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ECE Department Selects Karen St. Germain and Dragana Perkovic-Martin for Outstanding Alumni Awards

Karen St. Germain and Dragana Perkovic-Martin

St. Germain and Perkovic-Martin

Karen St. Germain ’93 PhD and Dragana Perkovic-Martin ’08 PhD have been chosen by the UMass Amherst Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department as the recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2022 Outstanding Young Alumni Award, respectively. 

Both of these exceptional alumni worked with the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory (MIRSL) during their time in the ECE department.

St. Germain was selected by the ECE department for its annual Distinguished Alumni Award, recognizing visionary leaders in their fields. Recipients of this honor have reached exceptional levels of professional and personal achievement. This award recognizes distinguished leadership, service, teaching, innovation, and other exemplary accomplishments that positively impact society and the engineering profession.

St. Germain is the director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She provides executive leadership, strategic direction, and overall management for the agency’s Earth Science portfolio, including a fleet of 24 satellites that are currently sensing our home planet from space. 

St. Germain’s program also includes technology development, development of the next generation of Earth-observing satellites, and a robust research and applications program to understand how land, ocean, atmosphere, and cryosphere systems work and interact.

St. Germain came to NASA from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Satellite and Information Service, where she served as the deputy assistant administrator for Systems, with responsibility for leading the development of the nation’s operational weather satellite systems. 

From 2011 to 2016, St. Germain served in the Space, Strategic, and Intelligence Systems Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, where she managed a broad portfolio of defense and intelligence satellite programs.

St. Germain had a successful research career at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Nebraska, and the Naval Research Laboratory. She has performed research aboard icebreakers in the Arctic and Antarctic, flown through hurricanes and tropical storms on NOAA’s P-3 airplanes, and measured glacial ice on a snowmobile traverse of the Greenland ice sheet.

The ECE department selected Perkovic-Martin for its Outstanding Young Alumni Award, given to emerging leaders in the early stages of their careers. Recipients of this honor are generally no more than 10 years out from receiving their UMass Engineering PhD or generally no more than 15 years out from receiving their UMass Engineering BS degree. This award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and highlights each recipient’s ambitions and potential to positively impact UMass, the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Perkovic-Martin is the instrument manager for the Venus Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar on the NASA Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission. She is also a technical group supervisor for the System and Instrument Engineering group within the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) Radar Science and Engineering Section.

Since joining JPL in 2008, Perkovic-Martin has been active in the development of scatterometer and interferometer radars for Earth observations and exploration of other planets. She was the radar system engineer for ISS-RapidScat and the lead systems engineer for the Terminal Descent Sensor (the landing radar) for the Mars 2020 mission that successfully delivered the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter to the surface of Mars in 2021. 

Perkovic-Martin is also the principal investigator and manager for the DopplerScatt instrument, which is the key participant in the Earth Ventures Suborbital Mission Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamic Experiment.

Over the years, Perkovic-Martin has been involved in various radar mission concept studies and a number of Earth and planetary radar proposals. She has led the radar team participating in the VERITAS proposal through a rigorous, two-year NASA Discovery mission competition process, culminating in the mission selection for implementation and launch in the late 2020s.

In addition, Perkovic-Martin has been a co-investigator and task manager for numerous technology development tasks and is the recipient of the Early Career NASA Achievement Medal and JPL People Leadership Award. 

(April 2022)