Speaker Bios & Pics
Michele Lezama is currently the Executive Director of The
National GEM Consortium, a 501c(3) organization, founded at
the University of Notre Dame, dedicated to increasing the
number of under-represented individuals who pursue and receive
a masters or PhD in engineering or science by providing full
fellowships and holding informational programming on the application
and graduate school experience.
Lezama began her post as Executive Director of GEM after
serving over 5 years as Executive Director of the National
Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), an organization whose mission
is to increase representa-tion in the science, technology,
engineering and math (STEM) fields by providing programming,
scholar-ships, and career placement from pre-college students
through professionals. Lezama is credited for significantly
increasing NSBE’s operational efficiency, programmatic
efforts, and financial reserves. Most notably she turned around
the organization’s financial position from risking payroll
to acquiring a new headquarters facility tripling the organization’s
capital position and creating a long-term investment structure.
Under Lezama’s leadership, NSBE received the 2003 Presidential
Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering
Mentoring awarded by the White House’s Office of Science
Prior to NSBE, Lezama was the Director of Satellite Scrambling
Operations at Home Box Office (HBO), a Time Warner Company,
and prior to HBO she served as the Associate Director of Broadcast
Operations and System Integration at Columbia Broadcasting
System (CBS). Lezama was involved in a number of exciting
technical and financial projects during her media career,
specifically the creation of on-line scheduling for on-air
programs and commercials, the build-out of the technical studio
for CBS’ Late Night with David Letterman, and multi-plexing
of the HBO and Cinemax brands.
Prior to Lezama’s media career she was an engineer
with IBM in their Poughkeepsie, Manhattan and Brooklyn facilities.
Lezama also held co-op positions with Raytheon and Texas Instruments.
Lezama earned her BS in Industrial Engineering at Northeastern
University and both her MS in Industrial Engineering and MBA
in Finance and Accounting from Columbia University.
Tara is currently the lead engineer for the NASA Human Research
Facility, which is a facility onboard the International Space
Station (ISS) that supports numerous Life Sciences experiments.
She was born and raised in Louisiana before obtaining a BS
degree in Biology and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from
Colorado State University (CSU), where she was also a Ronald
McNair Scholar. She completed her PhD in Neuroscience in 2007
from University of Texas Medical Branch.
Tara began to work for NASA in Jan 2001, where she began
her career as a project engineer for the exercise bicycle
that's currently on the ISS. She’s always wanted to
work for the US Space Program, particularly for the Johnson
Space Center, where the focus is on human presence in space
and manned missions. Since she’s always loved Biology
and Physiology, she began heading for a career in Life Sciences.
There is something very unique about the microgravity environment
that causes distinct changes in human physiology from the
systems level, all the way down to the cellular level. Engineering
design challenges for unique hardware used in space also become
more intense when accounting for the absence of a gravity
vector. Tara enjoys her work at the Johnson Space Center in
Houston, and she also enjoys meeting and working with students
from the TriO programs, as well as from programs specifically
designed to encourage education in Science and Engineering.
Dr. Mark Hernandez
After several years of professional civil engineering practice,
Mark Hernandez joined the University of Colorado faculty in
1996, and was tenured 2001. He currently serves as a faculty
director of the Colorado Diversity Initiative, which coordinates
major diversity efforts among major science, math, and engineering
departments with focus on promoting underrepresented students
through graduate schools and into the professorate. CU-Boulder
has been successful with its diversity efforts in graduate
education; since 1996, CU-Boulder has awarded more than 80
PhD’s to underrepresented students in science, math,
and engineering. At least 17 of these PhD recipients are in
tenure-track faculty positions, and at least 10 more have
postdoctoral fellowships leading to faculty positions.
Dr. Hernandez maintains an active environmental microbiology
research program which focuses on the ecology, disinfection
and remediation of polluted air and water. He won the Water
Environment Foundation’s Canham Award to support technology
transfer between the US and England, and was a recent recipient
of a National Science Foundation early CAREER award. Dr. Hernandez
holds a US patent for wastewater reclamation, and has published
over 40 archival journal articles. During his tenure at Colorado,
Professor Hernandez has mentored numerous undergraduate, graduate
and post-doctoral fellows from student groups that have been
historically underrepresented in engineering and the sciences.