The inaugural class of Academy honorees includes 70 Texas ChE alumni, all of whom have been recognized as Distinguished Engineering Graduates by the Cockrell School of Engineering. Honorees are organized by decade of their earliest graduation year, then alphabetically by last name. (*deceased)
Bella D. Goren (B.S. ’83)
Bella Goren earned her executive and Fortune 500 chief financial officer credentials in the airline industry, one of the most intensely competitive and dynamic global industries. She now serves as a director on the boards of three global companies — LyondellBasell Industries N.V., one of the world’s largest plastics, chemical and refining companies; Gap Inc., a retail company with a portfolio of brands; and MassMutual Financial Group, a leading mutual life insurance company, with a number of major affiliates, including OppenheimerFunds.
After graduating from Texas ChE with highest honors, Goren joined DuPont, where she conducted nuclear waste disposal research. She went on to receive an MBA from Southern Methodist University, graduating first in her class.
Goren joined American Airlines as a financial analyst, beginning her multifaceted, 27-year career with the company. She held roles of progressively greater responsibility in areas that included human resources, revenue management, investor relations, customer services planning, Asia/Pacific operations and customer relationship marketing, before becoming Chief Financial Officer of American Airlines and AMR Corporation.
Goren is fluent in Russian. She resides in Dallas and is active in both professional organizations and philanthropic efforts. She serves on the boards of the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University and the National Association of Corporate Directors of North Texas. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum. Previously, she served on the boards of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas and Business Council for the Arts. In 2013, she received the Dallas Business Journal’s Women in Business Award.
Dr. Amar S. Sawhney (M.S. ’89, Ph.D. ‘92)
Amarpreet Sawhney is the president and CEO of Ocular Therapeutix, Inc. (NASDAQ: OCUL) and chair of Augmenix, Inc. Ocular focuses on solving unmet needs in ophthalmic drug delivery and Augmenix concentrates on absorbable materials that can help improve outcomes and targeting of radiotherapy. Prior to this, Dr. Sawhney was the founder and CEO of Confluent Surgical, a biosurgery company, (acquired by Covidien), the technology founder of Focal, Inc. (acquired by Genzyme) and of Access Closure, Inc. (acquired by Cardinal Health). Dr. Sawhney’s innovations are the subject of over 120 issued and pending patents in biomaterials and bio-surgery. His inventions include several “first of a kind” surgical sealants to be approved by the United States FDA.
Dr. Sawhney has also created a platform to support and enable other entrepreneurs via Incept LLC. Incept counts among its companies, Embolic Protection, Endo-Tex, and Sadra Medical (all acquired by Boston Scientific), Access Closure, Inc. Hotspur, Inc (acquired by Teleflex), Ostial LLC, and The Stroke Project (TSP) in California, Axtria and MarketRx in New Jersey (acquired by Cognizant), Maya Medical (acquired by Covidien) and Neurolutions in St. Louis. He currently serves on the board of directors of Axtria, The Stroke Project, Augmenix and Ocular Therapeutix.
Through his family foundation, Dr. Sawhney has been active in charitable causes that are dear to him, including education, wildlife and the environment. He is also a Friend of Alec in the Cockrell School of Engineering.
Dr. Sawhney has been recognized with several awards including being named the “Champion of Change” by the White House and an “Outstanding American by Choice” by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. MassDevice lists him among the five most innovative medical device CEOs. Dr. Sawhney’s other notable awards include: the MassMedic Best Startup Company award, the Frost and Sullivan Product Innovation award, the MIT Global Indus Technovators Award, the E&Y Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award, the Mass High Tech All Star award, the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award, the Indian Institute of Delhi Distinguished Alumni Award, and the University of Texas Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate award, and the New England Choice award.
In addition to his masters and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, Sawhney earned a B. Tech. in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.
Dr. Christine E. Schmidt (B.S. ’88)
After completing her bachelor’s degree from Texas ChE, her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow, Christine Schmidt joined Texas ChE faculty in 1996. She is currently a professor and department chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida.
Dr. Schmidt’s research focuses on developing new biomaterials and biomaterial composites that stimulate and guide appropriate healing of tissues. Her research on development of decellularized nerve tissue has been licensed and utilized in AxoGen Inc.’s Avance® nerve graft, which has impacted thousands of patients who suffer from peripheral nerve injuries. Her research is also the foundation for the start-up company, Alafair Biosciences, which focuses on internal wound care management.
Dr. Schmidt is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and serves on many external advisory boards and editorial boards for several scientific journals.
She has received numerous awards for her research and teaching contributions, including the CAREER Award and the American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. She has also received the Cockrell School’s Outstanding Engineering Teaching Award and the ING Professor of Excellence Award.