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Dan Wiznitzer
Himmelrich PR
(410) 528-5400

Maryland Science Center Announces 2017 Outstanding Young Scientists and Outstanding Young Engineers

Ceremony To be Held November 15 at the Maryland Science Center

November 6, 2017 (Baltimore, MD) – The Maryland Academy of Sciences and the Maryland Science Center have selected the winners of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) and Outstanding Young Engineer (OYE) awards. The awards will be presented Wednesday, November 15 at a ceremony at the Maryland Science Center.


The honorees are:

Outstanding Young Scientist Award Recipients
– Kimberly Stroka, Ph.D., Fischell Department of Bioengineering at University of Maryland, College Park
– Phillip Graff, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Outstanding Young Engineer Award Recipients
– Lee Blaney, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County
– Adam Watkins, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory


(more details of the honorees’ work below)


The OYS and OYE awards recognize young Maryland residents who have distinguished themselves with accomplishments in science and engineering. The nominations are open to scientists and engineers 35 years old or younger working in academia and 40 or younger working in other sectors.


The OYS award was established in 1959 with the OYE award inaugurated in 1988.  Award recipients are chosen by members of the Maryland Academy of Sciences’ Scientific Advisory Council.
“The accomplishment of our 2017 honorees are impressive,” said Mark Potter, President and CEO of the Maryland Science Center. “These four professionals are great examples of why Maryland is a hub of discovery and exploration, and they are great role models for today’s STEM students.”


“Our 2017 recipients come from such a variety of fields, it demonstrates just how many opportunities there are for young people to made our world a better place through science and engineering,” said Dr. Stephen Schenkel, Chair of the Maryland Academy of Sciences’ Scientific Council.
The 2017 Outstanding Young Scientists

Dr. Kimberly Stroka is Assistant Professor in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at University of Maryland, College Park where she directs the Cell and Microenvironment Engineering Lab.


By combining experimental techniques and theoretical modeling, Dr. Stroka discovered a new fundamental mechanism for tumor cell migration. Through her work, aquaporins (water channels that allow water flux across the cell membrane) could be explored as possible druggable targets for tumor cell metastasis.


Collectively, her work has led to publication of 21 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 first-

author book chapters, and 26 invited talks and seminars.

Dr. Phillip Graff is a data scientist and astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.


At NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Graff was lead developer for a key algorithm for the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). This directly contributed to the successful detection and characterization of black hole mergers, a landmark achievement in science that demonstrated gravitational waves as predicted by Einstein’s theory are real.


Dr. Graff has also worked to protect America’s computer networks and armed forces, developing algorithms for the Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Protection System as well as U.S. Special Operations Command.

The 2017 Outstanding Young Engineers

Dr. Lee Blaney is an environmental engineer and associate professor of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering at UMBC.


Dr. Blaney is at the forefront of technology development for nutrient recovery from poultry operations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, demonstrating more than 90% phosphorus recovery efficiency in laboratory tests. He is currently setting up pilot systems to test these technologies on Maryland farms. This will not only advance science, but also sustain and improve environmental quality in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.


Dr. Blaney has also been very active in the Engineers without Borders Program. In Kenya, he and his students developed a clean water supply for a 500-person village.

Dr. Adam Watkins is a mechanical and aerospace engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.


Dr. Watkins has devoted his professional career to developing unmanned and autonomous systems for the defense of our nation and the safety of our sailors and soldiers.


Applying his abilities to countering weapons of mass destruction, Dr. Watkins developed a solution to rapidly generate maps of hidden locations where WMDs are stored, allowing teams to deploy directly to the suspected material and neutralize the hazard without lengthy exposure.


He also led the development of a research effort to demonstrate the potential of autonomous

unmanned surface vehicles to protect Navy ships.

For more information about the Outstanding Young Scientist and Engineer Awards, visit

About the Maryland Science Center
Named one of Parents Magazine’s Top 10 Science Centers in America, the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore makes science understandable and fun for more than 500,000 visitors a year. The Maryland Science Center inspires, fascinates, motivates and engages children and adults with dozens of interactive exhibits, traveling exhibitions, original presentations in the world-famous Davis Planetarium, larger-than-life movies in the five-story St. John Properties IMAX Theater, and hundreds of hands-on programs delivered throughout the state each year.  For more information, visit