Our Team

Eric Beckman

Eric J. Beckman

Science and Technology
Bevier Professor of Engineering

Eric Beckman received his BS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1980, and a PhD in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts in 1988. Dr. Beckman assumed his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1994, and full professor in 1997. He received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1992, and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2002. He previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Chairman of Chemical Engineering. In 2003, Dr. Beckman co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, a school of engineering institute that examines the design of more sustainable infrastructure. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market. Dr. Beckman’s research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. He has published over 175 papers and has received more than 40 US patents.  



Gena KovalcikGena M. Kovalcik

Administration and External Relations

Gena rejoined Pitt's School of Engineering in July 2003 as codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. She has 18 years of experience in development, marketing, and external relations.

Gena previously served as vice president for development at Shady Side Academy and, before that, as senior executive director of development and alumni relations at Pitt's School of Engineering. Prior to working at Pitt's engineering school, she managed donor relations and special events at Carnegie Mellon University. A native of Pittsburgh, she holds a BA from Penn State University in journalism and political science and a Master's of Management and Public Policy with a certificate in nonprofit management from Pitt.

Gena currently serves as a member of the Allegheny County Green Action Team and on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators and Renewable Manufacturing Gateways.

Laura SchaeferLaura Schaefer

Deputy Director

Laura Schaefer is a Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellow and a Professor in the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She is Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and Associate Director of the Center for Energy. She received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (1995) and a B.A. in English (1995) from Rice University, and her M.S. (1997) and Ph.D. (2000) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Schaefer’s research centers on the analysis, design and optimization of energy systems, with an emphasis on improving energy efficiency and diversification for increased sustainability. To that end, Dr. Schaefer’s research approach has been to examine energy systems both from a fundamentals viewpoint and in a societal/environmental context. These systems include absorption cycles, fuel cells, two-phase microchannel flow, multijunction solar cells, hydrokinetics, and thermoacoustics. Dr. Schaefer’s research has received over $11 million in funding by organizations such as NSF, AFOSR, ASHRAE, PITA, and NCIIA. Dr. Schaefer is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments, and Past Chair of the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME.  

Melissa BilecMelissa Bilec

Assistant Director for Education and Outreach

 Dr. Bilec is an assistant professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.   Dr. Bilec’s research program focuses on sustainable healthcare, the built environment, and life cycle assessment.  She is interested in improving the overall environmental performance of buildings while connecting the occupants in a more thoughtful manner.  She is the Principal Investigator in a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research project, NSF EFRI-Barriers, Understanding, Integration – Life cycle Development (BUILD). She has worked in the sustainable engineering arena since 2004. As the assistant director of education outreach in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, Pitt’s center for green design, she translates research to community outreach programs and develops sustainable engineering programs for K-12 education. 




Kim WisniewskiKim Leasure

Office Manager

Kim joined the Mascaro Center in June 2004. She manages all office activities including scheduling, purchasing, and budget management. She also helps with oversight of all Mascaro Center events, including the undergraduate summer program, annual advisory board meeting and the biannual conference; in addition, she assists with marketing efforts, including primary accountability for content on the organization’s Web site. Kim has a BA in communications from Penn State University.


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