Spotlight Recognition Award

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These inspirational alumni have had a tangible effect of noted magnitude that embodies the HMC visionary themes of innovation, leadership and impact through global influence and contributions to society.

Priya Donti ’15 (CS/math)

Priya DontiDonti, a PhD student in computer science and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, works at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and electric power. She was selected as one of MIT’s Technology Review 2021 Innovators Under 35 for her initiative Climate Change AI, a group of volunteers from academia and industry that facilitates work at the intersection of climate change and machine learning. She is also one of 90 Siebel Scholars for 2022, talented students at 29 graduate schools of business, computer science, bioengineering and energy science in the United States, China, France, Italy and Japan. Her focus is on working to mitigate the impact of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Kurt Dresner ’02 (CS/math)

Kurt DresnerDresner is an innovator in the field of autonomous intersection management. He and a co-author were awarded the International Federation on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems’ Influential Paper Award for setting a new direction in the research of transportation systems for autonomous vehicles. In a world where drivers don’t get distracted, don’t fall asleep and can plan using more than just red, yellow and green, there’s no need to stop for an empty intersection. He got to work imagining such a future and the ways we could coordinate autonomous vehicle traffic for both increased throughput and safety.

Douglas Arent ’82 (chemistry)

Douglas ArentThrough his internationally known expertise and collaborative skills, Arent served as one of the coordinating lead authors on a chapter of the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in 2014. This report is used globally to chart nations’ plans for carbon reduction and climate resiliency, a clear example of a contribution to global society. Arent has worked in research on energy and sustainability for more than 30 years, publishing extensively on topics within clean energy, renewable energy, power systems, natural gas, and the intersection of science and public policy. He is executive director of Strategic Public-Private Partnerships.

Aurora Burd ’05 (physics)

Aurora BurdIn 2019, through her job as a geoscience faculty member at Antelope Valley College, Burd was invited to teach Introduction to Earth Science with lab at the California State Prison Los Angeles County in Lancaster, California, the first time a lab science had been taught there. CSP-LAC has worked with California State University, Los Angeles since 2016 to offer inmates the opportunity to pursue a B.A. in communication through classes held inside the maximum-security men’s prison. “The students did exhibit much greater engagement during class and more curiosity regarding the material than my typical students. It actually reminded me of HMC, because the students were very willing to collaborate with each other and went to great lengths to make sure that everyone was successful in class. I feel strongly that education can be transformational.”

Nadia Abuelezam ’09 (mathematical biology)

Nadia AbuelezamWhile at HMC, Abuelezam knew she wanted to use her knowledge of mathematics and biology to help people. As a result of Prof. Karl Haushalter’s course on HIV/AIDS and Society, she traveled to Uganda to work with an NGO helping people living with HIV/AIDS and saw firsthand how an infectious disease could affect every aspect of society. Trained in infectious disease epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, she is now an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Connell School of Nursing. She has expertise in mathematical modeling and data analytic approaches in public health and in mitigating health inequities for vulnerable populations. Her current research focuses on understanding health risks in hard-to-reach populations, including immigrants. Early on and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Abuelezam worked hard to communicate facts and the science regarding pandemics, virus transmission and COVID. Her leadership and courage to speak out has made a tremendous impact.

F. Scott Porter ’87 (physics)

F. Scott PorterAfter graduating from HMC and attending Brown University (PhD, condensed matter physics), Porter worked on a novel cryogenic solar neutrino detector at a low-temperature condensed matter laboratory. During his postdoctoral fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory he developed cryogenic x-ray detectors for x-ray astrophysics, then joined NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1995 to continue this work. He has shared his expertise in x-ray astrophysics for 26 years at Goddard, where he developed instrumentation for 12 suborbital sounding rocket missions, three orbital x-ray telescopes and a CubeSat (launched September 27, 2021 with LandSat 9). He is working on x-ray instruments for the XRISM and Athena missions, on sounding rockets to be launched in December 2021 from Washington state and in June 2022 from Australia, and on a lunar lander instrument to be launched in summer 2023. He is the author or co-author of more than 400 peer reviewed articles.

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