Envision Alumni Edition Fall 2018

Recent PhD grads discuss their work as AAAS Fellows

Since August 2017, USF College of Engineering alumna Colleen Naughton, Ph.D., has served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC is an independent U.S. Government foreign aid agency in Washington, D.C. and aims to accomplish "poverty reduction through economic growth." The MCC handles large infrastructure projects – $50 million to $700 million dollars – in developing countries that show commitment to certain values such as practicing good governance, combating gender and social inequality, promoting economic freedom and fighting corruption.

Due to Naughton’s background in international sustainable development, she was placed in the AAAS fellowship’s Environmental and Social Performance and Monitoring and Evaluation Practice groups. In this role, she has been promoting effective use of mapping through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) of projects through a systems approach. That is, she considers how a social development project will affect the total balance of a population’s needs – namely food, energy and water – instead of how it would affect only a single target issue.

colleen naughton

Colleen Naughton, PhD '16

“I am helping develop the $200 million water scarcity project in Tunisia as well as mapping for the rural land titling project in Morocco (with MCC),” Naughton said. 

A former Peace Corps volunteer with over four years of experience in West Africa, Naughton is fluent in English, French and Bambara. She completed both her dissertation and postdoctoral work with a focus on global water, sanitation, hygiene and food security under James Mihelcic, Ph.D., in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USF.

During the AAAS fellowship, Naughton has received training in large-scale international development as well as science and policy. More broadly, it has helped to enhance her professional development in several important areas.

“I have had to switch gears from academia to communicating scientific topics and tools for non-scientific audiences,” Naughton said. “I have transitioned in my doctoral program from writing 30 journal articles and a 100-page dissertation to two to 10-page memos on topics important to the agency on short deadlines. The fellowship has been truly transformative for me. My training at USF helped me get accepted and prepared me well for the fellowship.”

In January 2019, Naughton will begin a faculty appointment as an assistant professor in environmental engineering at the University of California-Merced to conduct domestic and international development research.

“My research will focus on developing sustainable and culturally-sensitive food-energy-water systems to solve global grand challenges to reduce hunger, poverty and provide quality access to water, sanitation and food,” Naughton said.

In addition to becoming a global researcher in food-energy-water systems, she aims to help local communities by developing and implementing solutions to their problems. She hopes that through her research, teaching and mentoring, she’ll make positive impacts on the STEM field by using science, technology, engineering and mathematics to better serve society, especially the most vulnerable – those in poverty nationally and globally – in marginalized and underserved communities. 

College of Engineering alumnus Joseph Bonivel Jr. served as an Executive Branch Fellow AAAS Big Data and Analytics Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an Executive Branch Fellow for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a period of three years. While at USAID, Bonivel designed and developed predicative algorithms to measure USAID’s influence on their bilateral donors and partners. Later on, he performed a similar fellowship role at NSF, where he supported NSF researchers funded by the I-Corps program.

“The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology,” Bonivel said. “My role included coaching high-tech startups and coordinating with the Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Obama White House in the initiation of other federal agencies (NASA, DHS) into the I-Corps program.”

joseph bonivel

Joseph T. Bonivel Jr., PhD '10

In addition to research training in materials science and engineering during his master’s at Carnegie Mellon University and earning his Ph.D. under the supervision of Ashok Kumar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at USF, Bonivel credits the NSF-funded GK-12 program in the USF College of Engineering as a significant contributor for his later work at both USAID and NSF. Previously, the GK-12 program provided fellowships and training for graduate students to engage K-12 students and teachers in STEM.

“It was fundamental in helping me learn how to explain very tough scientific concepts in layman's terms,” Bonivel said. “Explaining hydrophobic/phallic surfaces and aerodynamic drag to 5th and 6th graders so that they could understand proved to be both challenging and rewarding. I’ve continued to utilize these same pedagogical skills in my business and professional settings to date.”  

Prior to the AAAS fellowships, Bonivel was a senior research engineer for United Technologies Research Center (UTRC). 

“At UTRC, I was responsible for developing, identifying and implementing protocols to evaluate the mechanical performance of novel materials and structures within the various businesses of United Technologies Corporation,” Bonivel said. “I was also involved in recruiting new hires through outreach at national meetings such as the National Society of Black Engineers Annual Conference and mentoring students through ManyMentors Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on K-12 STEM mentoring and attrition.”

Bonivel was recently named Technologist of the Year by the Southern New England Association of Technical Professionals and was profiled by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of its 100 Modern Men.

Currently, Bonivel is a senior-level subject matter expert on science and technology research for the Journal of DoD Research and Engineering. He has also opened a data analytics consulting firm to accompany his current position within the U.S. Department of Defense. His company, Engineer Innovations, specializes in data analytics on multiple platforms including sensors, surveys and government program assessments.

“I think the future for all engineers will be in an interdisciplinary regime where those designing the hardware will need to know the software interfaces to ensure interoperability of the systems as well as have the necessary nontechnical skills to communicate their ideas effectively to the public,” Bonivel said. “My time at USF definitely prepared me for this challenge.”