UF honors 40 successful alumni at the Orange & Blue football game, including three engineers
The annual Outstanding Young Alumni awards program was established in 2006 to recognize alumni under the age of 40 whose achievements positively reflect The Gator Nation. 40 Under 40 will continue the tradition of honoring Gators who are reflecting leadership and innovation in their communities and professions. The awards were announced prior to the Orange & Blue spring football game on April 13.
Criteria for the competitive award include making a significant impact on the candidate’s industry and having civic or professional accomplishments at the state, national or international level. This description is a solid reflection of the three engineering alumni who are part of 2019’s 40 under 40.
Philip Barish, Senior Vice President of Operations and R&D for AbSci has over 17 years of experience in bioengineering research, with expertise in bioprocessing, molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, protein expression and gene therapy. At AbSci, Barish is responsible for managing research and development activities as well as overseeing business development and strategic partnerships.
His own days as a UF engineering student were filled with exciting opportunities. Barish recounts, “During the first year of graduate school I worked on a group project utilizing an EEG that allowed people to control a video game with their minds. Through combining an EEG and basic signal processing algorithms, our team created a program that allowed us to navigate a beginner level of a first person shooter game. It was a fascinating engineering project that combined elements of neuroscience and software development to provide a window into brain-machine interfacing.”
Things he learned at UF helped Barish take the lead in innovating for success. He said, “AbSci collaborates with leading pharmaceutical companies to enable step-changes in productivity to their bio-pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing. One of the exciting things about working in startups is that you’re often called onto projects where you lack specific expertise. As our company grew, we had a need to develop a fermentation process for protein production, but we had no one with those credentials in-house. Optimizing fermentation is primarily an exercise in process development, precisely the things you are taught as an engineer, so I volunteered to take on the task. I was able to build out and lead an entire team dedicated to fermentation, which ultimately led me to my current position.”
Sarvenaz Myslicki was hired as Engineering Director at American Express in September 2018. Her job was to lead the digital transformation of a team of 60 engineers and modernize the company’s technology applications to enable higher quality and data intelligence. Within 90 days, she delivered the first phase of a re-platforming strategy that is bringing significant incremental revenue to the company annually.
Myslicki remembers UF as an incubator for her leadership and innovation skills: “Collectively, my experiences within engineering student organizations were the most memorable and impactful for me. My time as president of the Society of Women Engineers and Benton Engineering Council were fundamental in shaping me into the leader I am today. Even when I look back to my first committee chair position as a freshman in 2009, it is clear that UF Engineering helped me discover, ignite, and foster my passion for leadership.”
“The University of Florida provided me with so much more than a degree. It taught me how to tackle complex problems, collaborate on cross-functional teams, lead without authority, and so much more. On top of a strong computer science foundation, it presented me with countless opportunities to gain the skills that are essential, yet often overlooked in the workforce. UF Engineering prepared me for success in more ways than I ever could have imagined, and truly helped me jump-start my career,” Myslicki added.
Marcus Johnson serves as the Deputy Product Manager for NASA Ames Research Center. He leads the technical and programmatic aspects of the NASA UAS Traffic Management (UTM) project, ensuring that the research and development is aligned among government agencies, industry, and internationally. In 2014 Johnson was one of a small group of engineers at NASA who developed a concept for managing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, entering the U.S. national air space.
Johnson has many wonderful memories from UF and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, but two experiences were most memorable and influential on his career path. “First, the STEPUP program was an inspiring program that offered a challenging environment to transition and build the skills to excel in college. Most importantly, it established my professional support network and created friendships that I still maintain today,” Johnson said.
He added, “Second, my experience working in Dr. Warren Dixon’s lab as an National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates student introduced me to research and thinking ‘beyond the textbooks’. This experience gave me an outlet for my creativity and an application for the technical knowledge I was receiving from my classes. It set the stage for a career dedicated to engineering research and development.”
Johnson summed up the impact of his engineering degree on his career, saying, “The UF brand and the UF network were helpful early on in establishing my career. However, the most significant value of my education at UF has been the skills I developed to critically analyze complex problems and come up with actionable solutions, communicate complex ideas in simple terms, and to work effectively with groups of people with diverse backgrounds.”