College Honors 2020 Alumni and Student Awardees

The NC State Belltower lit red against a night sky

The College of Sciences held its annual awards ceremony on October 15 and recognized three alumni and one student for their outstanding achievements and contributions. The event was held virtually and featured video tributes to the honorees. Read on to learn more.

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Meredith Williams
Meredith Williams

This award honors alumni whose exceptional achievements in business, education, research or public service have brought honor and distinction to the college. Recipients of the award are also recognized at a universitywide awards ceremony, The Evening of Stars, that is held each fall.

This year’s winner, Meredith Williams, has been an extraordinary supporter and leader for the college. In 1994, she became the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics from NC State and since then has gone on to an incredible career. Late last year, Williams was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom as director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, where she leads a group of more than 1,000 chemists, attorneys, criminal investigators, engineers, geologists, toxicologists and administrative staff.

Williams has expertise in research and development, product management, and operations for Fortune 500 companies in the technology, consumer product and chemical sectors, including 3M and Applied Materials, a semiconductor manufacturer. She previously held a number of leadership positions at the nonprofit San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nationally recognized center for science in support of aquatic resource management.

In 2013, she began her career with the State of California when she was appointed deputy director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Safer Consumer Products Program to lead the implementation of California’s effort to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Williams served on the board of the NC State College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Foundation from 2000 to 2008. She co-chaired the initial fundraising effort to establish the Wandra P. Hill Scholarship and has been a strong supporter of the fund ever since.

Zenith Medal for Service

Bill Trent
Bill Trent

This award honors alumni or friends for distinguished contributions or advocacy that significantly advance the college’s ability to make powerful impacts on science, the economy, the environment and the quality of human life.

This year’s honoree, William E. (Bill) Trent, has supported the college in many ways, including with his time, his leadership skills and his philanthropic contributions. Trent is an entrepreneur who was part of the polymer chemistry program at NC State. He has several current business ventures, including Enviroclean Solutions, which designs and develops professional cleaning products without toxic chemicals and solvents and is based on a compound that he developed in the early 1990s. Previously, he was president of Southeastern Chemical Company Technologies and president of LifeLogic Products.

Trent has been one of the college’s most active and engaged volunteers for the past 15 years. Since 2017, he has served on the College of Sciences Foundation Board of Directors, where he is chair of the Audit and Investment Committee and a member of the Board Development Working Group. He is also the college’s representative on the NC State Investment Fund Board. Trent previously served on the Foundation Board from 2006 to 2014, which included time as board chair. 

Trent has made important contributions during pivotal moments in the college’s history, serving as a valued adviser on strategy, entrepreneurship, and corporation and foundation relations. During and following the 2008 recession, he was instrumental in coming up with strategies to help the college overcome the resulting financial challenges. Several years later, he was a key figure in the transition from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences to the College of Sciences. He has also been a loyal financial supporter of the college, serving as a consistent member of the Dean’s Circle leadership giving society.

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Ellison Anne Williams
Ellison Anne Williams

This award recognizes accomplished early-to-mid-career graduates who have excelled in their chosen professions or through public service. The NC State Alumni Association defines young alumni as any NC State graduate 42 or younger. This year’s honoree is Ellison Anne Williams, who earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from NC State in 2004. 

Williams has more than a decade of experience spearheading avant-garde efforts in the areas of large scale analytics, information security and privacy, computer network exploitation and network modeling. She began her career at the National Security Agency and was also a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. In 2016, she founded Enveil, a data security company based in the Washington, D.C., area that protects data in use to enable secure search, analytics, sharing and collaboration.

In addition to her leadership experience, Williams is accomplished in the fields of distributed computing and algorithms, cryptographic applications, graph theory, combinatorics, machine learning and data mining. 

She serves on the boards of nonprofits and frequently gives talks to various organizations on women in STEM, mothers in corporate leadership and security technology. At NC State, she spoke at the May 2019 graduation ceremony for the Department of Mathematics.

Student Excellence Award

Gino Fernandes
Gino Fernandes

The Office of Advancement’s Student Excellence Award honors a senior who is considered a student leader and actively pursues leadership roles within the college and across NC State through community service, philanthropy, campus involvement, research or in the classroom. 

This year’s award was presented to Regino (Gino) Fernandes II, a senior majoring in microbiology. He has served in leadership positions for campus organizations and worked as a research assistant for NC State’s Cultivating Research Experiences with Community-Engaged Roots program, as a community lab intern for Biogen and as a marketing intern for Campus Enterprises. All the while, he has been the CEO of his own independent record label. 

Fernandes also has a unique ability to combine art, music and science to show off the amazing things about his field. One project involved agar art, in which bacteria serve as the paint and the agar media serves as the canvas. NC State’s Microbiology Club hosts workshops throughout the year for students and the local community to learn about microbiology in a fun, creative and artistic way. Fernandes helped run the workshops and co-created a piece called the “12 Days of Microbiology” inspired by the well-known holiday-season song.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.