Nation’s Best Engineers Honored at UConn

The Academy honored its first Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Dean Kazem Kazerounian. He joined UConn in 1984 in teaching, and then began a 30-year path in leadership roles.

Kazem Kazerounian and Robert Hotaling.

Dean Kazem Kazerounian honors Department of Economic and Community Development senior advisor Robert Hotaling.

On May 9, the UConn College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Engineers honored its newest wave of inductees, recognizing the brightest and most impactful engineers the university has produced. 

In a ceremony on the Storrs campus, faculty, staff, and alumni commended the 10 inductees comprising the class of 2024. They are as follows: 

Rashi Akki graduated in 1990 with a master’s in chemical engineering. She later launched Ag-Grid Energy LLC, with a vision for simultaneously improving the viability and financial stability of American dairy farms through the production of biofuels from cow manure and food waste. 

Saptarshi Basu graduated in 2004 and 2007 with a master’s and doctorate in mechanical engineering. He then relocated to India, where he joined the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. He serves as the Pratt & Whitney Chair Professor in the department of mechanical engineering. 

Jacquelynn Garofano completed her master’s and doctorate in materials science and engineering in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Garofano began her career as a research scientist at United Technologies Research Center (now RTX) in 2011. She became the chief technology officer at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology in 2021. 

Daniel Goberman finished his master’s and doctorate in materials science and engineering in 2001 and 2002, respectively. A triple Husky, he also earned his bachelor’s in physics in 1994. He is currently a senior technical fellow for Materials Characterization at RTX Technologies Research Center. 

Edward Grace graduated in 1962 with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Grace spent 10 years at the MIT Instrumentation/Draper Laboratory working on the Apollo program. He was a member of the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Nixon. He later went on to found several high-tech companies. 

Robert Hotaling graduated with his bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 2001. He worked in the banking and technology fields before joining the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. He previously served as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Investment Officer and is now currently the senior advisor and Federal Programs director at the DECD. 

Mark Raymond finished his bachelor’s in computer science and engineering in 1988. He worked for 21 years in the technology consulting industry before joining the state leadership team in 2011. He currently serves as the Chief Information Officer for the state. He is responsible for the state’s executive-branch technology. 

Richard Twilley graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering. After commencement, he served as a nuclear-trained officer aboard USS Annapolis. He then returned to UConn for a juris doctor degree, and is now a partner in Athorus as a registered patent attorney. 

Marcelle Wood completed his master’s in mechanical engineering in 1987. After earning his degree, he joined UConn as assistant and associate department head until 2000. He later became the assistant dean for undergraduate education and diversity. He was a liaison to the state’s community colleges, and supported the Connecticut Invention Convention. 

Doug Young earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1983. He then joined Northrop Grumman as a member of the B-2 Spirit development team. He is currently vice president and general manager of the Strike division, which delivers aircraft to support U.S. strategic deterrence.

Millenia Polanco
GOLD Rising Star Awardee Millenia Polanco speaks about her earliest engineering experiences.

The Academy has also recently honored the Graduates of the Last Decade with the GOLD Rising Star Award. 

Rising star Reza Amin graduated with his doctorate in mechanical engineering and master’s in global entrepreneurship in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He is the founder of Bastion Health, a leading digital platform revolutionizing male health. He also co-founded Encapsulate, which focuses on chemotherapy precision. 

Rising star Haley Palmer earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2019. After commencement she pursued a master’s in construction management from Purdue, and has worked at the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company since 2019. Palmer has been involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in her education and career. 

Rising star Millenia Polanco graduated with her bachelor’s in computer science in 2022. As a student she contributed to research in osteoporosis, environmental injustice, COVID-19 campus testing compliance, and ultrasound imaging.  She is a software engineer for American Express in their Enterprise, Data Governance and Artificial Intelligence Department. 

Finally, the Academy honored its first Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Dean Kazem Kazerounian. The Academy commends Kazerounian for his vision in advancing the college in excellence and innovation. He joined UConn in 1984 in teaching, and then began a 30-year path in leadership roles, culminating in a 12-year tenure as dean. 

Photographs from the event can be viewed online.