Celebrating the 2022 College of Science Distinguished Alumni

Last night, nine alumni from the College of Science and the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering were recognized for their successes. The annual College of Science Distinguished Alumni Reception recognizes alumni whose contributions have advanced the mission of the College and the University.

These alumni were awarded with the College of Science and Mackay School Alumni of the Year awards, the College of Science and Mackay School Professional Achievement Awards and 2022 Young Alumni Awards. Interim Dean Katherine McCall and Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering Director Annie Huhta emceed and introduced the awardees, who each made remarks. Listed below is information about each of the awardees.

College of Science Alumni of the Year – Samuel Abraham Goudsmit Medal Recipients

John King ’77 (Renewable Natural Resources, Wildlife Management), ’82 M.S. (Biology)

John King was born in eastern Nevada in 1942 and is a proud lifelong Nevadan.

“And 35 years later, I became an equally proud University of Nevada, Reno alumnus,” King said. “Obviously, that took a while for me to accomplish, but until the ripe old age of 30, when I became a freshman at the University, I had not yet chosen the career path as a wildlife biologist which would occupy my next 50 years.”

In 1977, after completing his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from the College of Agriculture’s Renewable Natural Resources program, King accepted a position with the Nevada Department of Wildlife and began working toward a master’s degree in biology in the College of Science.

King’s master’s research helped the State to refine and improve management of the Marlette Lake cutthroat trout brood stock.

“Later work with the State’s wildlife management agency continued to provide great personal satisfaction, in addressing areas of public interactions, wildlife habitat protection and enhancement, and in numerous opportunities to see Nevada and its natural resources in ways which otherwise would not have been possible,” King said.

King has found ways to stay involved and give back to the University, particularly through his photography.

“Over the years my interest in photography has given me a way to contribute to programs I support by gifting quality wildlife prints to their fund-raising efforts,” he said. “I also enjoy holding on-site photo exhibitions to help call attention to programs I wish to support, for example, the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, the Belmont Courthouse in Belmont, and even the College of Science’s biology department at the University!”

In 2014, he and his wife donated 85 photographs to an exhibition and auction held in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center. All the prints were sold and all the proceeds went to the biology department.

Patricia King ’73 (Biology), ’75 M.S. (Biology), ’80 Ph.D. (Biology)

Patricia King attended the University for her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, all of which were in biology. Her love of Nevada and its outdoors are evident in her research and current pastimes.

“While I am proud to be an alumna of the University of Nevada, Reno, I am surprised my alma mater considers me to be “distinguished” – unless that is in reference to my age!” King said.

During her doctoral education, she researched the snow plant in Little Valley under professors Edgar Kleiner and Fritz Went.

“At that time the importance of mycorrhiza had been little studied,” King said. “I hope that my work has contributed to a better understanding of its role in nutrient cycling.”

King participated in Earthwatch programs, conducting field research on Great Basin flora and fauna. The data she collected provided important baseline data for researchers studying climate change to compare to. She also conducted field surveys studying the capability of radar data in plant community distribution from the Challenger space shuttle as it flew over parts of Nevada.

King is proud to be a member of The Explorers Club, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, the UC Davis Shields Society and the Nevada Legacy Society. She is also a member of the Whittell Forest Advisory Committee. The committee oversees and makes recommendations about the University’s field research station, Little Valley, where she conducted her doctoral research.

“Presently my time is spent volunteering with the Lahontan Audubon Society (field trips for students) and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City where I help develop nature programs for students and share my love for our wonderful state,” King said. “When I’m not at home in Washoe Valley you can find me out in the desert writing cowboy poetry, taking photographs and enjoying the solitude at our cabin in Smoky Valley.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kings hosted an Annual Biology Alumni Reunion at their home. They hope to resume the reunions next year to renew friendships, learn how the Department has advanced since they were there, and to discover ways in which alumni who wish to do so can become more involved with the University.

Mackay School Alumnus of the Year – John William Mackay Medal Recipient

William Greenslade ’65 (Geological Engineering)

William Greenslade received his bachelor’s degree in geological engineering, but wasn’t ever expecting to attend the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, previously the Mackay School of Mines, even as he started his education.

Greenslade attended El Camino Junior College in Torrance, California.

“There I was the beneficiary of a very passional geology professor, Bernard Pipkin, who ignited my interest in the earth sciences,” Greenslade said. He enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, but tuition costs made it unaffordable for him to continue his education there.

“Like many seemingly unfortunate events in life, this turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me as I found the Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno,” Greenslade said.

Greenslade found at the Mackay School the burgeoning field of hydrogeology, and “outstanding” faculty to teach it.

“I have particularly fond memories of E. R. Larson, Joseph Lintz, Lon McGirk, David Slemmons and Dean Vernon Scheid; a young student could not have wished for a finer group of professors,” Greenslade said.

He pursued a master’s degree in hydrogeology under George Maxey at the Desert Research Institute, who was his thesis advisor and mentor.

After his graduation, Greenslade had a very successful career in the consulting business. He was able to work for an international company, travelling to 15 foreign countries and working throughout the U.S. He continues to work as a hydrogeologic consultant and is active in professional activities.

Greenslade was appointed by the governor to the Arizona Board of Technical Registration for Engineers, Architects, Land Surveyors, Geologists and Assayers as the geology member, and he has also served as chairman with the board. He was the President of the Arizona Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) for three separate terms and currently serves as Section Treasurer. He received the National AIPG Section Leadership Award in 2021 and was recipient of the Arizona Hydrological Society Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

“I am a car guy and when not working can be found in the garage restoring quirky Italian Alfa Romeo cars,” Greenslade said. “My wife Terry and I enjoy traveling and keeping tabs on our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

College of Science Professional Achievement Awardee

Thomas Howell ’68 Ph.D. (Chemistry)

Thomas Howell was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and moved with his family to the Bay Area in 1949. He completed his undergraduate degree at San Jose State, and attended the University of Nevada, Reno in 1964 when Cyrus Guss was starting a new Ph.D. program in chemistry. Howell’s thesis advisor was Garry Fickes, and Howell finished his graduate work in physical organic chemistry in 1968.

“While at the University I met my future wife Ann (’63 B.S. Chemistry), a sixth-generation Nevadan, and we moved to the Philadelphia area in 1968,” Howell said.

He started his professional career there for Rohm and Haas Company and worked for the company for 35 years as a research scientist and manager in the fibers, monomers and ion exchange areas. Over the course of his career, Howell authored six patents in the ion exchange area. After passing the US Patent Bar Exam, Howell’s last 12 years at Rohm and Hass were spent as Patent Liaison for a variety of business areas (biocides, automotive additives, plastics, detergents and personal care products).

“While in the East, Ann and I took our first trip to Africa in 1978 with the Philadelphia Zoo, and we were hooked,” Howell said. “Over the years we travelled to Africa nine more times (eight countries), most recently to Tanzania in 2014, photographing and enjoying the wildlife and birds of eastern and southern Africa.

After his retirement in 2002, Howell and his wife returned to Reno.

“I am an avid baseball fan and have been to more than 45 Major League ballparks over the years. I was glad to see Reno get a AAA team in 2009,” he said. “I took up duplicate bridge shortly after retiring and have been playing ever since.”

Howell rejoined the workforce to do patent support for a few years for a local attorney, preparing and prosecuting patent applications for gaming machines, gaming systems, improved automobile engine design, biofuel synthesis and corrosion inhibition formulations.

He and his wife stay involved at the University, where they enjoy attending Discover Science lectures. They also established an annual scholarship fund for chemistry undergraduate students in 2013.

Mackay School Professional Achievement Awardee

Nancy Houghton ’75 (Geology)

“The kaleidoscope of landscapes dominating my youth would lead me to develop an abiding curiosity about the earth’s formation and the minerals that comprise the earth’s crust and deeper,” Nancy Houghton said. She graduated from the University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in geology. “The first landscapes I encountered were the glacially sculpted hills, valleys with abundant lakes and pine-filled forests in the lush lands of Michigan.”

Nancy’s interest in rocks started at a young age. She saw igneous and metamorphic rocks when her family moved to southern California, and was struck by how the sandstone starkly contrasted the desert terrain when her family moved again to Las Vegas.

Houghton started her college education as a journalism student, but took Geology 101 from Jim Firby to fulfill her science requirement. The field trips to the Sierra Nevada and the Truckee River fascinated her and she changed her major to study geology. She worked many hours in many different labs, especially the optical lab.

She met fellow student Guillermo Houghton, who was from Honduras. They were friends and eventually fell in love and married. Their two daughters, Diana and Samantha, and their granddaughter Josephine, were the delight of both their lives.

Houghton found her passion and future career in the mineralogy and identification techniques in David “Burt” Slemmons’ optical mineralogy class. After graduating, Nancy and Guillermo moved to Honduras where Nancy worked for the Dirección de Minas e Hidrocarburos for a few years. The Houghtons returned to the U.S., moving to Texas, where Nancy worked in the petroleum industry for the rest of her career, and she earned her master’s degree in geology from Southern Methodist University. She studied rocks from all over the world, though many of her projects were based in Latin America, and she lived in Mexico part time. Nancy also worked as an editor on the SEPM Pacific Newsletter for a short time. She was accepted as a Certified Petroleum Geologist by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). Over her career she wrote articles on photographic techniques using the scanning electron microscope as well as a standard petrographic microscope. She also supplied the photograph of a thin section for the cover of the Litton Industries Annual report to the shareholders in the year 1986.

Nancy longed for a return to the mountains and moved to Colorado where she worked for several years before retiring. She lives there with her dog, Ginger, and enjoys going for walks and hikes in the Rocky Mountains. She has also begun to make artisan bread using a Dutch oven.

2022 Young Alumni Awardees

Cyndy Soto ’16 M.A. (Psychology), ’21 Ph.D. (Psychology)

Cyndy G. Soto-Lopez grew up in Surprise, Arizona and developed a strong interest in psychology in high school. She attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2010.

Soto pursued her passion for psychology throughout her studies in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at the University of Nevada, Reno where she obtained her Master of Arts in psychology in 2016 and graduated with her Ph.D. in 2021 from the College of Science. Her research and clinical training have focused largely on identifying the unique needs of and providing evidence-based psychological services to Latinxs and other underserved populations.

Since graduating, Soto-Lopez completed her postdoctoral training at La Clinica V.I.V.A. and the School of Medicine’s SOAR First Episode Psychosis (FEP) and has been hired on as a psychologist. At La Clinica VIVA, a culturally specific, community-based, outpatient clinic devoted to helping Latinxs and other cultural minorities who have been victims of interpersonal violence through evidence-based, culturally sensitive behavioral health services, she provides clinical services in English and Spanish. At SOAR First Episode Psychosis, Soto-Lopez provides clinical services in English and Spanish to a client population primarily consisting of children, adolescents, and adults experiencing first episode psychosis and their families. In both clinics, Soto-Lopez continues the work she started at the University as a senior graduate student with associate professor of Clinical Psychology Lorraine Benuto, training and supervising underrepresented graduate trainees who provide culturally sensitive services to ethnic minority clients. She also leads a monthly consultation group with other providers in the community who work with Spanish-speaking clients during which they engage in meaningful dialogue about issues unique to providing services for minority populations. In her spare time, Soto-Lopez enjoys spending time with her family, camping, cooking, and short hikes with her dog. 

Elizabeth Everest ’19 (Biology)

Elizabeth Everest graduated in 2019 with her bachelor’s degree in biology and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in biology at the University. During her undergraduate studies, Everest became interested in aquatic conservation.

Everest spent the summer after graduating conducting invasive species research in Lake Tahoe through a position in the University’s Global Water Center, headed by Sudeep Chandra.

“In the winter of 2019, I fulfilled one of my dreams by becoming a PADI-certified SCUBA Instructor,” Everest said. The SCUBA skills she gained would become useful in the next few years of her research. She returned to Tahoe in 2020 to monitor cutting-edge technologies to help control invasive plant growth in the gem of the Sierra.

In 2020, Everest was accepted to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research on fish conservation in Cambodia with the Wonders of the Mekong Project. After delaying her travels for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Everest traveled to Cambodia and spent a year researching the Mekong and Tonle Sap River systems. Her work there helped lead to the discovery of the world’s largest freshwater fish, a Mekong giant stingray weighing 661 pounds. She returned to the U.S. and the University in June to begin her master’s degree.

“I plan to study fisheries management and conservation in Cambodia, continuing research from my Fulbright year,” Everest said. “It is an honor to be acknowledged as a 2022 Young Alumni of the Year by the university which has opened the door to so many fantastic opportunities for me to learn, grow and adventure.”

Marco Velotta ’06 (Geography),’08 M.S. (Land Use Planning)

Marco Velotta graduated with his bachelor’s degree in geography and his master’s degree in land use planning from the University. He came to the University from Las Vegas, where he now serves as a certified city planner, currently overseeing long range planning at the City of Las Vegas.

“Everything that I’ve picked up from my time at the University of Nevada, Reno, I’ve been able to put into practice professionally, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to do that for the betterment and sustainability of our community and our state,” Velotta said.

The greatest accomplishment so far in his career he said has been the development and overseeing the adoption of the City of Las Vegas 2050 Master Plan, the City’s comprehensive 30-year vision for the future. The plan addresses a range of issues, both long-term and short-term, including zoning, affordable housing, water, transportation, parks and recreation, economic development, and public safety. He worked closely with City management, the Planning Commission, Mayor Goodman and the City Council to build the plan during and despite the pandemic, which he said was rewarding. He is now busy implementing various parts of that plan, working with the City’s departments and community members.

“I am a strong believer in the University’s land grant mission,” Velotta said. “I continue to work professionally with the university’s colleges and schools, including Cooperative Extension, Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, College of Science, College of Engineering, and College of Business.” He has participated in focus groups at the University on sustainability topics and has worked on education sessions and planning conferences and programs. “As a Mackay alumnus and participant of the Pride of the Sierra Marching Band, I try my best to contribute to scholarship funds for current and future students. I’m also an avid supporter of Wolf Pack athletics, and often attend games when teams visit Southern Nevada for regular season or Mountain West tournament play.”

When he’s not working, Velotta enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.

“I especially enjoy trips up to Tahoe but also like going to hidden gems like our impressive and diverse state parks like Valley of Fire, Spring Valley, Cathedral Gorge, Cave Lake, and one-of-a-kind places like Mt. Charleston and the Ruby Mountains. I play soccer, golf, work out, and hike, but when not doing any of that, a couch with a book, Netflix, or HBO is totally fine too.”

Christopher Kratt ‘05 M.S. (Geology)

After growing up in New Hampshire, Christopher Kratt went on to serve four years in the Marine Corps, spend four summers as a Shasta Mountain Guide, and work as a ski patrolman performing avalanche control with explosives. Unknowingly, these experiences would shape his interests for a lifetime of work in the geosciences.

In 2002 he earned a bachelor’s degree from Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, where he received formal training in remote sensing, geology, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). For several summers Kratt gained practical field experience while working for a groundwater exploration company throughout the northeastern U.S.

He moved to Reno in 2003 to pursue a master’s degree in geology with Wendy Calvin. Here, he focused on geothermal exploration using remote sensing image analysis techniques. Immediately after graduating in 2005, he joined the Desert Research Institute to work on a variety of remote sensing projects and continue geothermal exploration. He published the discovery of several hidden geothermal systems in Nevada using remote sensing, GIS and near-surface temperature mapping techniques with Mark Coolbaugh. Beginning in 2012, Kratt would spend the next four years gaining extensive geophysics field experience throughout the western United States, Alaska, Honduras, and Jordan while working for Zonge International, a Reno-based geophysical services contractor. In 2017, Kratt joined the University’s Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Programs as the Laboratory Coordinator and began co-instructing Applied Geophysics with John Louie.

During the past winter, Kratt was part of a small science team participating in the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration in the deep field of the Antarctic. Just a few weeks ago he returned from supporting a hydrogeothermal research project in the Philippines. Kratt currently enjoys providing hands-on field opportunities and mentoring to high-school, undergraduate, and graduate students.  Outside of his work activities Kratt enjoys staying physically prepared for the next field science deployment by trail running, mountain biking, scuba diving, and several modes of skiing.

Homecoming Week Recognitions

Also recognized last night were the University’s award recipients out of the College of Science. Tonight, the Nevada Alumni Association and Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception will recognize four College of Science alumni, including, for Exceptional Achievement, Erik Beever ’99 Ph.D. (EECB), Tim Crowley ’92 B.S. (Geography) and Stephanie Hansen ’99 B.S. (Philosophy and Physics), ’03 Ph.D. (Physics). Dana Bennett will be given a University Service award.

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