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Courtney Holmes
(505) 277-0664
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School of Engineering Distinguished Alumni

The 2018 honorees are:

• John A. Lopez, a graduate of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Lopez, of Albuquerque, received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UNM in 1970. He is program manager at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.

• Richard Morales, a graduate of the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering. Morales received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UNM in 1985 and his master's degree in structural engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986. He is the director for engineering at L.B. Foster construction products in Atlanta.

• Aleksandra Faust, a graduate of the Department of Computer Science. Faust earned her Ph.D. in computer science from UNM in 2014. She earned an associate’s certificate in project management from George Washington University, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Belgrade and a master’s in computer science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She currently works at Google in Palo Alto, Calif., as a machine learning and robotics scientist.

• Barbara Brockett, a graduate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Brockett, of Glendale, Ariz., is a member of the aerospace engineering leadership team at Honeywell, where she is the executive sponsor of Honeywell Engineering Diversity and Inclusion Programs. She received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UNM in 1983.

• Kenneth R. Prestwich, a graduate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prestwich, of Albuquerque, received his master’s in electrical engineering from UNM in 1964 and his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Idaho in 1962. He worked in pulsed power for many years at Sandia National Laboratories and also owned his own consulting firm. 

• Charles B. Watkins, Jr., a graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Watkins received both his master’s and Ph.D. from UNM in mechanical engineering in 1966 and 1970, respectively, and his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University in 1964. He is professor of mechanical engineering at the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of The City University of New York.

• DeBow Freed, a graduate of the Department of Nuclear Engineering. Freed received his Ph.D. from UNM in nuclear engineering in 1966. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy in 1946 and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1961. He is a former president of Monmouth College, Ohio Northern University, and the University of Findlay.

The Young Alumni Award will be presented to Jake  Hollowell, a graduate of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2008. Hollowell is an associate chief engineer at Vencore in Fairfax, Va.

The keynote speaker will be Gary Tonjes, president of Albuquerque Economic Development, Inc.

Tickets are $75 per person or $1,000 per premier table (seats 8). For more information contact Courtney Holmes at 505-277-0664 or or visit

2017 Distinguished Alumni 

You can view the full list of Distinguished Alumni here.

UNM Alumni Association Award Winners

Robert SolenbergerRobert Solenberger (65' BSChE)

Robert Solenberger, '65 BSChE, has been awarded the UNM Alumni Association Lobo Award.

Solenberger, a physician and a colonel in the U.S. Army, has been deployed as a senior surgeon and field hospital commander in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Honduras, Egypt and Korea.

The surgeon credits his engineering education at UNM for helping him think outside the box in medicine, including a unique and successful separation of conjoined Siamese twins in 1995

in which Solenberger led a 70-person team through more than 26 hours in the operating room.

Solenberger currently works at the VA Hospital in Belton, Texas as a surgeon.

Gilbert V. HerreraGilbert V. Herrera (81' BS)

Congratulations to Computer Engineering alumnus Gilbert V. Herrera, winner of the 2015 Lobo Award.   This award is given to an alumnus/a who has given outstanding personal service to the university or whose career achievement reflects credit on the university.

Herrera is the director of the Laboratory for Physical Sciences (LPS), a National Security Agency (NSA) research institute on the University of Maryland campus. At his former position at Sandia, he was responsible for a 600-person, $250 million research and development center. He also managed the MESA complex, the largest capital investment in the history of Sandia. Herrera also served as an AAAS/Sloan Foundation White House Science Fellow at the Office of Science and Technology Policy under President George H. W. Bush.

Derek SmithDerek Smith (‘94 MS, ‘97 PhD)

Congratulations to Computer Science alumnus Derek J. Smith, winner of the UNM Zimmerman Award. This award is given to an alumnus who has made a significant contribution which has brought fame and honor to UNM and to the state of New Mexico.

Derek Smith is now a Professor in the zoology department at the University of Cambridge in England. He received a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneers Award of $2.5 million for his groundbreaking research of the influenza virus and predictions of how pathogens, particularly influenza, will evolve. He generated “maps” and opened the door for finding connections between the antigenic changes and genetic changes in the virus. That could translate into faster and better ways of monitoring the flu.

Science Magazine has called Derek “the mapmaker of the world of influenza.”