The College of Engineering hosted their annual alumni celebration on Friday, January 19, 2018 at the UC Davis Mondavi Center. Pictured (left to right): Katherine Ferrara, Francis Lee, John Wasson, Adam Steltzner, Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, Brian Horsfield, Margie Evashenk. (Reeta Asmai/ UC Davis)

By Bonnie Dickson

DAVIS, Calif.; Feb. 06, 2018 –The UC Davis College of Engineering gathered alumni, faculty, students and friends on Friday, Jan. 19 for the college’s annual Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal awards ceremony and alumni celebration at the Mondavi Center.

More than 120 people attended the event to recognize notable graduates whose professional and personal achievements have brought special honor to the college. The five outstanding alumni who were honored at the event were:

  • Margie Evashenk, Engineering Management Consultant,, Vonzos Venture Partners, Open-Silicon, B.S. Electrical Engineering, ‘89
  • Katherine Ferrara, UC Davis Distinguished Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, ‘89
  • Brian Horsfield, Retired Research and Development Engineer, Weyerhaeuser Company, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, ‘66, M.S. Engineering, ‘68, D.Engr., ‘71
  • Francis Lee, Board Chairman, Synaptics, B.S. Electrical Engineering, ‘74
  • Adam Steltzner, Chief Engineer: Mars 2020 Project, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, ‘90

During their acceptance speeches, the award winners reflected on their time and experiences at UC Davis and recognized the support of mentors, spouses and family.

“I was the first advertising manager for the famous UC Davis double-decker buses, I was a TA for a guy named Kemper, I met my wife here in the dining hall and of course I received a world-class education here,” said three-time UC Davis engineering alumnus Brian Horsfield.

In his remarks, NASA engineer and mechanical engineering alumnus Adam Steltzner, who is famously known for leading the team that designed the Mars Curiosity rover’s Entry, Descent and Landing system, emphasized the important role that universities like UC Davis play in shaping future engineers.

“I learned engineering, most fundamentally, here at UC Davis,” he said. “And I am forever thankful for that.”

The evening included displays from students and research groups from across the college, including a big data visualization table, student projects and 3-D printing machines from the Engineering Student Design Center and a 14-foot space ambulance designed and built by mechanical and aerospace engineering students. Guests also enjoyed coffee brewed by students from the UC Davis Coffee Center, which was founded and now directed by chemical engineering professor William Ristenpart.

The event was also an opportunity to introduce UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May to the Aggie engineering community. May became the university’s seventh chancellor in Aug. 2017, after having served as dean of the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Prior to the college’s alumni celebration, distinguished alumni met with faculty and students from their old departments.

In a discussion led by Professor Chen-Nee Chuah and Department Chair Saif Islam, Evashenk, Ferrara and Lee shared their perspectives and ideas on how to prepare today’s students for a career in industry, and how to continue to engage undergraduate engineering students in hands-on research opportunities.

After meeting with faculty, Evashenk also hosted a special workshop for students on professionalism and life skills.

“Margie is an exceptionally brilliant and humble mentor,” said Sonia Krishna, a fourth-year electrical and computer engineering student who Evashenk mentors. “She has accomplished every engineer’s dream and has empowered me as a women engineer to grow in the technical world.”

Steltzner also met with students to discuss his role in the 2012 landing of the Mars Curiosity rover and to share his insights on the power of human curiosity. More than 130 people turned out for Steltzner’s talk, “The Right Kind of Crazy: Risk, Reason and Engineering Curiosity to the Surface of Mars.”

Photos from the event are available on the College of Engineering Flickr page.