Record Five MSE Staff Nominated for Engineering Award for Excellence, Berni Premachandra Wins

The NC State University Awards for Excellence, which recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of individual employees above and beyond an employee’s normal job responsibilities, are the most prestigious honor bestowed upon non-faculty employees.

Each year, the Awards for Excellence Program commences when all colleges and business units across campus select employees to be recognized as NC State University Awards for Excellence nominees. 

2023 Awards for Excellence nominees along with Dean Martin-Vega and Associate Dean Lavelle pose for a group photo.

Of this year’s 26 nominees, four College of Engineering (COE) staff members received Awards for Excellence during a live streamed, in-person ceremony on May 2 in Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) Room 135.

Awards are given in two employment categories: Exempt from the Human Resources Act (EHRA) employees, staff who directly engage in NC State’s mission of education activities, and State Human Resources Act (SHRA) employees, staff whose responsibilities include a wide range of activities to support NC State’s mission. Two EHRA employees and two SHRA employees are chosen as award recipients.

Awards are given in the categories of Customer Service, Efficiency and Innovation, Human Relations, Outstanding State Government Service, Public Service, Safety and Heroism, and Spirit of North Carolina.

Recipients of the award receive eight hours of paid time off, a $250 check and a plaque. Additionally, they become eligible for the university-wide Awards for Excellence, considered one of the most prestigious honors that can be given to a non-faculty employee in any college or unit.

Millie Gilmartin, assistant director of finance in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, and Berni Premachandra, university program specialist in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, were both EHRA recipients in the Customer Service category.

Ryan Barton, bioprocess automation manager at BTEC, an SHRA recipient, received his award in the Efficiency and Innovation category. Susan D’Amico, engineering K-12 outreach and extension coordinator for The Engineering Place in the Office of Academic Affairs, was an SHRA recipient for the Human Relations category.

Millie Gilmartin

Gilmartin works directly with faculty and research administrators at both the College of Engineering and university levels daily. Multiple faculty members commented on Gilmartin’s prompt responses to inquiries and expressed appreciation for her help in managing research funds.

From left, Jerome Lavelle, Millie Gilmartin and Louis Martin-Vega.

In her day-to day-work for the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, Gilmartin manages finances for a diverse range of sponsored research projects, provides assistance with fiscal management and answers numerous administrative questions related to sponsored research.

Faculty members consistently give positive feedback about Gilmartin’s performance, noting she ensures compliance with cost accounting standards, university spending guidelines, federal and state regulations and sponsor terms and conditions. Her colleagues say that her sense of duty extends beyond her regular responsibilities, as evidenced by her recent action during a previous employee’s health crisis incident.

Berni Premachandra

When a recent $8 million proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Technologies for Heat Removal in Electronics at the Device Scale (THREADS) program hit the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Premachandra took charge.

From left, Jerome Lavelle, Berni Premachandra and Louis Martin-Vega.

As the proposal was for an advanced program intended to be led by industry, it was going to be a challenge for the MSE department to submit to this program as leads. Premachandra taught herself what was required while preparing templates for the information and looked for help in other university units. When no one was familiar with the preparation, she had to completely develop it. Premachandra secured the required forms and prepared the applications on the website for final submission. 

In this and more, Premachandra has gone beyond expectations to support setting up large proposals, taking responsibility for the administrative and compliance aspects so faculty members can focus on the technical aspects of proposals. Her day-to-day responsibilities are far reaching and involve both the academic centers and the partner institutions.

Ryan Barton

In a constantly evolving department, Barton has worked countless hours to ensure that BTEC is always up to speed. Barton’s colleagues noted how he continually looks for improvements to reduce labor through process automation, through custom programming of the DeltaV control system and Allen Bradley PLC.

From left, Louis Martin-Vega, Ryan Barton and Jerome Lavelle.

Barton is also heavily involved in teaching at BTEC and has developed and taught unique, hands-on courses for professionals on state-of-the art topics in the area of process control and automation for biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

He also teaches in less formal ways by frequently providing training to BTEC staff in the use of the technologies he has implemented and sharing ideas for continuous improvement. He supports BTEC’s academic courses, regularly teaching NC State students about fermentation for biopharmaceutical production.

Susan D’Amico

D’Amico’s positive and radiant energy, colleagues say, is contagious because she is truly passionate about her work.

From left, Louis Martin-Vega, Susan D'Amico and Jerome Lavelle.

Her department’s outreach programs impact over 1,000 kids annually along with teachers across North Carolina and around the world. When D’Amico started her position, there was one elementary school camp and one middle school camp. Fast forward to 2023 and there are 10 week-long day camps and 16 week-long residential programs.

Additionally, D’Amico added partnering camps across North Carolina with eight sites. Since NC State is a Research I Institution, she wants to ensure that all of the programming and education is based on the most innovative practices to date. As an industrial engineer, D’Amico is determined to make sure campers know all types of people are needed to be engineers and to ensure they know about the STEM fields.

Other EHRA nominees

  • Ganga Atukorala, Director of Finance and Administration | Nuclear Engineering
  • Rachael Gruber, Academic Advisor and Lecturer | Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Scott Latus, Educational Communications Program Manager | Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center
  • Mario Milev, Assistant Director for Graduate Programs | Nuclear Engineering
  • Leslie Rand-Pickett, Director of Graduate Career Services | Computer Science 
  • Jennifer Sollinger, Research Assistant / Lab Manager | Biomedical Engineering
  • Hillary Stone, Academic Advisor | Materials Science and Engineering

Other SHRA nominees

  • Mitch Amiano, Business & Technology Applications Analyst | Information Technology & Engineering Computer Services
  • Celeste Barton, Graduate Recruitment and Admissions Manager | Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • TraSheka Blackmond, Lead Pre-Award Consultant | Research Office
  • Helen DiPietro, Office Manager | Engineering Communications
  • Annie Erwin, Accountant | College Business and Finance Office
  • Gary Gatling, IT System Administrator II | Information Technology & Engineering Computer Services
  • Niki Jennings, Public Communications Specialist | Materials Science and Engineering
  • Chintan Kanani, Technology Support Analyst | Nuclear Engineering
  • Joseph Matthews, Research Operations Manager | Materials Science and Engineering
  • Ervin Miller, Speciality Trade Technician/Director of Technical Operations | Nuclear Engineering
  • Balamurugan Ramadoss, Human Resources Specialist | Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Laura Rohrbaugh, Coordinator CLEAR Research Core | Biomedical Engineering 
  • Ayana Ruffin, Contracts and Grants Manager | Nuclear Engineering
  • Andrew Sleeth, Graduate Admissions Manager | Computer Science 
  • Kimberly Zak, Human Resources Specialist | Materials Science and Engineering

This post was originally published in College of Engineering News.