College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Engineering leaders: Cyclone Engineers honored with top college alumni award

Iowa State University College of Engineering, white wordmark on red background

Five Cyclone Engineers will receive College of Engineering alumni awards at the ISU Alumni Association Honors and Awards Ceremony on Nov. 4 during Homecoming weekend. 

The Anson Marston Medal

Iowa State University established the Anson Marston Medal in 1938 in honor of Anson Marston, the first dean of engineering. The Marston Medal recognizes alumni of the College of Engineering for outstanding achievement in advancing engineering science, technology or policy having national and international impact in academics, industry, public services, government or other venues.

Mark Lashier

Mark Lashier (’85, PhD ’89 chemical engineering) is president and CEO of Phillips 66, a diversified energy company. A chemical engineer, he has over 30 years of experience in various executive leadership roles within the energy and petrochemical industries.

Lashier served as chief operating officer of Phillips 66 from April 2021 through June 2022. Before that, he was president and CEO of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC (CPChem), a joint venture between Phillips 66 and Chevron, from 2017 to 2021. He previously held several leadership positions at CPChem, including executive vice president of Olefins and Polyolefins; senior vice president of Specialties, Aromatics and Styrenics; vice president of Corporate Planning and Development; project director for Saudi Arabia; and regional manager in Asia.

Lashier began his career at Phillips Petroleum in 1989 as an associate research engineer. He holds 13 U.S. patents.

He serves on the boards of several industry groups and nonprofits, including American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Greater Houston Partnership, Iowa State University’s College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Council, Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas and the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Against Cancer. He also is a member of the Business Roundtable.

Lashier, and his wife, Laurie, have three children.

Lashier is a member of the Order of the Knoll President’s Circle. He has previously received the College of Engineering PACE alumni award.

Max Porter

In his outstanding four-decade career as an Iowa State professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, Max Porter’s (’65 civil engineering, MS ’68, PhD 74 structural engineering) research and professional service have made the buildings all around us safer and stronger – and he’s educated thousands of the Cyclone Engineers working across the nation and world today.

In Porter’s research specialty, reinforced concrete, composites, and masonry systems, he’s been principal investigator for 97 research projects and authored more than 1,600 publications, reports, reviews and presentations on his discoveries. He taught 36 different engineering courses, advised nearly 100 graduate students, and mentored more than 500 students in his lab.

Porter has contributed his engineering expertise and leadership to numerous national building codes and standards committees for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), The Masonry Society (TMS) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI), developing the codes used for safe construction.

As national president of the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) in 2001, Porter oversaw the investigation of structural failures in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and he examined buildings following major Iowa floods and tornados to ensure structures were safe to be re-occupied.

Porter’s exceptional impact has been recognized by numerous of top awards in the field of structural engineering, including distinguished member and fellow of ASCE, fellow of ACI, TMS, and SEI, along with many more research, teaching and professional service recognitions.

Porter is married to Monica, and they have a son Nathan. Between them, they have six degrees from Iowa State.

Porter belongs to the Order of the Knoll President’s Circle and is a life member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering

The PACE Award was established in 1968 to recognize superior technical or professional accomplishments in research, development, administration, education and other engineering activities. The citation recognizes alumni eminently known for their professional competence and creativity.

Laura Maxwell

Throughout an exceptional career in business leadership, Laura Brooks Maxwell (’89 industrial engineering) has demonstrated success in roles across diverse units at PepsiCo, the world’s leading food and beverage company. Maxwell is currently the senior vice president of supply chain at PepsiCo Foods North America, leading $21 billion of Frito-Lay and Quaker business. Her leadership spans over 65,000 employees between the two sectors of the business.

After graduating from Iowa State, Maxwell started her career as a project engineer at PepsiCo in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She rose through the leadership ranks to management roles in product innovation, marketing, supply chain, operations, service and distribution, where she was a key driver of growth, performance and change.

Maxwell recently successfully led supply chain operations during the challenging pandemic period, generating new ways of working in all areas of manufacturing and ensuring that technology and automation projects advanced. She has also spearheaded Frito-Lay’s sustainability efforts, making important progress in climate and water protection and in the use of electric and compressed natural gas for transportation. Maxwell’s significant contributions were recognized with a PepsiCo Global Steve Reinemund Leadership Legacy Award.

As a female leader in a male-dominated field of manufacturing, Maxwell has worked to inspire and encourage diversity and inclusion in numerous presentations, her service to the Texas Women’s Foundation Board, and as executive sponsor for Frito-Lay employee resource groups and PepSWE, a chapter of Society of Women Engineers. Maxwell has been named a Frito-Lay Inspiring Woman and to the Power 50 by Texas Diversity Magazine.

Laura and her husband Marty have two daughters, Molly and Maddy (Ronnie). 

Chris Ellison

Chris Ellison (’00 chemical engineering) is the Zsolt Rumy Innovation Chair in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. He specializes in the field of polymer science and engineering, and he and his team are developing more sustainable plastics, ranging from improved recycling strategies to new degradable materials.

Ellison’s research has led to over 150 scientific publications that have been cited nearly 10,000 times, and he holds more than 20 patents. His outstanding contributions to the field have been recognized with prestigious national awards, including the Owens Corning Early Career Award, DuPont Young Professor Award, 3M Nontenured Faculty Award, and more.

Dedicated to putting his discoveries into practice, Ellison has recently won a TechConnect Innovation Award for developing a new recycling approach for mixed plastic waste, and he is co-founder of Standup Energy, in Austin, Texas.

A talented and dedicated instructor and mentor, Ellison has graduated or is currently mentoring 130 students and postdocs, is the faculty advisor to the University of Minnesota’s Tau Beta Pi chapter, and serves on Iowa State’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering’s external advisory board.

After graduation from Iowa State, Ellison received a PhD in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, and held research and faculty positions at the University of Minnesota, Rohm and Haas Company, and University of Texas at Austin, before rejoining the University of Minnesota, where he is also a senior investigator and serves on the executive committee of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sustainable Polymers.

Chris is married to Suzanne, and they have a daughter Finley.

Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Award recognizes Iowa State University alumni, age 40 and under, who have excelled in their professions and provided service to their communities.

Samarjit Das

Samarjit Das (’10 PhD electrical engineering) is a rapidly rising leader in artificial intelligence innovations for a new space age, creating technologies for advancing both human and robotic space exploration.

After graduating with a PhD from Iowa State and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Das joined Bosch Research in Pittsburgh, as a research scientist. Over the next few years, Das quickly climbed the ranks to his current position as lead principal researcher and senior manager of Bosch’s artificial intelligence efforts.

He’s led a successful SoundSee mission to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA, testing out novel sensing technology that uses AI to analyze subtle acoustic clues for critical systems and equipment health monitoring. And, he is working on a NASA-funded project to develop miniature autonomous lunar rovers. For this and other discoveries, Das holds 11 patents and has received a Bosch USA Inventor of the Year Award and Carnegie Science Award in Innovation.

While he’s passionate about space exploration, Das is also committed to using space-tech research to solve challenges here on earth. He established and now leads a Bosch-Highmark Health partnership for developing new audio AI technologies to improve pediatric care. Das also is a founding member of the Keystone Space Collaborative, a space industry group.

In addition to his Iowa State degree, Das holds a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He also sits on the board of the Moonshot Museum in Pittsburgh.

Das is married to Ankita Das and they have one daughter, Antarikxa, whose name means “space” in Sanskrit.