Seven Grainger Engineers Named Distinguished Alumni

3/27/2023 8:01:08 AM

Written by

<strong>Top left to right:</strong> Steven Ashby, Eric N. Brown, Ping Fu and Sergio “Satch” Pecori<br><strong>Bottom left to right:</strong> Steve Sullivan, Francesco Venneri, Carrie Zalewski 
Top left to right: Steven Ashby, Eric N. Brown, Ping Fu and Sergio “Satch” Pecori
Bottom left to right: Steve Sullivan, Francesco Venneri and Carrie Zalewski 

The Grainger College of Engineering announces seven alumni as recipients of the 2023 Alumni Award for Distinguished Service. Recipients are selected annually and recognized for professional distinction through outstanding leadership, contributions to the field of engineering, creativity and entrepreneurship; as well as service to society, the professional community, and to the department, college or university.

From 3D technology to mixed reality, energy sustainability to national security, our distinguished alumni are global leaders in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. They are mentors, inventors and investors who have changed the world. 

The following alumni are recipients of the 2023 Alumni Award for Distinguished Service: 

Steven Ashby (CS - MS '85, PhD ‘88) is the Director of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. A widely recognized leader in computational science and strong advocate for investing in and inspiring our next generation of talent, Dr. Ashby established The Ashby Prize in Computational Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, awarded to a multidisciplinary team of students for the innovative use of high-performance computing to address a problem of societal significance.

Eric N. Brown (MechSE - BS '98, MS ’01, PhD ‘03) currently serves as a Senior Scientist in the Office of Experiment Science at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He founded and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Dynamic Behavior of Materials. He has received awards for his technical achievements in physics and materials science from the ASC, DOE-NNSA, LANL, MRS, SEM, TMS and the University of Illinois.

Ping Fu (CS - MS '90) is a venture and angel investor. She co-founded Geomagic, a leading US software company that pioneers 3D technologies that fundamentally change the way products are designed and manufactured around the world. Her 2013 memoir “Bend, Not Break: Life in two worlds”, is a New York Times best seller.

Sergio “Satch” Pecori (CEE - BS '73, MS ‘74) is Chairman and CEO of Hanson Professional Services Inc. As part of Hanson’s involvement in the Springfield Rail Improvements Project in Springfield, Illinois, Mr. Pecori has led the development and implementation of the Grow Our Own Minority Participation Program, fostering minority students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) careers.

Steve Sullivan (ECE – MS ’91, PhD ’97 ) served most recently as Partner and General Manager at Microsoft. He is an inventor on more than 25 patents and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Steve has contributed to more than 70 films including the Star Wars prequels, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, Harry Potter and Minority Report, among many others.

Francesco Venneri (NPRE - PhD '88) is CEO and Founder of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation. His research achievements include advancements in the concept of deep burn for nuclear waste in HTGR units. Dr. Venneri is also a co-inventor of Fully Ceramic Microencapsulate (FCM) nuclear fuel and holds degrees in physics, mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering.

Carrie Zalewski (ISE - BS '01) is Chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission and serves as an energy regulation attorney with an engineering background. Carrie is the founding Chair of NARUC’s Chari Council where she brings together Commission Chairs from all 50 states and regions and is a frequent speaker and lecturer in discussion in the energy and regulatory space. 

The award recipients will talk about their Grainger Engineering experiences, lessons learned from their careers and advice for current students at our Chat with Alumni Award for Distinguished Service Recipients from 4-5 p.m. CT on Friday, March 31, as part of Engineering Open House activities. Participants may attend the event at the NCSA Auditorium or via Zoom.

Share this story

This story was published March 27, 2023.