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Rochester Engineering Society honors 12 award winners

The Rochester Engineering Society honors twelve local leaders in their field at an event to be announced. Because of the COVID-19 crisis the group had to cancel the RES Annual Gala that was originally to be held April 18.

Founded in 1897, RES has held a gala every year since 1903 to recognize local engineers for outstanding community service. It also applauds activities that promote engineering excellence and leadership in the Rochester area.

In addition to the awards presentation, the gala will feature more than $25,000 in scholarships being awarded to local high school and college students.

The Engineer of the Year award will be given to Susan Houde-Walter, CEO at LMD Power of Light Corporation. (doing business as LaserMaxDefense).

The Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year award will be given to Nick Vamivakas, dean of graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs, arts, sciences and engineering at the University of Rochester. He is also a full professor at the Institute of Optics, University of Rochester.

Being honored as finalists for the Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year award will be Daniel J. Rusnack, senior project engineer – electrical at Bergmann, and Leonard Zhelznyak, vice president of Vision Science, Clerio Vision, Inc.

Engineers of Distinction are: Brian C. Boorman, scientist, electrical engineering at L3Harris Technologies; Richard Booton, chief systems engineer/senior scientist at L3Harris Technologies; Richard J. Buckley, senior Fellow/senior scientists at L3Harris Technologies; William N. Furman, senior Fellow/senior scientist at L3Harris Technologies; Janet C. Ibarluzea, director, systems engineer, L3Harris Technologies; Jon M. Kriegel, RES board member, STEM bridges director; Christopher D. Mackey, senior Fellow/senior scientists at L3Harris Technologies; and, Jannick P. Rolland, Brian J. Thompson professor of optical engineering, The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester.


Susan Houde-Walter

Susan Houde-Walter

Susan Houde-Walter, Ph.D.

CEO at LMDF Power of Light Corporation

In 1989, Susan Houde-Walter and her husband Will started LaserMax Inc. in their basement, providing laser gunsights to law enforcement, as well as diode laser modules to industry.

Today the company does business as LaserMaxDefense, producing field-ready quantum cascade lasers, solid state lasers and diode lasers for life-saving applications such as beacons, markers, aiming devices and improved communications for law enforcement and the military.

Houde-Walter — the first woman to serve as a full-time faculty member and professor at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics and a fellow and past president of the Optical Society (OSA) —  has served on both Army and Air Force science advisory boards. She has been recognized with the Public Service Commendation Medal from the US Department of the Army (2014) and the Commander’s Award for Public Service from the US Department of the Air Force (2016).

In order to better understand the needs of her customers, she has travelled extensively with the U.S. military, visiting forward operating military bases and observing military exercises. Houde-Walter says her visits with soldiers and their officers in the field have not only provided insight into their technological needs, but “deepened my commitment to our armed forces.”

And to think that none of this might have happened if Houde-Walter had not stumbled upon a holography exhibit that catalyzed an interest in optics soon after she graduated with an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College.

“Susan succeeded at something few ever attempt — pivoting from a liberal arts background to a graduate program in the hard sciences,” says Scott Carney, director of the Institute of Optics.

As a graduate student at the Institute she made important contributions to the development of gradient index (GRIN) optical elements. As a faculty member she moved into the broader areas of optical materials and processes for manufacturing them — positioning her for the technical work she has led at LaserMaxDefense.

She has 23 U.S. patents, with another 26 pending. Her research has resulted in more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and invited talks. Other awards have included New York Photonics Entrepreneur of the Year (2017) and the Keeper of the Flame Award from the National Women’s Hall of Fame (2018). She is also a fellow of the OSA and the American Ceramic Society.

“Susan stands as an inspiration and a very long measuring stick for all around her,” Carney says. “She has elevated her profession, her community and her country and continues to do so today.”


Nick Vamivakas

Nick Vamivakas

Nickolas (“Nick”) Vamivakas, Ph.D.

Professor of quantum optics and quantum physics and AS&E dean of graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs, University of Rochester

By all the yardsticks of academic achievement — research, teaching and service — Nick Vamivakas has distinguished himself.

He is internationally recognized for opening new frontiers quantum optics, nanophotonics and optical coherence. His research group, for example, was the first to levitate nanodiamonds in a vacuum and has also trapped nanoparticle silica beads with optical tweezers. This could shed new light on the fundamental properties of lasers and lead to better sensors and other devices. Vamivakas’ lab has also shown how defects on an atomically thin semiconductor can produce light-emitting quantum dots. This could be useful for the integration of quantum photonics with solid-state electronics. His work in design and fabrication of nano-antennas is changing the way we couple fields to matter.

In recognition of these achievements, Vamivakas received the Young Scientist Prize in Quantum Electronics from the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics in 2013. In 2016, he received three awards: a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, the University’s Leonard Mandel Faculty Fellow Award in Quantum Optics and the Hajim Outstanding Faculty award. He was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2018 and received the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2019.

Vamivakas brings high energy and passion to his teaching. He excels at explaining complex concepts in simpler terms for his students. These qualities were recognized when he received the University’s 2015 G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for excellence in teaching. Students say he is approachable and makes an effort to know them well. He frequently polls his classes for feedback and makes course adjustments as needed.

For four years Vamivakas has directed the Institute’s week-long summer Photon Camp, a high school program aimed at getting students interested in optics.

Last year, he was named dean of graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. He is pursuing an agenda to improve the professional development of post-doctoral associates. This year he established an annual AS&E Graduate Research Symposium to draw attention to the often-overlooked contributions of graduate students.

“Nick is outstanding,” says Scott Carney, director of the Institute of Optics. “His humility and work ethic enable others to work at their best while impacting and empowering others on a local and international scale.”


Daniel Rusnack

Daniel Rusnack

Daniel J. Rusnack, PE

Senior Project Engineer-Electrical and Lighting Group Studio Leader, Bergmann

Daniel Rusnack is nearly approaching 15 years of total experience in the design of electrical power distribution, lighting, life safety, and specialty systems for commercial, retail and industrial applications. Rusnack is a graduate with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Penn State University-Architectural Engineering with focus on lighting and electrical systems.

Rusnack is the current president of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and is a participating member of the Electrical Association of Western New York (EAWNY).

His work ethic is second to none and his dedication to the Bergmann electrical team inspires the group to perform at their best. He strives to help all team members with their designs to ensure quality. Rusnack promotes collaboration with the younger engineers on the staff sharing design guidance and code references on a weekly basis. He performs quality checks for the majority of electrical design projects that leave the office and ensures the designs meet Bergmann’s high standards.

He prizes community involvement. Rusnack works with young students at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy through the RES’ tutoring program and participates annually in the Rochester Clean Sweep program. He has also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity which involved renovating a house in the City of Rochester.

Aside from being a licensed Professional Engineer in multiple states, he is lighting certified (LC) as well as a LEED Accredited Professional BD + C. To expand on his lighting experience, he also is a Certified Lighting Efficiency Practitioner (CLEP) and has created the Lighting Design Studio at Bergmann.

Along with all these responsibilities, Rusnack is a dedicated father and husband to his two children and his wife. He exemplifies what it means to be an engineer by helping others and ensuring the public safety with his engineering design.

Leonard Zheleznyak

Leonard Zheleznyak

Leonard Zheleznyak, Ph.D.

Vice President of Vision Science, Clerio Vision  Inc.

Leonard Zheleznyak is an optical engineer who works in the field of vision. He is well-known in the field of vision science for his optical engineering approach to vision science and visual systems engineering. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in optical engineering from the famous Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, where his Ph.D. research involved design and testing of new kinds of instruments using adaptive optics to precisely measure human vision characteristics. A member of the Optical Society of America and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, he has received numerous awards for his conference presentations, holds ten patents and has published many scientific papers.

An expert in the field of visual science and engineering, he is currently vice president of vision engineering at Clerio Vision Inc., a local company that was started in late 2014 based on pioneering technology created at the University of Rochester. In his job, he manages several teams of research and development people who are working to create a new way of doing human vision correction that is similar to LASIK, but does not involve any cutting of the eye.

He considers his greatest achievement to be the successful demonstration of the new technology in human clinical trials. He enjoys mentoring younger workers and blazing new trails.

“My father-in-law, a former Soviet alpinist, told me that when climbing a mountain, it was important not to look for the summit. Instead, focus on the next step. Focus on what’s right in front. Humility allowed me to not be so hard on myself and gave me the willingness to keep trying,” says Leonard.

He is active in community organizations such as Big Brother and Sisters of America, Project FLIGHT and he has tutored Physics at local high schools. He and his wife have two young children.


Brian C. Boorman

Brian C. Boorman

Brian C. Boorman

Scientist, Electrical Engineering , L3Harris Technologies

Known for his ability to provide cross-domain technical leadership in product development to ensure quality products for customers, Brian Boorman is a scientist, electrical engineering for L3Harris Technologies’ Communication Systems segment.

Boorman has worked for the company for more than 25 years, bringing many advancements to the military communications market. Holding two U.S. patents on Power Amplifier Digital Gain Control and Scalable Architectures for HAIPE encryption, and having authored several trade and conference papers, Boorman develops next-generation communications technology and capabilities for the warfighter.

Recognizing the need for more engineers in Rochester, Boorman is involved in educating students on the importance of engineering. An active member in the community, Boorman sits on the SUNY Alfred Industry Advisory Board (IAB) for the engineering department and serves as chairperson for the IAB committee for accreditation. Boorman also coached a youth robotics program (First Lego League), bringing STEM opportunities to middle school students at Honeoye Central School.

“One of the best things about my career in engineering is helping others,” says Boorman. “From mentoring younger generations and teaching them about the doors a career in engineering can open for them, to ensuring my team at L3Harris is routinely building products that embody both the quality and features our customers want and need, it’s been extremely rewarding to leverage my technical leadership skills inside and outside of work.”

Boorman received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology from SUNY Alfred and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Alfred University. He and his wife Dr. Colleen Garrity have three children.

Richard Booton

Richard Booton

Richard Booton

Senior Scientist, Systems Engineering, L3Harris Technologies

Joining the company in 2005, Richard Booton is currently senior scientist, systems engineering for L3Harris Technologies’ Communication Systems segment.

In this role, Booton is the lead and technical decision authority for L3Harris’ nanoSVDL product line, guiding teams of more than 50 engineers across mechanical, electrical and software disciplines. The nanoSVDL line consists of video data link handheld radios that help military forces receive, transmit and display full-motion video and IP data.

Most recently, Booton played a key role in navigating and merging technologies from the legacy L3 and Harris businesses, uncovering synergies and identifying opportunities to bring technologies from both companies together to better serve L3Harris and its customers.

Booton holds four patents and participates as a technical program committee member for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Military Communication Conference (MILCOM) each year, reviewing papers, providing author feedback and advising track chairs on session planning.

“L3 Harris is a strong supporter of promoting engineering education, says Booton. “I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to speak with local high school students about a future career in engineering, as well as the chance to coach seniors at the University of Rochester on their engineering projects.”

Outside of work, Booton has volunteered for the Zion House in Avon, providing safe and supportive transitional housing for female veterans.

Booton holds both a bachelor’s degree in computer science and one in computer and systems engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute along with a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Booton lives in Fairport with his wife Tabitha and their daughter.

Rich Buckley

Rich Buckley

Rich Buckley

Senior Fellow, L3Harris Technologies

A radio systems architect, Rich Buckley is presently looking for new ways to leverage machine learning and other emerging technologies to better L3Harris Technologies’ radio solutions for customers. Currently a senior fellow with the company’s Communication Systems segment, Buckley has held numerous engineering positions since originally joining the company in 1981.

Other than spending a few years as vice president of engineering at Flightline Electronics in Victor, Buckley has worked for L3Harris his entire career.

With several approved and pending patents to his name, Buckley takes on a wide range of assignments at L3Harris from product startups and new technology roadmaps to customer support and employee mentoring.

“I benefited greatly from excellent mentoring early on in my career, so it’s always been important to me to pay it forward by helping other engineers as they navigate their careers,” says Buckley. “One of the most important things I learned early on was to be accountable. I pass this lesson on to others I work with — be accountable to your customers, your company, your teammates and perhaps most importantly, yourself.”

Buckley routinely supports L3Harris’ University Relations projects, most recently working with students at the Rochester Institute of Technology on their “AI for RF” project that explored machine learning techniques to classify a radio signal.

Outside of work, Buckley enjoys sports, travel and spending time with family and friends. He and his wife Ann have provided support for several refugees arriving to the Rochester area.

Buckley earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

William N. Furman

William N. Furman

William N. Furman

Senior Fellow, Senior Scientist, L3Harris Technologies

Beginning his career at L3Harris as a summer engineering intern in 1982, William Furman, senior fellow, senior scientist, within L3Harris Technologies’ Communication Systems segment, has brought global recognition to Rochester for his work in communication systems, signal processing and waveform design.

An internationally recognized expert in HF communication systems and waveforms, Furman brought the epicenter of a breakthrough in wideband communication to Rochester. By uniting government and engineers from around the world, Furman led a design group to define new wideband HF radio techniques that provides higher user data rates for long distance communications.

“L3Harris Technologies has played a pivotal role in the development of many HF standards and technologies with much of the work leading to the breakthrough in wideband HF happening right here in Rochester,” says Furman. “It’s inspiring to be in a community with such rich communications and engineering expertise.”

Inventor and co-inventor of 50 patents since beginning his career at L3Harris, Furman has contributed to many new and exciting technologies at the company including robust low data rate waveforms and radio products for both the U.S. and international communities. He has also been recognized for mentoring many up and coming engineers and plays a key role in developing and maintaining technical talent for the company.

With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Furman is dedicated to helping up and coming engineers further their education. As such, he co-authored a textbook on wideband HF radio communications and has authored or co-authored more than 45 technical papers.

Furman has been a past nominee for the Rochester inventor of the year award, sponsored by the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association (RIPLA). He is also a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and organizer and chair for many sessions at the IEEE Military Communication Conference (MILCOM) annual event.

Jenny Ibarluzea

Jenny Ibarluzea

Jenny Ibarluzea

Director, Systems Engineering, L3Harris Technologies

Known for her tenacity and a “can-do” attitude to overcome challenges, Jenny Ibarluzea has held various engineering roles in Rochester since 1991.

Currently a director, system engineer, for L3Harris Technologies’ Communication Systems segment, Ibarluzea is a technical expert in radio waveform development, currently supervising a team of 11 engineers ranging from recent college graduates to scientists on L3Harris’ line of Falcon® III radios. Used by soldiers worldwide, the L3Harris Falcon family of radios delivers network-centric communications with voice, data and video capabilities.

In this role, Ibarluzea is part of the international product team, working with customers around the world, guiding development teams and working with technical experts to match technology to best meet each individual customer’s needs.

Beginning her career at Eastman Kodak in 1991 as a senior embedded software engineer, Ibarluzea then moved to Xerox in 2000 where she focused on image processing algorithms and implementations. Since 2003 she has been with L3Harris.

“Early in my career I learned the importance of a challenge and team collaboration,” says Ibarluzea. “For students looking to enter the engineering field, I advise them to find an area within engineering that interests and challenges them — don’t be afraid to stretch, try something new and never forget the importance of being a team player. Some of the best innovations have come from team brainstorms.”

Ibarluzea holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Michigan State University. She and her husband, Victor, have four grown children — three sons who are also engineers and a daughter who is a registered nurse.

Jon M. Kriegel

Jon M. Kriegel

Jon M. Kriegel

RES Board Member, STEM Bridges Director (RES STEM Initiative)

A 1970 graduate of RIT’s Mechanical Engineering program, Jon M. Kriegel’s distinguished engineering career has included product engineering and research and development positions with many local manufacturing firms, including Mixing Equipment Co., Xerox Corp. and Eastman Kodak Co.

As he progressed into positions of greater responsibility in the fields of optical surface refinement, document imaging, factory support equipment, chemical-environmental toxicity and process improvement, Kriegel leads teams of engineers and scientists as they worked to bring radical and innovative concepts into practice.

Kriegel’s extensive work in mechanical power transmission, exact constraint design, paper handling and assembly design lead him to authorship of five US Patents, on behalf of his employers.

Throughout his career, Kriegel’s commitment to his community has also inspired him to support, develop and lead Rochester’s “E-Cubed Fair”, an annual, focused effort to introduce middle-school students to career opportunities in STEM, which for nearly a decade placed volunteer mentors, with a focus on STEM, in Rochester City School District classrooms.

An adjunct professor and a CCE instructor at Monroe Community College and RIT, respectively, Kriegel has taught courses in machine design, engineering design drawing and sophisticated computer languages.

Kriegel’s work on “NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Satellite Telescope” has been the topic of technical papers that he has delivered at Winter Meetings, Annual Meetings and the International Congress of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Christopher Mackey

Christopher Mackey

Christopher Mackey

Senior Fellow, L3Harris Technologies

With a lengthy list of 20 patents to his name, Christopher Mackey has led many award-winning projects and mentored numerous engineering students during his 35-year plus career.

Currently a senior fellow within L3Harris Technologies’ Communication Systems segment, Mackey has led several digital designs of complex radio systems for the company, while also serving as a key technical liaison with strategic partners.

Mackey began his career in 1984 at Allied Signal as an engineer, before moving to Lockheed Marietta as a group engineer in 1987. In 1995 he moved to Rochester to join L3Harris, and for the last 25 years has focused on radio engineering.

Now known as the resident subject matter expert for high-grade security radio architectures at L3Harris, colleagues routinely turn to Mackey for advice and guidance on upcoming projects.

“It’s so important for young engineers to learn from Rochester’s rich and ongoing history in innovative technologies and understand how they can play a role in future innovations,” says Mackey. “Being a mentor is something I believe strongly in and encourage anyone in technical leadership positions to explore similar opportunities.”

Throughout his career at L3Harris, Mackey has also had numerous opportunities to mentor engineering college students as part of the company’s University Relations program. Locally, Mackey has worked with students at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has also mentored students at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Michigan.

Mackey holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

Jannick P. Rolland

Jannick P. Rolland

Jannick P. Rolland, Ph.D.

Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering, The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester

Throughout her distinguished career in optics, Jannick Rolland has often worked at the boundaries of her field, collaborating with computer scientists and medical researchers on creative and innovative applications ranging from freeform optics to new optical coherence microscopy for high definition 3D imaging.

She joined the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics in 2009 as the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering. She is also director of the Center for Freeform Optics (CeFO) and the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering.

With her former Ph.D. student Cristina Canavesi, Rolland is cofounder and chief technology officer of LightopTech, a startup commercializing one of Rolland’s inventions. The portable device uses a microscope with a liquid lens to image cells just below the surface of the skin, cornea and other tissues. Among many possible applications, the device is targeted to help guide biopsies as well as delicate surgeries.

Rolland was drawn to Rochester’s reputation as a center of optical manufacturing, and for the opportunity to collaborate with researchers at the Medical Center.

“I felt the ecosystem would be better for what I am doing, and in fact, that’s what has happened,” says Rolland.

Her Rochester collaborators were instrumental in helping her launch the Center for Freeform Optics, which now has 18 corporate and research laboratory members. The goal is to advance emerging technology that uses lenses and mirrors with freeform surfaces to create optical devices that are lighter, more compact, and more effective than ever before.

A career in optics research wasn’t always the clear path for Rolland. After graduating with a master’s in optical engineering from the Ecole Superieure d’Optique in Orsay, France, she moved to Tucson, Ariz. She wanted to become fluent in English and resolve, once and for all, whether she should pursue a career in dance or science. Fortunately, she completed a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Optical Science at the University of Arizona.

“Dancing felt good, but science satisfied my craving for intellectual discovery,” says Rolland.

Rolland has 37 patents to her credit, and last year was listed among eight women pioneers in augmented and virtual reality by the organizers of the world’s largest AR/VR conference and expo.

Rolland and her husband, the late Kevin Thompson, were significant leaders in the establishment of four scholarship endowments at the J.C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona, which named her 2019 Alumna of the Year.


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