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The portico of Old Main at the University Park campus during the fall.

Two Eberly alumni recognized with 2024 Graduate School Alumni Society Awards

1 April 2024

The Graduate School at Penn State recognized four alumni, including two from the Eberly College of Science, with Graduate School Alumni Society Awards at the Graduate School Alumni Recognition Dinner on March 23 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.  

2024 Graduate School Early Career Award 

Melanie McReynolds.

Melanie R. McReynolds, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray fellow and assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, was honored with the 2024 Graduate School Early Career Award. The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated exceptional success in their chosen field within 10 years of earning their graduate degree.  

McReynolds earned a doctorate in biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology from Penn State. She holds the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Early Career Chair in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Penn State Eberly College of Science.  

McReynolds specializes in understanding the connection between metabolic stress and aging. She has more than a decade of research, mentoring and teaching experience that she shares with Penn State graduate students and fellow faculty members. She is on the trajectory to establish her independent research group, where her lab will shed light on metabolic aging and disease. McReynolds has been recognized with the inaugural Intersections Science Fellow Award, the University of Utah Rising Star Award in Metabolism, and the Penn State Student Way Paver Award from the Council of Multicultural Leaders.

2024 Lifetime Achievement Award 

Vivian Briones Valenty

Vivian Briones Valenty, founder and president of VB Cosmetics, was honored with the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes Graduate School alumni who have achieved exceptional success in their profession and have demonstrated loyalty to the University and the Penn State Alumni Association.  

After graduating from Mapua Institute of Technology (now Mapua University) in the Philippines, Valenty worked at the International Rice Research Institute investigating the chemical properties of rice. A Ford Foundation grant allowed her to pursue graduate studies in chemistry at Penn State, where she earned a doctorate in organic chemistry, specializing in biochemical processes.  

Valenty found her passion working in industry creating specialty chemical products that solved problems in fields such as agriculture, textiles, microelectronics, graphic arts, and finally, cosmetics. Vivian spent an entire year developing a nail topcoat for the professional nail industry. After 300 trial formulations, she produced a sample that dried traditional nail polishes within just six minutes using UV light. This was the world’s first UV topcoat.  

She left the corporate world to manufacture the topcoat and innovate new products under private labels for emerging brands, and she incorporated her company, VB Cosmetics, in 1992.

In 1997, after the Food and Drug Administration released a statement highlighting the dangers of UV-A light used in tanning beds, Valenty spent the next 10 years developing Dazzle Dry, a four-step nail polish system that dries in five minutes without UV light exposure and reactive chemicals, yet wears for more than seven days, and removes like a traditional polish. Dazzle Dry now generates more than $20 million in annual sales and is growing rapidly. Valenty holds several patents involving detergents, electronics, ceramics and cosmetics.

The people, growth, products and social responsibility initiatives of VB Cosmetics have been recognized by the state of Arizona and other government and professional association groups. Valenty’s company donates to nonprofit organizations that support women’s education and in partnership with We Forest, plants one tree for every order placed on its website. To date, VB Cosmetics has planted more than 500,000 trees in India and Africa.

More information about the Graduate School Alumni Society Awards program can be found on the Graduate School website.