UMass Lowell Challenge Grants Spur Research, Community Reach

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney today announced the latest recipients of 2020 Challenge Grants who will use the awards to launch new initiatives on campus and in the community.

The micro-grant program, now in its second round, is awarding 20 grants of $1,000 each as a facet of Moloney’s First 90 (#First90) Initiative. Spanning the first three months of her administration, the campaign is focused on collaborating with UMass Lowell students, faculty and staff, as well as community members to develop new ideas to help the university achieve the goals of the second phase of “UMass Lowell 2020: A Strategic Plan for the Next Decade.”

During her eight years as executive vice chancellor, Moloney led the development of the first phase of the 10-year plan, which has guided UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history. Accomplishments include a 50 percent increase in enrollment, the opening of 11 new buildings, a rise in national rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment, a 115 percent increase in diversity among incoming students and record fundraising totaling more than $144 million. A blueprint for UMass Lowell’s future, the plan is based on the university’s Pillars of Excellence and calls for the institution to grow enrollment, enhance academic and research facilities, increase investment in research by faculty and students, and cultivate even stronger ties to the community through the rest of the decade.

Nine individuals received grants in the first round of funding awarded last month. One more round of awards will be made by the end of the fall semester.

“It has been tremendously rewarding for me and everyone involved with the 2020 Challenge Grant program to see it take shape and flourish,” Moloney said. “These latest projects developed by UMass Lowell faculty, students and local organizations will enrich the campus and the community.”

Recipients of the second round of 2020 Challenge Grants are:

  • Terry Fox-Koor, plastics engineering student, who will create new opportunities for UMass Lowell students to further develop entrepreneurship skills through open mic events that will allow students to share their ideas for new ventures, products and services. The project builds on UMass Lowell’s highly successful DifferenceMaker Program.
  • Debra-Nicole Huber, Music Department faculty, who will create an opportunity for high-school musicians from throughout the Merrimack Valley to attend a Boston Symphony Orchestra rehearsal and use technology to simulate what it’s like to be a member of the ensemble. The project expands UMass Lowell’s existing partnership with the BSO and the Department of Music’s instruction and performance programs for young musicians.
  • Rohit Krishnan, a computer science and electrical engineering major, who will lead a student team in developing assistive technology that uses drones to help detect risks and prevent impending injuries to people. The project was inspired by a character in the film “Big Hero 6.”
  • Ivy Ho, Psychology Department faculty, who will work with UMass Lowell’s Center for Asian American Studies and Center for Public Opinion on a research project aimed at increasing voter participation among the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities in Lowell.
  • Diana Archibald, English Department faculty, whose grant will support two service-learning projects for UMass Lowell students – one at the Tsongas Industrial History Center, the other at Lowell National Historical Park – for which the students will draw upon the Steampunk movement and their study of author Charles Dickens, who once visited Lowell, to create interactive, educational exhibits for the public.
  • Gabrielle Davis, from the community group Made in Lowell, who will travel through Lowell in a remodeled recreational vehicle to meet with and gather the stories of residents in each of the city’s neighborhoods. These histories will then be available to the public through programs and events presented by the community development organization.

The 2020 Challenge Grant recipients were determined by a committee chaired by Economics Prof. Carol McDonough and UMass President Emeritus Jack Wilson, who serves as university distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation at UMass Lowell. The committee is comprised of representatives of each of the groups eligible for grants: UMass Lowell’s faculty, staff and student body, and members of the community.

“The creativity and diversity evidenced in all of the 2020 Challenge Grant program’s submitted proposals is truly inspiring,” McDonough said. “We are grateful to the committee members for their time and expertise during the selection process as we worked to choose the best of the best for the university’s support.”

“These winning proposals will not only expand educational experiences for UMass Lowell students but offer learning opportunities for members of the Greater Lowell community from every background. I look forward to building on this success through the next round of grant funding,” said Wilson.

UMass Lowell to Inaugurate New Chancellor

UMass Lowell will inaugurate its new chancellor – the first woman to lead the university in its 121-year history – on Thursday, Oct. 22 at a ceremony that is one of several events showcasing the university and raising funds for student scholarships and applied learning opportunities.

The inauguration’s theme is “Making a Difference Together, Leading through Innovation,” a phrase that well summarizes Moloney’s approach to her work throughout her more than three decades at UMass Lowell. Moloney, who earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at UMass Lowell, has served in a variety of roles at the university. Those include dean of the Division of Online and Continuing Education, where she launched UMass Lowell’s award-winning online education operation 18 years ago, and founding director of the Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services.

Most recently, Moloney was UMass Lowell’s executive vice chancellor, spearheading the strategic-planning process that resulted in the greatest period of growth at the university to date, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment and the opening of 11 new buildings.

As chancellor, Moloney is carrying that 10-year strategic plan, “UMass Lowell 2020: A Strategic Plan for the Next Decade,” forward with the input of faculty, students and staff gained via a variety of events and programs on campus and in the community that are part of her First 90 initiative. The #First90 effort also includes the 2020 Challenge Grant program that is providing $1,000 microgrants to those who have creative ideas to implement new efforts that advance the goals of the strategic plan.

Moloney, who is the third chancellor of the university, will be inaugurated at a ceremony at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 that is expected to draw more than 1,000 people, including faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as community leaders and other supporters of UMass Lowell.

At the event, Moloney will deliver an inaugural address and Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande – champion of entrepreneurship and innovation as catalysts for sustainable change and economic growth – will give the keynote speech. Deshpande, president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC and chairman of Tejas Networks, has launched and run several other companies, as well as co-founding the Deshpande Foundation and Merrimack Valley Sandbox at UMass Lowell. The annual Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, which he established with the university, brings participants from around the world to UMass Lowell every summer.

Speakers are also scheduled to include John Pulichino, a UMass Lowell graduate and successful entrepreneur after whom – along with his wife, Joy Tong – the university’s new business school building is being named, and Prof. Susan Braunhut, a nationally recognized expert on cancer diagnosis and treatment, limb restoration and regeneration, and biosensors for use in counter-terrorism efforts.

Other participants in the ceremony will include UMass President Marty Meehan, whom Moloney replaces as chancellor of UMass Lowell; Victor Woolridge, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees; Marcellette Williams, UMass senior vice president for academic and student affairs and international relations; state Sen. Eileen Donoghue; Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliott; City Manager Kevin Murphy; Patricia McCafferty, UMass Lowell vice chancellor of university relations; Joanne Yestramski, vice chancellor for finance and operations; UMass Lowell Provost Donald Pierson; UMass Lowell Student Trustee Amanda Robinson, a business administration major from Hingham; Student Government Association President James Christopher, a political science and philosophy major from Peabody; and Imogene Stulken, campus minister. The UMass Lowell Marching Band and UMass Lowell Gospel Choir will provide music for the event.

On the evening of Oct. 22, the university will host an inaugural gala in Moloney’s honor at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center that will serve as a fundraiser for the new Chancellor Jacqueline F. Moloney Endowed Scholarship. Information on tickets for the gala, as well as sponsorship opportunities, is available at www.uml.edu/Chancellor/inauguration/default.aspx. The inauguration is expected to raise more than $1 million for scholarships and applied learning opportunities for UMass Lowell students.

The inauguration ceremony and gala are among a number events over the week that will showcase the diversity of UMass Lowell’s academic, research, athletic and alumni programs. The events, all of which are part of the chancellor’s First 90 (#First90) initiative, include:
· DifferenceMaker Celebration – Participants in the DifferenceMaker Program, which Moloney founded to teach students in all majors entrepreneurial skills that they can use to develop innovative solutions to issues in business and the community, will gather to hear from Ron Insana, CNBC business analyst and commentator, and successful UMass Lowell alumni. Wednesday, Oct. 21, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., University Crossing, 220 Pawtucket St., Lowell.
· River Hawk Homecoming – UMass Lowell’s homecoming weekend will feature a host of activities for all ages, from sporting events and reunions – such as Moloney’s 40th, which includes a reception for the Class of 1975 on Friday, Oct. 23 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. – to the 17th annual Jennifer’s Fun Run/Walk and the “Hawkey Way” festival on the grounds of the Tsongas Center. Friday, Oct. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 25; full schedule available at www.uml.edu/homecoming.
· “Sounds of Portugal” concert – A performance of Portuguese folk music known as fado by musicians Ana Laíns, Santo Costa and Tô Neto will be presented by the Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research. Friday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m., Durgin Hall, South Campus, 35 Wilder St., Lowell.

LGH Auxiliary’s 29th annual Taste of the Town Features Greater Lowell’s Top Culinary Talents

The Lowell General Hospital Auxiliary presents its signature event this weekend when the 29th annual Taste of the Town brings together some of the region’s finest culinary talents for an evening of fine cuisine and amazing prizes.

More than a dozen of Merrimack Valley eateries will take center stage on Sunday, Oct. 26 beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center in downtown Lowell. The night will also feature a live auction, featuring a Royal Caribbean cruise that comes with two $500 AmEx gift cards, and several raffle baskets.

Featured restaurants providing tastings include 110 Grill, Bishop’s Legacy Restaurant, Evviva Cucina, I Dream of Jeanne Cakes, Nobo Restaurant, PigTale Restaurant, Ricardo’s Trattoria, Sal’s Pizza, Sodexo, Stonehedge Inn & Spa, Cobblestones/Moonstones, Two Chefs Are Better Than One, UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, British Beer Company and more.

Last year’s event raised more than $60,000 for the patients and services of Lowell General Hospital. Advance ticket purchase is required for this popular annual event. Ticket prices range from $75 and may be purchased by calling the Lowell General Hospital Philanthropy Office at (978) 937-6696 or by emailing Kelly.Will@lowellgeneral.org.

Middlesex Community College Inaugurates Fourth President

Dr. James C. Mabry was inaugurated as Middlesex Community College’s fourth president Oct. 15 in a formal ceremony on the Bedford Campus Quad.

“Community colleges are built on the twin pillars of access and success,” said Mabry to the audience of faculty, staff, students, friends and family, plus members of the MCC Board of Trustees, college presidents and state education officials. “I believe now more than ever, we need to do everything in our power to promote a system of higher education that is open to all and build pathways to success for everyone who walks through our doors.”

An avid triathlete, Inauguration Day reflected President Mabry’s penchant for fitness. Festivities began with an early-morning 5K Fitness Trail Walk/Run, followed by group activities such as high-impact training, yoga, meditation, and volleyball.

Following the ceremony, the MCC Foundation hosted a fundraiser at Lowell’s historic John Nesmith House to support the Dr. James C. & Judith G. Mabry Completion Scholarship. The new scholarship will assist worthy students who are struggling financially to attend school full time and complete their associate degree.

After an extensive national search, the MCC Board of Trustees unanimously voted in December 2014 to name Mabry MCC’s fourth president. He assumed his post in late February.

President Mabry holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Columbia University, and a Master of Science degree from The London School of Economics. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University’s School of General Studies, and his associate degree from the University of Maryland Overseas Division.

Before coming to Middlesex, President Mabry served as Vice President of Academic Affairs for Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz. – the largest of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College District, which enrolls more than 125,000 students.

President Mabry was also Dean of Academic Affairs at Palm Beach State College, South Campus, in Boca Raton, Fla. He served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he was also an Assistant Professor of History. Mabry began his career as a high school social studies teacher in the New York City public schools system.

Scholarship and Reception to Honor MCC President James C. Mabry

The Middlesex Community College Foundation has established a scholarship in honor of MCC’s new president, Dr. James C. Mabry, and his wife, Judith G. Mabry.

“I want all community college students to have an opportunity to learn and to succeed,” said President Mabry. “Whether working or raising a family, or both, whether right out of high school or coming back or just starting out, I want higher education to be accessible to them – and I want to create learning environments that are welcoming and promote their success.” 

The Dr. James C. & Judith G. Mabry Completion Scholarship will assist worthy students who have completed a significant portion of the coursework required for their intended associate degree at Middlesex, but are struggling financially to continue their course of study. It is intended to lighten the financial burden and make it possible for students to attend full time and complete their associate degree.

The MCC Foundation will host a reception to support the Mabry Completion Scholarship from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, at the John Nesmith House, 229 Andover St., Lowell. Tickets are $150 per person.

Scholarship donations may also be mailed to: The MCC Foundation, P.O. Box 716, Bedford, MA 01730. Please make checks payable to the MCC Foundation and reference the MCCF Mabry Scholarship.

The fundraiser follows President Mabry’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, on the Bedford Campus Quad, 591 Springs Road.

For further Inauguration Day information – and to purchase fundraiser tickets – visit: https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/inauguration For more information about the Mabry Completion Scholarship or the reception, please call Dennis Malvers at 781-280-3514.

Exhibit of Jack Kerouac’s Belongings Opens at UMass Lowell

Keepsakes and items that belonged to “On the Road” author Jack Kerouac from his last home – including his desk, handmade carriers for his cats and figurines the writer held dear – will go on display in the exhibit “Kerouac Retrieved: Items from the John Sampas Collection.”

The exhibit’s opening will feature UMass Lowell professors Michael Millner and Todd Tietchen, who visited Kerouac’s former Florida home at the behest of Sampas, the executor of Kerouac’s literary estate, to bring the writer’s belongings to UMass Lowell. Millner is the director of the university’s Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities, while Tietchen has edited several volumes of Kerouac’s work. The pair will reflect on how being in the author’s home and caring for his belongings has informed their work and transformed their view of him.

Kerouac’s upbringing in Lowell inspired much of his writing. The exhibit offers a glimpse into the author’s domestic side, which is seemingly at odds with his public persona as a cultural rebel. Kerouac died in October 1969 at age 47.

Along with Millner and Tietchen, speakers are scheduled to include UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney. The event is part of the new chancellor’s First 90 initiative (#First90), which focuses the first three months of her administration on programs and events on campus and in the community that align with the second phase of the university’s strategic plan, “UMass Lowell 2020.”

Following the opening, “Race, Ethnicity and the American Hipster: A Panel Discussion,” moderated by UMass Lowell English Prof. Keith Mitchell, will be held at 3:30 p.m. The panel is among the university’s Kerouac-related events that complement the exhibit.

 “Kerouac Retrieved” is open to the public during weekday business hours at Allen House on UMass Lowell’s South Campus. Members of the public who wish to arrange a curated visit should email Shaima_Ragab@uml.edu in advance. Admission to the exhibit and related programs is free. More information is available at www.jackkerouac.com.

UMass Lowell Chancellor Announces Challenge Grant Recipients

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney today announced the recipients of the first round of 2020 Challenge Grants that provide funding to launch new initiatives on campus and in the community to help the university achieve its goals.

The micro-grant program is awarding 20 grants of $1,000 each through Moloney’s First 90 (#First90) Initiative. Launched shortly after Moloney was named chancellor, she is focusing her first three months on working with UMass Lowell students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community to develop new ideas to further the second phase of “UMass Lowell 2020,” the university’s strategic plan.

The first phase of UMass Lowell’s 10-year plan, launched with Moloney’s leadership during her eight years as executive vice chancellor, has served to guide UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment, the opening of 11 new buildings, a rise in national rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment, a 115 percent increase in diversity among incoming students and record fundraising totaling more than $144 million. The plan, which is based on UMass Lowell’s Pillars of Excellence, calls for the university to continue on its path toward a larger and even more diverse student body, improved academic and research facilities, increased investment in research by faculty and students, and even stronger ties to the community.

 “Through the 2020 Challenge Grants, faculty, staff, students and community members are developing new and innovative ideas to make a difference on our campus and in our city,” said Moloney. “The creativity and commitment of the campus and Lowell communities are apparent in the quality of the proposals submitted in this first round.”

Recipients of the first round of 2020 Challenge Grants are:

Eliza Bobek, Graduate School of Education faculty, who will use her grant to create a makerspace at the Bartlett Community Partnership School in Lowell that will give students in kindergarten through grade 8 an innovative new setting in which to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with the help of UMass Lowell students.

  • Kelly Bowes, Residence Life staff, who will lead the creation of a new alternative spring break program through which students will gain valuable experiential education while assisting in the community by volunteering with a Lowell-based nonprofit organization.
  • Maria Brunette, Department of Work Environment faculty, who will create new opportunities for UMass Lowell students to take part in a global public health research project on issues affecting resource-poor communities in South America and to present the results of that research at an international conference on public health.
  • Annie Ciaraldi, Student Affairs staff, who will create a peer education program to train participants to teach fellow students about protecting their health and preventing violence in any setting, including bystander training, consent education and suicide prevention.
  • Gladys Kibunyi, biology student, who will work with fellow members of the UMass Lowell chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers to host a regional pre-college initiative event for high school students of diverse backgrounds with the goal of encouraging them to pursue higher education in engineering- and science-related fields.
  • Allison Lamey, city of Lowell Economic Development Department, who will work with the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) to open “a COOL place,” a pop-up retail store that will operate during the holiday season in the city’s downtown, featuring merchandise made by local artists and managed with the help of UMass Lowell students.
  • Paul Marion, Community Relations staff, who will work with a variety of local partners to expand the “First Thursdays” program in downtown Lowell – which showcases the arts and cultural venues, local restaurants and retailers, the Lowell National Historical Park and unique architecture – to include new features such as live music by UMass Lowell performers.
  • Phitsamay Uy, Graduate School of Education faculty, who will work with a UMass Lowell student fluent in Khmer and staff in the Lowell Public Schools to produce a video in Khmer to help parents who are not proficient in English better understand American schools.
  • Nana Younge, plastics engineering student, will create “Get Girls Going,” a new program for at-risk teen girls aimed at helping them overcome barriers to reaching their goals through education and with support from female college students who will serve as mentors.

The 2020 Challenge Grant recipients were determined by a committee chaired by Economics Prof. Carol McDonough and UMass president emeritus Jack Wilson, who serves as university distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation at UMass Lowell. The committee is comprised of representatives of each of the groups eligible for grants: UMass Lowell’s faculty, staff and student body, and members of the community.

“We are thankful to the committee for the time they have committed to reviewing and awarding the grants,” said McDonough. “There is great diversity of disciplines and expertise on the committee and we have had positive discussions about how to help implement the ideas, even those that do not ultimately get funded through the 2020 Challenge Grant program.”

“I was excited not only by the number of applications we received, but the strength of the applications overall,” said Wilson. “Many of the applicants presented an idea that would benefit multiple groups in the university community, including faculty, staff, students, and citizens of Lowell and the region.”

Middlesex Community College to Inaugurate Fourth President

Middlesex Community College will inaugurate its fourth president, Dr. James C. Mabry, on Thursday, Oct. 15. A formal inauguration ceremony will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Bedford Campus Quad, 591 Springs Road.

Following the ceremony, the MCC Foundation will host a fundraiser to support the Dr. James C. & Judith G. Mabry Completion Scholarship from 4 to 6 p.m. at the John Nesmith House, 229 Andover St., Lowell. Tickets to the fundraiser are $150 per person.

The Dr. James C. and Judith G. Mabry Completion Scholarship will assist worthy students who have completed a significant portion of the coursework required for their intended associate degree at Middlesex, but are struggling financially to continue their course of study. It is intended to lighten the financial burden and make it possible for students to attend full time and complete their associate degree.

For further Inauguration Day information – and to purchase fundraiser tickets – visit:

www.middlesex.mass.edu/inauguration

Following an extensive national search, the MCC Board of Trustees unanimously voted in December 2014 to name Dr. Mabry MCC’s fourth president. He assumed his post in late February.

Mabry holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Columbia University, and a Master of Science degree from The London School of Economics. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University’s School of General Studies, and his associate degree from the University of Maryland Overseas Division.

Before becoming President of Middlesex, Dr. Mabry served as Vice President of Academic Affairs for Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz. – the largest of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa Community College District, which enrolls more than 125,000 students.

Dr. Mabry was also Dean of Academic Affairs at Palm Beach State College, South Campus, in Boca Raton, Fla. He served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he was also an Assistant Professor of History. Mabry began his career as a high school social studies teacher in the New York City public schools system.

Middlesex Awarded State Grant to Expand Dual Enrollment

Middlesex Community College has been awarded a $46,000 Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) to expand
dual-enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost.

The grant will enable MCC’s Dual Enrollment Academy to increase college participation – especially among under-represented, low-income, minority and first-generation-to-college students – by increasing financial support for eligible students, according to Ellen Grondine, MCC Associate Dean of Educational Pathways.

“The value of dual enrollment is it exposes many first-generation students to the rigor and value of college-level courses,” explained Grondine. “We want to help these students become college-ready before they graduate from high school.

“Our Dual Enrollment Academy students can graduate with anywhere from three to 15 college credits, which contributes to college-degree completion and can reduce student-loan debt,” she said. “This grant will allow us to expand the number of dual-enrollment students, and provide financial support for those who might not otherwise be able to participate.”

The grant will also support increasing Dual Enrollment Academy outreach to parents, and assist in creating curriculum-alignment workshops between Middlesex and participating high school faculty, added Grondine.

MCC’s Dual Enrollment Academy currently has partnerships with more than 10 regional high schools and technical/vocational schools, according to Grondine. It currently enrolls more than 500 high school students in a wide variety of Middlesex courses each semester.

For more information about MCC’s Dual Enrollment Academy, visit: https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/dualenroll/default.aspx

For further information about the DHE’s Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership, visit: http://www.mass.edu/strategic/read_cdep.asp

Robotics Researcher Earns Highest Honor from UMass Lowell

LOWELL, Mass. – Renowned robotics expert Holly Yanco has been named Distinguished University Professor, the highest distinction bestowed on a University of Massachusetts Lowell faculty member.

Yanco, a computer science professor, established UMass Lowell’s Robotics Lab and has secured more than $7 million in research grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, Google and the Army Research Office, among others. As the founder and director of the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at UMass Lowell, she leads one of the country’s most advanced robotics testing facilities. The center evaluates the strength, durability, design and functionality of robots being developed by researchers and companies.

Yanco has taught at the university for 14 years. UMass Lowell previously recognized her with its Faculty Award for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in the Sciences.

“The Distinguished University Professor honor recognizes faculty for their exceptional teaching, research and service to UMass Lowell,” said Donald Pierson, UMass Lowell’s provost, the university’s chief academic officer. “Throughout her time at the university, Prof. Yanco has demonstrated again and again that she is most deserving of this appointment.”

Yanco teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in subjects including computer programming and robotics. The robotics minor at UMass Lowell was developed with Yanco’s help and she established the Artbotics Program, combining art and robotics in a curriculum for high school and college students. Under her direction, a team of UMass Lowell students won a national NASA contest for their work to build and operate a Mars rover-style robot.

Beyond UMass Lowell, Yanco serves as steering committee co-chairwoman of a prestigious international conference and journal on human-robot interaction presented by the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She is helping to grow the estimated $1.9 billion robotics industry in Massachusetts as well as assisting researchers in other states. She is a past recipient of a Women to Watch Award from Mass High Tech.

“It’s an honor to have been selected as this year’s Distinguished University Professor, given how many excellent faculty members we have at UMass Lowell,” Yanco said. “All of the students who are in my lab or who have worked there in the past are the reason that I am being recognized. Their ideas, hard work and collaborative spirit make the Robotics Lab and NERVE Center places where I look forward to working every day.”

Yanco thanked colleagues and mentors Thomas Costello, UMass Lowell professor emeritus of computer science; Prof. Jie Wang, chairman of the university’s Computer Science Department; and UMass Lowell Vice Provost for Research Julie Chen for their support of her work.

A campus reception to honor Yanco will be held later in the fall semester. As part of her appointment, she will deliver the annual Distinguished University Professor lecture on a topic related to her research during the spring 2016 semester.

The Distinguished University Professor, a three-year designation, is awarded annually by UMass Lowell. Yanco’s term runs through August 2018. Other honorees include Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Pradeep Kurup, whose appointment runs through 2017, and Prof. Laura Punnett of the Department of Work Environment, whose appointment concludes in 2016. Past recipients include Plastics Engineering Prof. Stephen McCarthy, Mathematics Education Prof. Regina Panasuk, Physics Prof. Robert Giles, Work Environment Prof. Ken Geiser and Biology Prof. Susan Braunhut.

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