Introducing the inaugural UGA Engineering Trailblazer Award recipients

Trailblazer Award Winners Brendon Mack, Cheryl Gomillion, Kathy NguyenAt the start of University of Georgia Honors Week 2024, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the inaugural Engineering Trailblazer Award. 

The Trailblazer Award is a prestigious recognition that celebrates the remarkable contributions of individuals who have overcome unique challenges in their engineering journey.

First-Generation Trailblazer Award
Brendon Mack, B.S. Civil Engineering ’17

Recognizing a trailblazer who is the first in their family to pursue a career in engineering, demonstrating perseverance and determination.

Brendon Mack

Brendon Mack (he/him) (B.S. Civil Engineering, ’17) is a proud Georgia Engineering alumnus originally from Lawrenceville, Georgia. He is a first generation college graduate within his family and a first generation engineer, who has truly embodied giving back through both his professional and educational achievements. Throughout his time as a student he was actively involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers and Engineers without Borders student chapters, as well as an intern at the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), Athens Clarke County public utilities, while working numerous additional on and off-campus jobs and volunteer opportunities.

Currently, he serves as a Bridge Structural Engineering Associate at Gresham Smith located in the heart of Atlanta. Brendon has experience working on projects with local and state DOT’s. such as the Courtland Street Rapid Replacement (2018), Islands Expressway Expansion (2019), the Peachtree Corners Pedestrian Bridge (2021), and the Cheshire Bridge at North Peachtree Creek Emergency Replacement (2022) along with numerous bridge bundles and assorted projects for local and state jurisdictions across the southeast with more to mention. Within a regular day, he works alongside architects, city planners, urban designers, and all most disciplines of engineering.

Along with his professional resume, Brendon finds time to encourage and empower the next generations of engineers through his passionate work within his firms Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging programming – including orchestrating sponsorships of the Atlanta Pride parade with his firm, outreach to ensure all marginalized communities are empowered to explore a career in engineering.

His continued outreach work does not stop with Gresham Smith many K-12 outreach programs in the ASCE Georgia Chapter like the Future Cities Competition, persistent work with Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and STEM Day with ACEC Georgia, working with the UGA Mentorship Program, the ACE Mentor Program multiple years, serving his alma mater through his tenure as a Young Alumni Board Member, leading and guiding annual College of Engineering Capstone Students in bridge projects, and helping with the creation of the Engineering Alumni Board Leadership Need-Based Scholarship.

Brendon lives in Decatur, Georgia with his loving husband, Will, and their little dog, Jake.

Woman Trailblazer Award
Cheryl Gomillion, Associate Professor

Acknowledging a trailblazing woman who has made significant contributions to the field of engineering, breaking gender barriers and inspiring others.

Cheryl GomillionDr. Cheryl T. Gomillion is an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical, Materials, & Biomedical Engineering, part of the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA). She received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University and completed postdoctoral training at University of Connecticut Health Center in Reconstructive Sciences and Yale University School of Medicine in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery before joining the faculty at UGA in 2015. Her long-standing research interests are in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Specifically, the work of her research group focuses on three general areas: (1) design and evaluation of biomaterials for therapeutic purposes; (2) application of materials for engineering tissue systems; and (3) advanced engineering strategies for developing in vitro models and culture systems. Central to these areas is a burgeoning area of research within her group focused on the integration of biomedical and engineering education research with a specific focus on evaluating classroom innovations for improving biomedical engineering student learning and exploring factors that facilitate success for diverse students.

Dr. Gomillion has a strong record of engagement in the recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is accompanied by a passion for mentoring students at all levels, where she has created a diverse, multidisciplinary, and collaborative lab environment to prepare future researchers for both academic and industry jobs in biomedical engineering. Dr. Gomillion’s biomedical and educational work has been supported through funding from various external entities, including the It’s the Journey/Georgia CORE Breast Cancer Research Award, Georgia Research Alliance, Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) Biologics Junior Research Grant Award, VentureWell Faculty Grants, National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (NSF). She has been recognized with multiple honors, including being named winner of the UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) Research Mentoring Award in 2021 and being awarded a prestigious NSF CAREER Award in 2022 to support her research, education, and outreach efforts for her grant entitled CAREER: In Vitro Model Approaches Leveraging Quantitative Cancer Cell Properties as Determinants of Metastatic Potential.

Dr. Gomillion is a native of Aiken, South Carolina. She is the proud daughter of Mrs. Diane Gomillion and the late Mr. Willie Gomillion. She also wears many other hats as a dedicated sister, auntie, and other roles for her extended family and friends.

Student Trailblazer Award
Kathy Nguyen, B.S. Environmental Engineering ’24

The Student Trailblazer Award aims to celebrate the resilience of students who have overcome challenges and obstacles, demonstrating tenacity and fortitude on their educational journey. We seek to acknowledge students who have exhibited outstanding leadership qualities, not only within academic settings, but also as inspirations to their peers and the broader community

Kathy NguyenKathy Nguyen is a first-generation, environmental engineering student from Savannah, Georgia. She has dedicated her time at UGA to finding her sense of belonging and building those communities within the College of Engineering. Her journey has been marked by active leadership roles in organizations such President of the Society of Asian Scientists & Engineers (SASE), Equity Engineers Council (EEC), and Public Relations Chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), among others. Through these roles, she has mentored peers and has contributed to building the next generation of engineers.

Beyond her commitment to leadership, Kathy has showcased her technical engineering skills through successful internships at companies including Tesla, Gilead Sciences, Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar, and Mohawk Industries. After graduation, Kathy will be joining Procter & Gamble as a Process Engineer, taking a step towards her career of becoming a sustainability engineer in manufacturing.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and serving as a Youth Group Leader for VEYM.

Trailblazers will be recognized at the College of Engineering’s 2024 Celebration of Excellence Award Ceremony on April 2nd.

For questions about the Trailblazer Award, contact Dr. Sonia Garcia, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Join a cutting-edge engineering program at a time-honored university

Apply Today Make A Gift