Biomedical engineering department chair wins LTU's Maria Vaz Beacon Award
March 31, 2022
SOUTHFIELD—Lawrence Technological University has named Yawen Li, chair of its Department of Biomedical Engineering, the winner of its 2022 Maria Vaz Beacon Award.
The award is announced annually during Women’s History Month. It acknowledges an employee of the university who has significantly contributed to the advancement of women at LTU, and in STEM, through distinguished leadership, scholarship, advocacy, mentoring, program development, or other activities.
Li joined LTU’s then-new biomedical engineering program in 2008 and became department chair in 2018. She earned a PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT after earning bacehlor’s and master’s degrees from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China.
LTU President Tarek Sobh noted that Li “has significantly contributed to the growth of the biomedical engineering program in enrollment, scholarship, research, and service activities. Through Professor Li’s dedicated efforts, 50 percent of the biomedical engineering program is female. LTU is proud of Dr. Li’s great work, accomplishments, and stellar outcomes.”
Added Nabil Grace, dean of the LTU College of Engineering: “Dr. Li is a very active researcher who has received a National Science Foundation grant, published numerous papers, advised PhD students, and worked with undergraduate students in research. Dr. Li has also worked very hard to advance women and girls in the STEAM fields, both on and off campus.”
In accepting the award, Li thanked her colleagues for nominating her, her biomedical engineering colleagues—particularly the women on LTU’s faculty—the engineering dean’s office, her family, and her students. “This is certainly one of the highlights of my professional career,” Li said. “The Maria Vaz Beacon Award, to me, is also a recognition of our BME department in promoting diversity and inclusion.”
2022 Maria Vaz Beacon Award: Dr. Yawen Li
The award is named after Maria J. Vaz, who retired as provost and chief academic officer at LTU in June 2020.
Vaz joined the Lawrence Tech faculty in 1984 after completing her doctorate in physics at Kent State University. In 1992 she was named chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and in 1994 became associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1998 she was appointed associate provost and dean of graduate programs, and became provost in 2006.
During her tenure Vaz led and supported the development of new undergraduate and graduate programs that differentiate Lawrence Tech, including biomedical engineering, architectural engineering, robotics engineering, industrial engineering, molecular and cell biology, media communication, transportation design, and game art. She established an environment of collaboration and interaction between the academic colleges to generate interdisciplinary academic programs and research. She also oversaw the launch of LTU’s B.S. in nursing program in partnership with Ascension Michigan.
Vaz has been an advocate of entrepreneurial-mindset education and was principal investigator of several institutional Kern Family Foundation grants that are transforming the process of education at Lawrence Tech to be problem-, project-, and research-based.
Vaz was also an early advocate of integration of all student services and the one-stop shop concept, including the development and implementation of LTU’s A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center.
She expanded LTU’s Student Affairs Division as an important partner in student education. As a result, a dynamic student life, the re-introduction of varsity sports, the support of healthy choices, and the well-being of all students are important components of the integrated student experience and the professional and personal growth of students at LTU.
Li called Vaz “a perfect example of promoting female participation and advancement in STEAM across the Lawrence Tech campus.” She said she was “immensely impressed with the vision and passion (Vaz) had for building Lawrence Tech into a preeminent university…Her support and encouragement were especially valuable when I transitioned from a faculty member, focusing on teaching and research, to a department chair, with many added administrative responsibilities. Dr. Maria Vaz is a role model I always look up to.”
LTU offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering, with opportunities for industry co-ops and internships. The programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. For more information about LTU’s BME programs, visit https://www.ltu.edu/engineering/biomedical/.