mathematics


Jean M. Bennett, 1953 M.S. Physics, 1955 Ph.D. Physics
John L. Mason, 1970 Ph.D. Chemistry
Gary E. McGraw, 1965 Ph.D. Chemistry
Robert J. Petcavich, 1976 B.S. Chemistry, 1977 M.S. Solid State Science, 1980 Ph.D. Polymer Science


Joseph H. Eberly, 1957 B.S. Physics
Louis A. Martarano, 1976 B.S. Chemistry
James H. Plonka, 1970 Ph.D. Chemistry
Barbara Scheffler, 1972 B.A. Mathematics, 1973 M.A. Statistics



Steven Cohen, 1967 B.S. Premedicine
Melvyn Kohudic, 1953 B.S. Commercial Chemistry
Edward Nelson, 1965 B.S. Biochemistry
Wolfgang Sachse, 1963 B.S. Physics



Robert W. Emery, 1969 B.S. Premedicine
J. Arthur Jones, 1961 M.A. Mathematics, 1965 M.Ed. Mathematics
Max G. Lagally, 1963 B.S. Physics


*recognized posthumously