Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Awards


Every year, the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University recognizes alumni who have demonstrated excellence in industry, academia, governmental service, or other endeavors related to mechanical engineering.  Honorees have shown outstanding character and leadership and have accomplished great things.  Since 1991, 320 of our alumni have been honored with the prestigious Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award.

Congratulations to all our 2023 OME recipients for showing us the best that Mechanical Engineering has to offer!

Eckhard Groll
William E. and Florence E. Perry Head and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Norm Bafunno  |  John Bernardin  |  Jimmy Kenyon  |  John Pedicini  |  Laurent Pilon  |  Arvind Raman  |  Jennifer Tucker

Senior Vice President, Toyota Motor North America
BSME 1983

Based in Plano, Texas, Norm Bafunno is responsible for North America Safety, Environmental, Facilities, Internal Logistics, and Powertrain Manufacturing & Engineering for Toyota Motor North America. He also advises Takefumi Shiga, executive vice president, Production Engineering and Manufacturing, on the company’s manufacturing transformation strategy.

Prior to relocating to Texas, Bafunno was president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI), located in Princeton, Indiana. Bafunno joined Toyota in 1997 as part of the Indiana plant startup team in the role of general manager, production. Over the following 13 years he held the titles of senior vice president for production, manufacturing planning, administration and quality. He also served as vice president of Production Engineering at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) in Erlanger, Kentucky.

Prior to joining Toyota, Bafunno spent 14 years with General Motors in the truck manufacturing group. His engineering and management experience included vehicle body weld, paint and assembly operations.

In addition to his Purdue degree, Bafunno holds a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University.

He has been an active member in community organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors for the National Foreign Trade Council in Washington, DC, and for the North Texas American Red Cross in Dallas, Texas. He is a past Chairman of the Board of the Indiana Manufacturers Association, the American Red Cross of Southwestern Indiana, the Evansville Sports Corporation, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award.

Research and Design Engineer, Los Alamos National Laboratory
MSME 1993, PhD 1996

Born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, John studied mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he first had the opportunity to intern at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Inspired by their research, he decided to pursue advanced degrees at Purdue, working on heat transfer projects with Issam Mudawar.

After finishing his Ph.D. he returned to Los Alamos, serving as a research and design engineer for 27 years. Today, he oversees a team of about 30 people with a $12 million annual budget, working on everything from national defense, to radiation detection, to nuclear energy. They’ve been called upon to offer engineering assistance during disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. They collaborated with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California on their recent breakthrough in fusion ignition.

His hardware experience and project management skills caught the eye of NASA, who enlisted John’s team at Los Alamos to design and build instruments for their Mars rovers. He served as the lead mechanical engineer for ChemCam, a suite of instruments designed to vaporize rock surfaces with a laser, and analyze their chemical composition. The Curiosity rover carrying ChemCam landed on Mars in August 2012. Later, John also worked on its successor, SuperCam, which accompanied the Perseverance rover to Mars in February 2021. Both instruments are still active today, continuing to deliver experimental data back to scientists on earth.

John is a fellow of ASME, and has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico since 2006.

Director, NASA’s Glenn Research Center
MSE 1998

Dr. James A. “Jimmy” Kenyon is director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, one of ten NASA centers around the country. He has a staff of more than 3,200 people and an annual budget of approximately $900 million. Glenn features facilities and capabilities for testing aircraft and spacecraft found nowhere else on earth, such as the world’s largest vacuum chamber.

Prior to becoming Glenn’s director, Kenyon served as director of the Advanced Air Vehicles Program in the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He was responsible for the overall planning, management, and oversight of the directorate’s efforts to develop innovative concepts, technologies, and capabilities to enable revolutionary advances for a wide range of aircraft.

Prior to joining NASA, Kenyon worked with Pratt & Whitney, where he held key leadership roles in business development, program management, and engineering. Kenyon joined Pratt & Whitney after 17 years as a civilian in the Department of Defense (DoD), including six years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he was responsible for strategic planning, policy guidance, and management oversight of DoD aerospace science and technology programs.

While at Purdue, Kenyon conducted propulsion research at Zucrow Labs, under Sandy Fleeter. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In addition to his Purdue degree, he received a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory
BSME 1977

Over the course of his career, John Pedicini established himself as a renowned weapon designer, weapon scientist, and assessor of foreign threats. He first joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1981 and worked on 13 nuclear tests—serving as the lead designer on five. His major contributions include pushing the frontiers of primary weapon design with five innovative designs during the mid-1980s to early-1990s. He was the driver behind primary design for the reliable replacement warhead design concept, which promised greatly improved safety and surety while simultaneously returning very high-performance margins. He also developed intelligence tools and insights to ensure adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Pedicini pioneered work on plutonium aging and has been an invaluable mentor to more than 50 staff members. His broad knowledge and immense contributions to national security, nuclear technologies and U.S. nonproliferation efforts were recognized when he was named a Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow at the age of 39, one of the youngest employees to receive that honor.

Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Program Director, Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E)
PhD 2002

Laurent Pilon is professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is currently serving as Program Director at the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), where his focus is on solar, thermal, and electrical energy storage.

His research group at UCLA is engaged in a wide range of interdisciplinary research projects at the intersection of applied optics, transport phenomena, materials, and interface science. Applications focus on sustainable energy technologies including photobiological production of added-value products; mesoporous materials for photocatalysis and energy storage applications; and waste heat and mechanical energy harvesting.

He and his collaborators have authored 6 book chapters and more than 200 archival journal publications, and filed 7 patents. Over the last 21 years, he has advised 30 Ph.D. students, 22 M.S. students, and 5 post-doctoral scholars.

Laurent Pilon is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the CAREER Award (2005) from the National Science Foundation, the Bergles-Rohsenow Young Investigator Award in Heat Transfer (2008) from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Heat Transfer Memorial Award (2021). He is a Fellow of ASME.

He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in applied physics from the Grenoble Institute of Technology, France (1997) and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University (2002), advised by Ray Viskanta.

John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering and Robert V. Adams Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
MSME 1993

Dr. Arvind Raman is the John A. Edwardson Dean of Purdue University’s College of Engineering and the Robert V. Adams Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on exploiting nonlinear dynamics for innovations in diverse interdisciplinary areas such as nanotechnology, biomechanics and appropriate technologies for sustainable development.

He is the co-founder of the Shah Family Global Innovation Lab, a unique organization at Purdue that supports technology development and translation of technologies for sustainable development around the world. Raman served as the principal investigator of the $70M USAID-funded LASER (Long-term Assistance and SErvices for Research) PULSE (Partners for University-Led Solutions Engine) consortium, which convenes and catalyzes a global network of universities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector for research-driven practical solutions to critical development challenges in low- and middle-income countries.

Prior, he was the inaugural Associate Dean for Global Engineering Programs, where within three years he helped double the number of international experiences taken by engineering students, and established new partnerships in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Raman is an ASME fellow, an ASME Gustus Larson Memorial Award recipient, Keeley fellow (Oxford), and an NSF CAREER awardee. Raman joined Purdue in 2000 as an Assistant Professor following a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, MS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Vice President of Engineering, Honeywell
BSME 1998

Jennifer Tucker is an executive leader with over 25 years of experience in the aerospace industry.  She earned her Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University and Master’s degree in Business Administration at Arizona State University.

During her time at Purdue, Jennifer completed a five-session co-op with General Electric.  Working at GE Aircraft Engines on the F-16 platform and attending the Dayton Air Show was the start of her lifelong passion for the amazing products, technology, and innovation in aerospace.

Jennifer currently serves at Honeywell as the Vice President of Engineering for the Aerospace Integrated Supply Chain.  In this role, she leads a global engineering organization responsible for manufacturing technology development, production engineering support, and design for manufacturing during new product development.  Prior to her current role, she held positions of increasing responsibility in analysis, project engineering, systems engineering, and engineering management for new product development of aircraft mechanical systems.  Jennifer has had the opportunity to work on many exciting aircraft development programs, including the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X.

Jennifer has a personal interest and commitment to developing the next generation of engineering talent.  She is the executive sponsor of the University Recruiting and Development Program and a member of the Society of Women Engineers.  Having raised two amazing children in partnership with her husband of 24 years, Jennifer appreciates the challenges of balancing family priorities with career progression.  With her personal experience stepping away from her career to be a stay-at-home-parent for several years, Jennifer frequently mentors and supports parents (men and women!) in the workplace to achieve their personal and professional objectives.