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21000 West Ten Mile Road
Southfield, MI 48075-1058

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Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Maria Vaz Beacon Award


The Maria Vaz Beacon Award honors and recognizes an individual employee of the University who has contributed to the advancement of women in STEAM at Lawrence Technological University through distinguished leadership, scholarship, advocacy, mentoring, program development or other activities.

Nominations due: February 28, 2024

Nomination Form

Nominations can include any member of the Lawrence Technological University faculty (including special instructors and lecturers), administrators, administrative professionals, and other staff members. Any University employee can submit a nomination.

2023 Maria Vaz Beacon Award Recipient

Hiedi Morano
Director of the Entrepreneurial Engineering Design Curriculum

Yawen Li_2022

Circle Celebration and Beacon Award

Heidi Morano is the director of the entrepreneurial engineering design curriculum at Lawrence Technological University. She began her career at LTU as an adjunct instructor in the mechanical engineering department, fresh from earning her Masters’ degree in Applied Mechanics from the University of Michigan in 1995. Heidi has always been passionate about teaching and connecting with students, but it wasn’t until she participated in the Kern Innovative Teaching (KIT) faculty development program that she understood the impact that problem-based, active and collaborative teaching techniques could have on her students’ learning experiences – both in the classroom and beyond.

In 2015, Heidi was hired as a full-time instructor and project engineer for the studio for entrepreneurial engineering design. She played an essential role in the development of the sophomore entrepreneurial engineering design studio course – a course in which teams of sophomore engineering students from different engineering programs collaborate to design and build an assistive device that helps a real-world customer from the local disability community. These student projects in the sophomore design studio provide students with the vehicle to identify an opportunity to innovate and use their burgeoning technical skills to develop solutions that create extraordinary value for others – as demonstrated by LTU’s four-time prize-winning teams in the Source America Design Challenge where Professor Morano cheered them onto victory all four times.

2022 Maria Vaz Beacon Award Recipient

Dr. Yawen Li
Chair of Biomedical Engineering

Yawen Li_2022

Award Announcement (Video)

Dr. Yawen Li is associate professor and chair in the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department at Lawrence Technological University. She obtained her PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT and conducted postdoc research in Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital before joining the BME program at LTU in 2008. Her main area of research is in biomaterials, tissue engineering, BioMEMS and materials characterization. She has 27 peer reviewed publications and over 40 conference presentations, many of which are based on student projects she supervised at LTU. She is a strong advocate for undergraduate research, and has supervised over 50 students on a variety of projects.

Yawen played an essential role in growing the BME program into a department in 2015, and has been especially instrumental in establishing labs to enhance student learning and promote student research. Since becoming the BME Department Chair in 2018, she has established partnership with Ascension Providence Hospital to facilitate collaborative orthopedic research and education at LTU. She also initiated partnership with Comprehensive Care Services, which led to the successful launch of the master of science in cardiovascular perfusion program, the only perfusion program in Michigan. In 2021, she created a BME freshman mentoring program to promote inclusion and increase retention in BME.