University of Pittsburgh
March 17, 2008

Pitt Swanson School of Engineering to Honor Alumni at 2008 Distinguished Alumni Banquet March 20

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and its departments will honor seven alumni at the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Banquet March 20. The awards include the schoolwide Distinguished Alumni Award, the Young Alumni Award, and alumni awards for each of the Swanson School's departments. The honorees are widely regarded as the top experts in their respective fields and hail from across the nation and the world.

"These renowned alumni demonstrate the widespread accomplishments of our 25,000 alumni not just in Pittsburgh, but also throughout the country," said Gerald Holder, Pitt's U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. "Since 1964, the engineering school has recognized our best and brightest through the Distinguished Alumni Awards, and we are delighted to again have such a remarkable group."

The honorees include: Mahmoud K. Dabbous, Distinguished Alumni; Alka Patel, Distinguished Young Alumni; and distinguished alumni awards for the individual departments, including Marlin H. Mickle, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Raymond P. Niro, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; James J. Lombardi, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Barbara Shelton, Department of Industrial Engineering; and Edward F. Sobota, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Brief biographical information for the awardees follows. Full biographies are available on the Swanson School's Web site at

Mahmoud K. Dabbous is an international authority on thermal and miscible enhanced oil recovery-techniques to maximize extraction from oil fields. He holds a U.S. patent for "Miscible Drive in Heterogeneous Reservoirs," a method of increasing oil recovery by flooding wells with a polymer that partially plugs permeable zones. The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, the International Energy Agency, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and other organizations routinely call upon Dabbous to speak about improved oil recovery technology. He also has managed and advised on projects for the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Dabbous is president and CEO of the Dallas-based Improved Petroleum Recovery Group of Companies, presiding over several oil and gas exploration and production companies. Dabbous earned his master's degree in petroleum engineering and his PhD degree in chemical engineering at Pitt in 1969 and 1971, respectively. He completed his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering at Egypt's Cairo University in 1963.

Alka Patel, of the Intellectual Property Counsel for Allegheny Technologies, Inc., in Pittsburgh, is regarded as an accomplished woman in a field dominated by men. After completing her bachelor's degree in materials science in 1996, Patel worked as a metallurgical engineer at Timken Latrobe Steel Company and was one of two women at the plant at the time. She was responsible for quality assurance, process reliability, and managing 20 employees. In 2001, she earned her master's degree in business administration and her law degree at Duquesne University. Combining these with her Pitt engineering education, Patel focused on patents in the areas of materials science, chemicals, nanotechnology, medical devices, software, and business methods. The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) honored Patel with its 2006 Distinguished New Engineer Award for her academic and professional achievement and for her support of SWE's mission to enhance the role of women in engineering. Patel also was named among "Women on the Verge" by the "Legal Intelligencer" and "Pennsylvania Law Weekly" in 2006; a "Fast Tracker" by the "Pittsburgh Business Times" in 2004; and one of "Pittsburgh Magazine's" "40 Under 40" in 2003.

Marlin H. Mickle, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of electrical and computer engineering and telecommunications, is one of the longest serving engineering professors in Pitt history. Mickle also earned all of his degrees at Pitt: He completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering in 1961 and 1963, respectively, and his PhD degree in 1967. Mickle is world-renowned for harnessing the power of radio waves in such convenient, low-cost applications as power harvesting. He currently directs the Swanson School's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Center of Excellence, an internationally recognized research laboratory for RFID technology. The U.S. Department of Defense established a standard RFID frequency (ANSI 915 MHz) for all UHF RFID applications based on Mickle's research. Also, Ligonier-based Powercast Corp., which licensed RF power harvesting technology Mickle developed, won "Best in Show for Emerging Technology" at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In 2004, Mickle established a trust to create the Ruth E. Mickle and Howard T. Mickle chairs-named for his parents-that will allow Pitt to attract and retain leading scholars in the electrical and computer engineering field.

Raymond P. Niro is founder and senior partner of Niro, Scavone, Haller and Niro, a nationally recognized intellectual property law firm based in Chicago. Niro graduated from Pitt with his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1964 and from George Washington University Law School in 1969. As a lawyer, Niro has won 20 consecutive multi-million dollar verdicts and recovered more than $800 million for his clients in the past decade alone. The "National Law Journal" named Niro one of the 10 best litigators in the country in 1997. His law firm ranked number one in plaintiff's patent infringement cases filed in the United States in 2005.

James J. Lombardi is executive vice president of SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based, employee-owned transportation design and construction management firm with more than 150 employees. Lombardi earned his bachelor's degree at Pitt in civil engineering in 1972 and has worked for SAI for more than 26 years. He has overseen many notable local projects, including the rehabilitation of the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Street bridges; the replacement of the Clairton-Glassport Bridge; and the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Training Center at Pittsburgh International Airport. Lombardi is now the principal-in-charge of phase two of the $350 million stretch of the Mon-Fayette Expressway between Uniontown and Brownsville. He also has taught Pitt's Highway Design Senior Project course for 10 years.

Barbara Shelton is the principal representative of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Shelton earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering at Pitt in 1979 and a master's degree in business administration at Columbia University. President George W. Bush appointed Shelton to the GSA in 2002. Her duties include spokesperson for the region, the preplanning and construction of all public buildings, the day-to-day operations of more than 750 buildings housing 94,000 employees, and the acquisition of supplies, services, and information technology.

Edward F. Sobota is founder of Derry, Pa.-based Tech Spec, Inc. (TSI), a nationally acclaimed manufacturer and supplier of titanium bar and forging products for the aerospace, medical, chemical, and industrial product industries. Sobota graduated from Pitt with a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering in 1967. Sobota's success led to his election to the International Titanium Association's board of directors in 1999. He served as board vice president from 2003 to 2005 and recently completed a two-year term as president.