Keynote Speakers

lakeciagunter_photoLakecia Gunter is the Chief of Staff & TA to the CEO of Intel. Lakecia is an active member of the Intel Black Leadership Council, Intel’s Network of Intel African Americans, and Women at Intel. She is also involved in Urban League of Portland, focused on empowering African Americans to achieve equality in education, employment, and economic security, and Gateway to College National Network, focused on improving educational outcomes for high school dropouts and underprepared college students. Lakecia was recently named to Business Insider’s list of the 26 Most Powerful Female Engineers in 2016, listed at #11. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Society of Women Engineers Prism Award for demonstrating outstanding career technology leadership as well leadership in STEM. In addition, she was named to Diversity MBA Magazine’s 2014 List of Top 100 under 50 Diverse Executive Leaders for her technology leadership and achievements at Intel and the community. Lakecia earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from University of South Florida. Lakecia also earned her Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification.

jill-hruby-portrait_greyscaleJill Hruby has been the director of Sandia National Laboratories and president of Sandia Corporation since July 2015. She is the first woman to head a national security laboratory. Over a career spanning more than 33 years at Sandia, Ms. Hruby has been a strong leader in diverse engineering fields and in technical management. In 2010, she moved to the New Mexico site of Sandia, having been promoted to vice president. In this capacity, she oversaw Sandia’s efforts in nuclear, biological and chemical security; homeland security; counterterrorism; and energy security. Ms. Hruby earned her B.S. from Purdue University and her M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley, both in mechanical engineering. She has authored numerous publications, holds three patents in microfabrication and won an R&D 100 Award in solid-state radiation detection. She serves on the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee for the Department of Defense, and the Board of Chemical Science and Technology for the National Academy of Sciences. She has served on several university advisory boards, on community boards in Livermore and Albuquerque and as the campus executive at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Session Speakers

picture1Rashid Bashir is the Department Head of Bioengineering at UIUC and holds adjunct appointments in Mechanical Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Molecular and Integrative Physiology. He was the Director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory (a campus wide clean room facility), and Co-Director of the campus-wide Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, a collaboratory aimed to facilitate center grants and large initiatives in the area of nanotechnology. He has authored or co-authored over 200 journal papers, over 200 conference papers and conference abstracts, over 120 invited talks, and has been granted 38 patents. He is a fellow of IEEE, AIMBE, AAAS, AIMBE, APS and BMES. His research interests include BioMEMS, Lab on a chip, nano-biotechnology, interfacing biology and engineering from molecular to tissue scale, and applications of semiconductor fabrication to biomedical engineering, all applied to solve biomedical problems.


Chandra Chekuri is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is also currently serving as the Director of the Graduate Program. He received his PhD from the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University in 1998, then worked as a Member of Technical Staff at Lucent Bell Labs from 1998 until 2006 before moving to Illinois. His primary research interests are in theoretical computer science and combinatorial optimization.

taradeans_photoTara Deans is an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Utah. She currently runs an applied synthetic biology laboratory where she is building genetic tools to studying the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation, and how to direct their cell fate. A main focus of Professor Deans’ laboratory is to produce blood cells, specifically platelets and red blood cells, outside of the body. This approach is significant because it has the potential to produce large volumes of purified platelets and red blood cells that will eliminate the inherent risks associated with human donation. Recently, Professor Deans received two prestigious awards to support this area of research: the NSF CAREER Award and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award.  Professor Deans also spends much of her time developing innovative STEM outreach programs that integrate art and engineering to produce video animations that educate people of all ages in the techniques and applications of genetic engineering.

angela-dremannAngela Dremann is an intellectual property attorney at Knobbe Martens Olsen & Bear.  Her practice focuses on patent prosecution and client counseling in the areas of medical and mechanical technologies.  She works with individuals and companies of all sizes to protect cutting-edge technology and develop strategies to achieve business goals.  In addition to working directly with innovators, Angela has litigated patents in U.S. Federal District Court.  Angela’s industry experience includes time at an aerospace defense contractor where she interfaced with engineers to reorganize and streamline the company’s patent process.  Angela earned both her B.S. in Bioengineering and J.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is admitted to practice before the California & Illinois Supreme Courts, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

aprille-at-work-300x300Aprille Ericsson is an aerospace engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). For more than 10 years, she was an Instrument Project Manager in the Guidance, Navigation and Control, Design Analysis section, with responsibilities for projects ranging in cost from $10 million to $500 million. She helped manage science instruments set to take flight, such as the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), which will observe ice sheet elevation change, and the Near-Infrared Spectrograph on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will operate 1 million miles away from Earth. Dr. Ericsson is currently the program manager of Small Business Innovative Research, a federal program that enables small businesses to support NASA and collaborate with universities to help address research and development challenges. In March 2016, she received the prestigious Washington Award, which recognizes engineers whose accomplishments have “pre-eminently promoted the happiness, comfort and wellbeing of humanity.” Past nominees include Henry Ford and Neil Armstrong. In May 2015, she was named No. 8 in Business Insider’s list of the “23 of the most powerful women engineers in the world.” Dr. Ericsson is a member of the NASA Speakers Bureau to help spur the interest of minorities and women in STEM disciplines. She is the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University, and the first African American woman to receive a PhD in engineering at NASA GSFC. Dr. Ericsson received a BS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from MIT, and a ME and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace option, from Howard University. She served two terms as a member of the board of trustees of Howard University.

ayannahowardAyanna Howard, Ph.D. is Professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in Bioengineering in ECE at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and holds the position of Associate Chair for Faculty Development in ECE. She received her BS in Engineering from Brown University, and her MS and PhD in EE from the University of Southern California. Her research involves embedding human cognitive capability in autonomous systems and has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications in projects ranging from scientific rover navigation in glacier environments to home assistive robots. Her unique accomplishments have been highlighted by USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine. She was named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator and recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider. In 2013, she founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of therapy and educational products for children. She was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1993-2005 and has served as the Associate Director of Research for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and Chair of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program.

colleenlaymanColleen Layman has over 20 years of experience in the engineering design, construction, commissioning, and operation of power generating facilities, with special focus on water and wastewater systems. Colleen is a Vice President with HDR, an engineering consulting firm headquartered in Omaha, NE, where she directs the engineering activities and technical staff for industrial client projects including managing the QA/QC and risk assessment processes. She is a member of ASME serving as second vice chair of the Research and Technology Committee on Water and Steam in Thermal Systems and is the immediate past President of the Society of Women Engineers. Colleen holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology, a MS in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, and a MBA in Management of Engineering and Technology. She is also a registered Professional Engineer in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Maryland.

Amy-200x240Amelia Patrick is currently a forensic structural engineer with Knott Laboratory, LLC and has been an adjunct professor of structural analysis and design at the University of Houston-Downtown since 2013. In 2012, Patrick founded Thalia Engineering Studio, which she ran for 3 years before closing to leave more time for her daughter. In 2011, Patrick was one of eight women scientists chosen by the U.S. Department of State to travel to Brazil for a special diplomatic mission to study the advancement of women in STEM fields. Patrick received a BS in Civil Engineering from Rice University and an MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, and she is a licensed Professional Engineer.


Mohan Sankaran is the Leonard Case Jr. Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). He received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. At Caltech, he received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Intel Foundation, and Applied Materials, and was awarded the Constantin G. Economou Memorial Prize which recognizes the top Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering. He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at CWRU in 2005 was promoted to Full Professor in 2015. At CWRU, he has received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, the Young Investigator Program Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and the Peter Mark Memorial Award from the American Vacuum Society. He has been recognized for his teaching with the Srinivasa P. Gutti Memorial Award and mentoring with the J. Bruce Jackson Award. His research interests include microplasmas, nanoparticle synthesis, carbon nanotube growth, plasma electrochemistry, and electrostatic charging of materials.

karentholeKaren Thole is the head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. Her expertise is heat transfer and cooling of gas turbine airfoils through detailed experimental and computational studies. She founded the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine Laboratory (START) lab at Penn State, which houses a unique test turbine facility. She has published over 200 archival journal and conference papers and has supervised over 65 dissertations and theses. She served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Gas Turbine Institute and is a member of NASA’s National Aeronautics Committee. She received the SWE’s Distinguished Engineering Educator Award, the Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award and has been recognized by the U.S. White House as a Champion of Change for STEM.


Cheryl Verbeke is a Data Governance Consultant for Caterpillar where she works with business partners to develop and execute data governance processes. She is also Caterpillar’s engineering recruiting strategist for The Ohio State University and is active in the Central Illinois SWE section. With 19 years’ experience at Caterpillar, Verbeke has held various positions in engineering, procurement, analytics, and strategy. Prior to Caterpillar, she worked as a design and manufacturing engineer at Motorola. She holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University and a MBA from Bradley University. Verbeke lives in Hanna City, IL with her husband and their two dogs.