Women Members of the College's Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy

The Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy at the University of Iowa was created to honor University of Iowa engineering alumni for their personal contribution toward engineering achievement, leadership, and service to the profession and to society.


Members have made distinguished contributions to the theory and practice of engineering or have demonstrated major accomplishments or guidance in emerging fields of engineering technology; managed or directed an organization that have made noteworthy national or international contributions in design, construction, production, or service delivery through the application of complex engineering principles, and contributed truly exceptional service to their community, the College of Engineering, the profession, and/or the public. 


The seven female members of the Academy and they career contributions are:


Lilia Abron

PhD 1972 Chemical Engineering

Dr. Lilia A. Abron is the first African-American woman in the nation, and the third woman at the University of Iowa, to receive a doctorate in chemical engineering. In 1978, she became the founder and CEO of PEER Consultants, PC, an environmental consulting firm headquartered in Washington DC. Beyond her work at PEER, Abron has been active in a number of community organizations, including serving as president of the Washington DC chapter of Jack and Jill of American, Inc., and as a board member for the Baptist Home for Children. In 2004, Dr. Abron was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.



Avery Bang

BSE 2007 Civil Engineering

In 2008, Avery Bang joined Bridges to Prosperity, eventually becoming the organization's chief executive officer.  Inspired by her passion and drive, the group has built 130 bridges in 14 countries; helped millions of people gain access to vital healthcare, educational, and commercial services; and grown its annual income to more than to more than $2 million. Her activism has earned Bang a number of prestigious and highly competitive awards, including being named in 2011 as one of the American Society of Civil Engineers' New Faces of Civil Engineering, in 2012 as one of the Engineering-News Record's (ENR) Top 25 Newsmakers, and in 2013 to the ENR Mountain Region's Top 20 Under 40 list.


Pearl Cheng

BS 1981 in Biomedical Engineering

Pearl Cheng joined the NASA-Ames Research Center where she developed life science experiments that were used in various space missions. Her projects have been carried on the Galileo Probe to Jupiter, the Mars Pathfinder, and the Lunar Prospector. In addition to her scientific contributions, she chaired advisory boards and received a number of group achievement and mentoring awards, and was selected for the NASA Honor Award for Equal Employment Opportunity for her leadership and proactive efforts in advancing equal employment opportunity. She also served as associate director of the Information Sciences Directorate just prior to leaving NASA.


Patricia Coleman

BS 1978 in Civil Engineering

Pat Coleman is retired principal at Thornton Tomasetti.  She formerly led the health care market sector at the firm. During her career, she managed complex engineering projects, including Samsung Global Engineering headquarters, Seoul, South Korea; the Mary Kay corporate headquarters expansion; NEC America, Inc.; University of Miami Student Activity Center and Whitten University Center; and Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, Acute Care expansion. She has been involved with the ACE Mentor Program of Dallas-Ft. Worth, and on the board of directors since 2003. She also serves as chair of the National Affiliates Council, ACE Mentor Program of America. The program is a volunteer organization of professionals who mentor underprivileged high school students in 180 cities.


Dr. Kook-Wha Koh

PhD 1970 in Chemical Engineering

Dr. Koh founded Chrysan Industries, Inc. in November 1977.  Headquartered in Plymouth, MI, the company has become a leading global supplier of automotive lubricants and specialty chemicals. Her PhD, thesis, Crystallinity and Density in Permeation of Carbon Dioxide and Water Vapor through Polymers, focused on better understanding aspects of polymers as they influence separations with the goal of developing better membranes for specific separation applications. She also secured a postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University where she joined the renowned artificial heart program led by Michael DeBakey, MD.



Professor Margaret S. Petersen

BS 1947 in Civil Engineering, MS 1953 in Mechanics and Hydraulics

Before her death, Prof. Petersen was one of the nation's leading hydraulic engineers at time when it was not common for women to practice engineering.

Petersen became an engineering professor at the University of Arizona. There she developed new graduate coursework in hydraulic engineering, wrote the well-known textbook River Engineering (1986), and became an invited lecturer and consultant in several foreign countries.



Barbara J. Sines

BS 1980 in Industrial Engineering

Barbara Sines is retired vice president of manufacturing at Siemens Healthcare, Boston, MA. A senior level executive with 30 years experience leading global businesses within industrial manufacturing companies, her background includes global profit and loss, strategic planning, engineering and development, marketing and manufacturing. In addition to managing a highly technical business, she has served as a mentor to fellow employees worldwide, and was one of the driving forces behind the implementation of company wide programs designed to improve and accelerate performance.