With a perfect GPA of 4.0, Mark Liotta, Alexandra Masciana and Sara Vitkus have attained the highest academic achievements of this year’s graduates and are first in the Stevens Institute of Technology Class of 2017.
Mark Liotta of Chatham, New Jersey graduates first in class with a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering.
A Stevens Scholar and a member of the Stevens Honor Board, Liotta belongs to two prestigious honor societies that recognize outstanding scholastic achievement: Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, and Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national health pre-professional honor society. He was also a member of the Stevens Orchestra (violin).
Gifted in math and science from an early age, Liotta is a fierce advocate of STEM education. As a high school student, he co-founded JerseySTEM, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing STEM awareness and engagement of middle and high school students in underrepresented communities.
He came to Stevens with the goal of going to medical school. After graduation, Liotta will attend Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
At Stevens, Liotta participated in notable research activities with a healthcare focus, including one involving nerve guidance conduits and tissue engineering, and another in gene therapy through a scholarship program offered by Stevens' Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI).
He says his engineering education gave him a greater appreciation and understanding of the critical role technology plays in medicine.
That important interplay between technology and medicine was underscored by Liotta’s work experiences.
As a volunteer and later a scribe at Hoboken University Medical Center, he worked closely with physicians in the emergency department. His other work experiences include a biomedical engineering internship at CooperSurgical in Connecticut, where he focused on the research and development of medical devices.
Those experiences, together with his education, afforded Liotta a unique opportunity to see the integration of research, engineering and real-world application in the medical field.
“I was able to understand the whole connection between research, where you discover a new idea, to engineering, where you materialize that idea, and the application of that material product to a person’s health.”
He plans to pursue a career in medicine, with a focus in cardiovascular surgery.
“From an engineering lens, the heart is almost too perfect. It’s amazing how it works efficiently and how it responds to different situations. I enjoy studying its complexity and hope to develop engineering devices that could improve the quality of life for heart patients.”
Alexandra (“Allie”) Masciana of Middletown, New Jersey, also first in class, graduates with a bachelor’s in business and technology.
She chose Stevens for the opportunity to work closely with faculty in meaningful research, and was given that chance during her first two summers at Stevens. A Stevens Scholar, Masciana worked on market research projects, one involving the Monmouth Medical Center and another on female empowerment-focused advertising campaigns, under the close supervision of faculty.
“Those two projects allowed me to really focus on topics that I was passionate about,” said Masciana.
“I've developed outstanding relationships with my professors, such as Dr. Don Lombardi, that I wouldn't have been able to establish anywhere else. My professors have helped me personally and professionally, so Stevens ended up being the perfect choice for me.”
Masciana assumed a variety of leadership roles on campus. She was a resident assistant (RA), a student ambassador for the School of Business, and a cabinet secretary of the Student Government Association during her freshman year. She also actively participated in student advisory board meetings for the Center for Faculty Engagement and Advancement and was active in Greek life as a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, where she served as public relations chair.
She belongs to a number of prestigious honor societies. She is a member of the Gear & Triangle Honor Society, the Order of Omega Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and Rho Alpha Sigma residence life honor society, where she served as a co-service chair.
A scholar athlete, Masciana competed on the Stevens women’s tennis team, appearing six times on the President’s List, an honor distinguishing student athletes who earn grade point averages of 3.75 or higher. She also earned the title of “Stevens Sportswoman of the Year” for her sportsmanship during the 2014-15 season.
She completed an internship last summer as a consultant with global financial services firm EY, where she will begin her career as a technology advisor for financial services after graduation.
"I wouldn't be who I am today without the support and encouragement from mentors, friends and family. I'm incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such wonderful people both at Stevens and at home."
Sara Vitkus of Loudoun County, Virginia also graduates first in class with a bachelor’s in computer engineering and a master’s in systems engineering.
The Stevens campus in Hoboken, NJ, directly across from New York City on the Hudson River, is a stark contrast from what Vitkus considers home. Growing up on her family’s 50-acre farm, with its 40 horses, Vitkus developed into an accomplished equestrian, competing nationally and coaching young equestrian students.
She credits her STEM-focused high school, the Loudoun Academy of Science, for preparing her for success at Stevens.
“I was exposed to a very high level of math, science and engineering instruction that was practical and very lab-based. The program was very rigorous, but it inspired me to go into engineering.”
At Stevens, Vitkus participated in graduate-level research opportunities, such as an interdisciplinary project to create a virtual-reality representation of the City of Hoboken for purposes of disaster, flood and urban planning.
““I like the fact that you’re doing something that hasn’t been done before and that it's advancing the world forward,” she said of her research activities.
Stevens also allowed Vitkus to tap into her entrepreneurial capabilities. She is a co-founder of Savizar, a company specializing in big data solutions and one of the first startups selected by the Stevens Venture Center to receive mentoring, networking resources and technology support.
She is a recipient of the Stevens Presidential Scholarship and belongs to Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, and Eta Kappa Nu, the international electrical and computer engineering honor society of the IEEE. She has been active in Greek life as a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, where she served on both the executive board and the executive council as scholarship chair and bursar.
After graduation, Vitkus will return to northern Virginia to begin a career as a systems engineer at Entegra Systems, a provider of technical and professional services for federal government clients in the defense, homeland security and intelligence sectors.