Rice Engineering honors six alumni with engineering alumni awards

Awardees recognized for their achievements in engineering and their contributions to society.

composite headshots of the 2023 alumni award recipients

The George R. Brown School of Engineering Alumni Awards honor alumni for their outstanding achievements in the engineering profession. This year’s exceptional award winners are recognized not only for their accomplishments in engineering, but also for their profound impact on society. The School of Engineering and the Rice Engineering Alumni (REA) board are pleased to recognize the 2023 recipients. These individuals who embody excellence in engineering will be recognized with the Distinguished Service Medal, Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards and Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni Awards. 

Distinguished Service Medal

The Distinguished Service Medal, established in 2012, recognizes alumni for extraordinary service to the School of Engineering. This award honors a visionary and transformational leader who has shown a deep dedication to the engineering community. This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal is Martiel A. Luther. 

Martiel A. Luther

Martiel A. Luther graduated from Rice in 1978 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. She also earned her M.S. in chemical engineering practice from MIT and an MBA from Tulane University. Her 35-year career in the energy industry, primarily with Shell Oil Co., focused on technical and project management roles that took her worldwide, including a stint shaping their sustainability strategy.  

Luther has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), Rice Engineering’s hub for undergraduate engineering innovation. She introduced Shell as a corporate sponsor and later became an individual sponsor on her retirement. Luther actively mentors students in the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and the School of Engineering’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) department. Additionally, she has served on the ChBE Alumni Advisory committee and supported the new Ralph S. O'Connor Building for Engineering and Science. 

Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

The Outstanding Engineering Alumni award was first presented by the Rice Engineering Alumni in 1974, with George R. Brown ’20 being the initial recipient. It recognizes Rice engineering alumni for outstanding professional achievement and service to society. The 2023 Outstanding Alumni award recipients are Jeff Bishop, Loren Hopkins and Karen Lozano.

Jeff Bishop

Jeff Bishop is a clean energy entrepreneur and a leader in the U.S. energy transition, focusing on the intersection of finance, commercial, technology and policy. Since 2016, Bishop has been the CEO and co-founder of Key Capture Energy, one of America's largest owner/operators of stand-alone battery storage projects. In addition to his contributions to clean energy, Bishop’s societal impact extends to public transportation access and LGBT equality. Bishop holds a MBA from Chicago Booth, and he received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Rice University in 2004. 

Loren Hopkins 

As the chief environmental science officer for the Houston Health Department and a professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University, Loren Hopkins uses her expertise in environmental processes and statistical analysis to address health disparities. Her dual role with Rice University’s Department of Statistics and the Houston Health Department is unique and has been pivotal to her leadership in her highly collaborative work with city, state, and national stakeholders to address a range of environmental and public health issues and concerns. Hopkins earned her B.S. in geology and geophysics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986 and an M.S. and Ph.D. in environmental science from Rice University in 1989 and 1998, respectively. 

Karen Lozano

Karen Lozano is the Julia Beecherl Endowed Mechanical Engineering Professor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and Founder/Director of the UTRGV Nanotechnology Center. In this role, she launched the first Ph.D. program (Materials Science and Engineering) in the college’s history. In addition to her significant contributions to UTRGV’s programs, she has demonstrated commitment and mentorship to at-risk students through educational outreach. Lozano earned her B.S. in mechanical engineering from Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM), and she graduated from Rice University with her M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science in 1996 and 1999, respectively. 

Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni Award

Since 1996, the Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni Award has recognized the achievements of Rice engineering alumni under the age of 40. This year, the Outstanding Young Engineering Alumni Award recipients are Samantha Santacruz and Juan “Tony” Castilleja.

Juan "Tony" Castilleja 

Tony Castilleja Jr. is a Senior Manager at Boeing Defense, Space, and Security and is currently a Private Sector Fellow at National Defense University. Castilleja has received multiple awards for his Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) advocacy and mentorship, including being selected as a 2011 White House Fellows Regional Finalist after founding the DREAM STEM engineering mentorship program at Rice University. Castilleja completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University in 2009 and 2011. While at Rice, he also served as Honorary Staff in the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

Samantha Santacruz 

Samantha R. Santacruz, Ph.D., is currently an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is developing closed-loop neurotherapies and brain-machine interfaces to treat neural pathologies. In addition to her accomplishments in neuroscience, she is committed to creating an inclusive community and raising visibility for women and historically underrepresented minorities in STEM through service, mentorship, and leadership. Santacruz received her bachelor’s degree with honors in applied mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Rice University in 2010 and 2014, respectively.

Congratulations to the 2023 class of engineering alumni award recipients. This Alumni Weekend launches a series of articles featuring individual awardees to highlight the unique ways in which they contribute to both the engineering profession and society. Additionally, awardees will be honored at the 2024 George R. Brown School of Engineering Alumni Awards Celebration.