Academy of Science & Engineering

The new Academy members are pictured above (from left to right): SCSE Dean Wendy Reed, Cary Scheiderer, PhD., Dr. Robert Mitchell, Dr. Tamara Diedrich and UMD Chancellor Lendley C. Black.

Established in 2002

The Academy of Science and Engineering was established by Dean James P. Riehl to publicly recognize distinguished alumni and special  friends of Swenson College who have distinguished themselves through commitment and leadership in their chosen profession. It is the highest honor bestowed by the Swenson College of Science and Engineering. We have more than 15,000 alumni and each year a handful are nominated by their departments for induction into the Academy of Science and Engineering. Since its inception, 74 members have been inducted into the Academy.

Academy of Science and Engineering logo

2019 Inductees

On Friday, October 11, three new Academy members were inducted into the Swenson College Academy of Science & Engineering: 

Dr. Tamara Diedrich

Dr. Tamara Diedrich received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from UMD in 1999. Her interest in mineralogy and geochemistry was kindled by an undergraduate research project on carbonate mineralogy of the Biwabik Iron Formation, which she completed with the advisement of Dr. Penny Morton.

After UMD, she went on to study high pressure experimental mineralogy and geochemistry at Arizona State University. In 2007, Tami received a PhD and returned to Duluth to take a position as Group Leader of the Mineral and Particle Characterization Group at the Natural Resources Research Institute.

At NRRI, Tami worked on developing protocols for taconite particulate characterization and conducted applied research on beneficial reuse of taconite byproducts. In 2010, she left Duluth with her family for an NSF International Research Postdoctoral Fellowship at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France. At the completion of the fellowship, she returned to Minnesota to a position with Barr Engineering Company, where she worked to develop a mining geochemistry practice within that firm.

In 2016, Tami founded MineraLogic LLC, a specialty geochemistry consultancy, based out of Duluth. As Principal Geochemist, she helps mining companies predict and limit their environmental impact by developing technical programs to understand the potential geochemical interactions between minerals, water, and atmosphere on their projects.

Dr. Robert Mitchell

Dr. Robert Mitchell grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and an MS in Geophysics from Michigan Technological University (MTU) before attending UMD. He earned an MS degree in Physics from UMD in 1990 and became an instructor in UMD’s Chemical Engineering Department teaching the engineering mechanics sequence.

In 1991, Bob returned to MTU as a GAANN PhD Fellow and received a PhD in Environmental Engineering in 1996. Since then, he has been a faculty member in the Geology Department at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. He currently serves as the Digges Distinguished Professor of Engineering Geology. Bob’s research includes modeling the effects of forecasted climate change on mountain hydrology and hillslope processes and has been instrumental to management and policy decisions regarding water quantity and quality in Washington State.

He has held leadership positions in state and national professional organizations and Bob currently serves on the Board of the Environmental & Engineering Division of the Geological Society of America.

Cary Scheiderer, PhD

Cary Scheiderer, PhD, graduated from UMD in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She then earned a PhD in neurobiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After serving two years as a secondary education Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso, Cary transitioned into science policy via a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This led to a Senior Policy and Research Analyst position with the Obama administration’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues where Cary led a report on privacy issues surrounding whole genome sequencing.

Cary has held policy analyst positions at the National Institutes of Health and worked on initiatives related to bioethics, protection of participants in research, privacy, and the future of the biomedical workforceCurrently, Cary is a Senior Merit Review Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, where she is responsible for organizing and managing the review of research applications. In this role, she works with scientists, patients, physicians, and other healthcare stakeholders.

2018 Inductees

Thomas J. Frantes

Frantes grew up in the Twin Cities and received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology at UMD in 1979. He later earned a master’s degree and became a licensed geoscientist. Most of his career was spent conducting oil and gas exploration activities for ExxonMobil which took him to every continent except Antarctica. He has always been fascinated with rocks and fossils and his passion for geology and geophysics led to executive positions in his field. In addition, Frantes helped to advance research related to artificial intelligence and three-dimensional visualization for mapping subsurface sediments. After 36 years at ExxonMobil, he is now enjoying his retirement with his wife Beth at their ranch in The Woodlands, Texas.

Minh Chau Nguyen

Nguyen graduated from UMD with a degree in chemistry in 1998 and a master’s degree in organic chemistry in 2000. He started his career at Medtox Lab in New Brighton, MN and then a few years later transitioned to the role of forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) at the Western Laboratory in San Francisco, CA. He is now a senior forensic chemist and works closely with law enforcement, special agents and prosecutors on drug evidence. Nguyen immigrated to the US from Vietnam only a few years before starting at UMD and maintains a connection with his native country through charitable work. He has even provided training at the National Forensic lab in Vietnam. He continues to be involved at UMD, too, by providing surplus lab instruments and introducing students to the programs at UMD.

Kodi Jean Verhalen, P.E., Esq., F.NSPE

VerHalen graduated from UMD in 2004 with a degree in chemical engineering and has already distinguished herself in her field. In 2010, she received a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law while working in environmental engineering for a Minnesota electric utility. She is now a shareholder and attorney at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Briggs and Morgan, P.A. in the areas of energy and environmental law. She maintains a connection with her engineering peers through involvement in the National Society of Professional Engineers. She was the third woman and youngest person in the history of the group to serve its 31,000 members as president from 2016 to 2017. She has received numerous awards and in her spare time supports the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital by participating on committees that raise more than $1 million annually for child and family support services.

Full list of Academy Members