Mechanical engineering alumna awarded by SAE International for leadership and service

rizzo-saeawardWayne State University College of Engineering alumna Denise Rizzo recently received the 2017 J. Cordell Breed Award for Women Leaders from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International in recognition of her contributions to the mobility industry and service to her company and community.

Rizzo, a senior research mechanical engineer for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), received the award in April during the WCX 17: SAE World Congress Experience in Detroit.

“It is always an honor to be recognized for doing the work that you love,” said Rizzo, who holds a B.S. and M.S. from Wayne State in mechanical engineering as well as a Ph.D. from Michigan Tech.

Rizzo, who was promoted to her current position earlier this year, joined TARDEC in 2008 after spending eight years in the Powertrain Group at Chrysler, where she was a controls research and development engineer. She specializes in modeling, simulation and control of propulsion systems of ground vehicles.

She says the most rewarding aspect of her job is “helping the soldiers and learning from other talented researchers.” She also demonstrates a commitment to service and mentorship in her industry as an active member of SAE, Society of Women Engineers, National Defense Industrial Association and Women in Defense.

“I was lucky to have amazing mentors such as Dr. Michele Grimm when I was an undergraduate student and new engineer. It only feels right to pay that back,” said Rizzo. “Furthermore, entering the work force and choosing a career path is not only challenging, it can be amazingly confusing. My goal is to help women understand how many different career paths exist and how to pick one that works for them.”

Rizzo has received seven awards for outstanding contributions during her tenure at TARDEC and been published in numerous journals and technical reports. She also holds two patents.

The dual alumna looks back on her time at Wayne State fondly. “Not only did WSU provide me with an outstanding technical education,” said Rizzo, “but it gave me the confidence and skill to follow a career path that is unique and rewarding.”