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2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards

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Department of Aviation Science and Technology

Derrick Farrow, B.S.
Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc.,
Houston, Texas

farrow-derrickDerrick Farrow is a Senior Flight Planning Specialist and Licensed FAA Aircraft Dispatcher with over 18 years of aviation experience at one of the country’s leading business aviation companies, Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc., located in Houston, Texas. Derrick Farrow has undergone extensive training to earn the coveted Aircraft Dispatcher’s certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. As a Senior Flight Planning Specialist, Derrick has joint responsibility with the captain to regulate corporate aircraft flights according to government and corporate regulations to expedite and ensure safety of flight, while analyzing meteorological information to select the most desirable and economic route of flight.
Derrick Farrow is a graduate of Texas Southern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Science Management. As an active alumnus, Derrick continues to volunteer and mentor current students in the Aviation Science and Technology Department at Texas Southern University. Mr. Farrow is currently pursuing an M.A. in Human Behavior Psychology.
Derrick Farrow is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Appointed in 2013, Mr. Farrow currently serves as Phi Beta Sigma’s Gulf Coast Regional Coordinator for Sigma Beta Clubs. Mr. Farrow is responsible and oversees Sigma Beta Clubs in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. He is a member of the Alpha Beta Sigma Chapter located in Houston. Mr. Farrow is a veteran and currently has over 20 years of military service in the United States Army Reserves.

Department of Biology

Edwin L. Cooper, Ph.D., SCD.
Distinguished Professor, UCLA
Los Angeles, California

edwin-l-cooperBiologist and immuno-biology professor Edwin Cooper was born on December 23, 1936, in Houston, Texas. Cooper attended Jack Yates High School, graduating with honors. He won the first prize in a state art contest, for which his ceramic vase was sent to the national competition at the Carnegie Art Institute. Although Cooper was interested in art, he was more attracted to the field of biology, studying butterflies, earthworms, and other animals. Cooper pursued his interest in biology at Texas Southern University, where he earned his B.S. degree in 1957 with honors. Continuing his studies in biology, Cooper earned his M.S. degree in biology from Atlanta University in 1959 and his Ph.D. degree from Brown University in 1963.
Upon completing his doctorate, he became an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1964 and attained full professorship by 1973. He received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden in 1970, while maintaining his position at UCLA. Cooper founded the Division of Comparative Immunology of the American Society of Zoologists in 1975 and was a founding editor of the International Journal of Developmental and Comparative Immunology, and its society, the International Society of Developmental and Comparative Immunology. From 1989 to 1993, Cooper served as the vice chair for UCLA’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. He became the founding editor in chief of “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” in 2004. He has also been awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize in Germany, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Cancer Research to work with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland, and the S.M. Nabrit Achievement Award in Science from Atlanta University. Cooper and his wife, Helene, have two adult children.

Department of Chemistry

Kiara Taylor-Edinbyrd, B.S.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

taylor-kiaraKiara Taylor-Edinbyrd, a proud alumnus of the great Texas Southern University entered the Department of Chemistry in the Fall 2008 semester. While at TSU she was a part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation headed by Dr. Bobby Wilson. In addition to being an LSAMP scholar, she was awarded several other scholarships during her time as an undergraduate. Kiara received the General University Scholarship, President’s Leadership Award, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-Hollings Award, and the Texas Space Grant Consortium-Columbia Crew Memorial Scholarship.
As an undergraduate research program participant, she won first place for a poster presentation for work completed under TSU’s then Provost Dr. Sunny Ohia. Upon commencement, Kiara accepted a teaching position at Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, TX, teaching chemistry and physics. She decided to further her education and in Spring 2012 she was accepted to the Ph.D. program in the Department of Chemistry at Louisiana State University and admitted into the Bridge to the Doctorate program, a continuation of the LSAMP program at the graduate level. Kiara is currently set to graduate in December 2016 with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry completing her research under Dr. Revati Kumar.
During her studentship, she presented at multiple regional and national conferences including the American Chemical Society (ACS), National Organization for the advancement of Black Chemist and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), Nanomaterials and Genome Center (NMGC) and Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications (LA-SIGMA) where she has won first place.

Department of Computer Science

Ulysses S. Dotson, M.S.
IT Director, Nearshoring Services
Houston, Texas

dotson-ulyssesUlysses Dotson is a Software Engineer for NASA contractor Leidos Inc. He received a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas Southern University, Houston, TX, in 2002, where he was a standout student. After his first semester, he was chosen to co-op at United Space Alliance which at the time was the largest contractor for the Space Shuttle Program. Because of outstanding performance, he was hired full time the following semester while he was still finishing his degree. He obtained his M.S. in Computer Science in 2006 from TSU, where he had the honor of being in the inaugural graduating class of Computer Science Masters Degree candidates. He has begun to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Houston.
Ulysses has had over fifteen years’ experience producing and maintaining software for the Space Shuttle, Mission Control Center, the Astronaut Training Program, and the International Space Station. He has won several performance awards and acknowledgments for outstanding work. He started teaching at TSU in 2006 shortly after completing his Master’s degree. Education is a passion of his, and he loves to pass on his knowledge and experience to the next generation of software developers.
As an instructor at TSU Ulysses has sponsored the TSU Mobile Application Development Group, and contributed to the development of new courses to keep TSU’s students competitive in the software market.

Department of Engineering

Fernando Valdez, B.S.
H-E-B Headquarters
San Antonio, Texas

valdez-fernandoFernando Valdez is a proud alumnus of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology of Texas Southern University. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology in the fall of 2014. Fernando has a passion for mathematics, science and technology. He worked as a lab assistant in the Department of Engineering where he helped students understand concepts of AC/DC circuits during his senior year as an undergraduate. He is a member and a proud alumni advisor for Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity at Texas Southern University.
He is currently employed at the H-E-B Headquarters in San Antonio in the Information Solution department as a Helpdesk Specialist. His short term goals include obtaining a leadership position and continuing his career towards becoming a high-ranking engineer for the company.

Department of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences

Felicia Conley, Ph.D.
Drug Enforcement Administration Training Academy
Quantico, Virginia

conley-feliciaDr. Felicia Conley Vinson received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from Texas Southern University in 2004. She currently works as a Senior Forensic Chemist/Instructor at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Training Academy, located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia. In her current position, she is responsible for training all forensic chemists hired by the DEA in the area of evidence analysis and expert witness testimony. She also assists with training DEA Special Agents and state and local officers in the processing and dismantling of Level A (high hazard) clandestine drug laboratories.
Prior to working for the DEA, Dr. Vinson developed a forensic science summer camp for high school students which integrated classroom hands-on science experiences with real-life applications to the field of forensics. She served as a Research Assistant Professor at TSU, and received Post-doctoral training at NASA JSC conducting research in the field of Astrobiology. In 2007, Dr. Vinson was named Chemist of the Year by the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) and in 2008 was elected President of the Gulf Coast Chapter of NOBCChE.
As a graduate student, and in her work experiences since graduating from TSU, Dr. Vinson’s focus has always been on giving back, in the form of mentoring, training, and exposing young people to STEM fields in an effort to increase the number of students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM.

Department of Industrial Technology

Anthony Tolbert, B.S.
Lockheed Martin/NASA
Webster, Texas

tolbert-anthonyAnthony Tolbert received his Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Technology in 1998 from the School of Technology at Texas Southern University. Anthony began his professional career in 1998 with Oceaneering Space Systems for NASA as a Mechanical Design/Drafter. In this position Anthony was responsible for design development test, evaluation, manufacturing and installation of tile and blanket systems for NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33, NASA Orbital Sciences X-34, and Kistler K-1. Responsibilities also included creating drawings of two certified space flights responsible for equipment storage containers capable of carrying 400 pounds of cargo which have flown to space aboard the shuttle three times. He designed and detailed Extra Vehicular Activities tools to ensure the safety of astronauts.
In 2006 Anthony was hired at Lockheed Martin/LZ Technology for NASA as a Mechanical/Electronic Designer/Drafter. In this capacity Anthony was solely responsible for the design of 3D models and Cad drawings for major projects such as the International Space Station Cupola Mockup Trainer, Design of the Rig Trainer, JSC International Space Station Flight Control Room, and Rear Projection Display.
In 2015 Anthony changed career paths and is now employed at Schlumberger as a Mechanical Designer. In 2011 Anthony decided to start helping other would be employees entering into the workforce by becoming an adjunct faculty member at San Jacinto Community College teaching classes on Creo/ProE and Advanced Creo/ProE. Anthony currently serves as a member of the Texas Southern University Department of Industrial Technologies Advisory Board.

Department of Mathematics

Beverly Brown, M.S.
University of Houston
Houston, Texas

brown-beverlyBeverly Brown is the Program Director for the Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and Scholar Enrichment Program in the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at the University of Houston.
Beverly received a Bachelor’s of Art in Mathematics and Masters in Mathematics from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas where she was mentored by Dr. Willie Taylor who first introduced her to peer-led collaborative learning environments in the TSU mathematics department. Dr. Taylor served as a critical human resource needed to develop her peer leadership skills and provide career goals guidance. Dr. Brown’s realization of the vital role that mentoring played in her academic achievements created a life-long desire to serve as a human resource to students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Beverly uses the SEP summer program (which includes students from low “College Readiness” campuses) to develop peer leadership talents in students at the onset of their freshmen year. The SEP professional development peer leadership pipeline nurtures future SEP workshop leaders and provides a high quality STEM peer leadership talent pool for other STEM related UH programs. Before accepting her position as UH H-LSAMP/SEP Program Director, Ms. Brown was appointed the Regional UTeach Induction Coordinator to pilot the UTeachHOUSTON Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring (BTIM) Program model.

Department of Physics

Cassandra Oduola, M.S.
Computer Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

oduola-cassandraCassandra Oduola is a 3rd year Computer Engineering Ph.D Candidate in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. Her area of research is machine learning, emotion recognition, deep neural networks, artificial intelligence, human robot interaction, quantum physics, computer vision, stochastic systems, and robotics.
She obtained her B.S in Physics, and M.S in Computer Science at Texas Southern University under the direction of Dr. Daniel Vrinceanu, Dr. Carlos Handy, Dr. C.J Tymczak, and Dr. Oscar Criner studying quantum turbulence. Professionally, she taught Robotics at Georgia Tech University in the summer of 2015 with the Duke Tip program. Upon returning to Texas A&M, she worked as a robotics mentor with Brazos Valley Robotics. During summer 2016, she interned with Apple as a Senior Software Engineering Intern in a computer vision R&D group.
Currently she is exploring her options with various big tech companies for summer 2017. She spends her free time in leadership positions within her department as well as volunteering as a reviewer/organizer of various conferences. Currently she is Vice President of professional development in the Computer Science and Engineering department which entails organizing various meet-ups that focus on helping graduate students prepare for their future careers. Her long term goal is to hold a product management position in a major technology corporation.

Department of Transportation Studies

Mahmoud Salehi, M.S., P.E
Cobb, Fendley & Associates, Inc.
Houston, Texas

salehi-mahmoudMahmoud Salehi is Principal at Cobb, Fendley & Associates, Inc., and serves as Senior Project Manager overseeing many of the company’s largest and most complex transportation projects. He is a Professional Engineer, member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and graduate of Texas Southern University.
Mahmoud has over 30 years of experience on major transportation projects consisting of schematic design, feasibility studies, geometric design, detailed PS&E development, traffic studies, capacity analysis of intersections and freeway corridors, cost estimation, hydraulic design, and construction project management. He has designed projects for TxDOT, Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston, Brazoria, Galveston, and Williamson Counties, the City of Houston, and various municipalities.
Mahmoud has been married to wife Nadereh Jahedmotlagh for 35 years and has two children and one grandchild. Daughter Yasamin Salehi graduated from Texas Southern University with a Pharmacy Doctorate, and daughter Nazanin Salehi graduated from the University of Houston Law Center with Jurisprudence Doctorate degree. Mr. Salehi enjoys history, international travel, and mentoring young professionals.