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Keynote Speaker Bios & Pics

Michele Lezama

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 and Technology.

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 Ruttley

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.




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