The IMSA Board of Trustees established its Alumni Awards program in 2006 to recognize the men and women of IMSA who deliver outstanding contributions to their fields of endeavor to IMSA and the citizens of Illinois, our nation, and the world.
The Board is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Board of Trustees Alumni Awards.
The Alumni Titan Award, an annual award, honors alumni who, through outstanding service to IMSA, advance the institution’s mission and work. The honorees are enthusiastic and energetic IMSA champions who dedicate significant time, talent, and/or treasure to endeavors that help the Academy fulfill its role in developing talent and leadership in mathematics, science, and technology for our state, nation, and world.
Dr. Angel Alvarez ‘98
Dr. Angel Alvarez is the Director of the Stem Cell Core and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern University. He has extensive experience in stem cell biology, imaging, gene delivery, and biotechnology. As the Director of the Northwestern Stem Cell Core, he establishes disease models to accelerate therapeutic development using organoid technology and patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells. Many of the most rewarding aspects of his current position are derived from the Core’s exciting collaborations in reproductive biology, neuroscience, and pathology. Beyond his lab research, Dr. Alvarez has a passion for employing his analytical skills to address inequity in education.
During his doctoral research, Dr. Alvarez investigated the development of stem cell technologies and the biology of cancer. He demonstrated the critical role of nanog in facilitating induced pluripotency and established patient-derived cell lines to characterize gene expression, cell pathway activation, and protein markers in brain tumors. During his post-doctoral research, he developed tumor stem cell lines to study oncogenic signaling and factors that mediate tumor growth, invasion, and radiation resistance, notably through Wnt signaling and exosome secretion. Dr. Alvarez has earned several competitive awards, including separate pre- and post-doctoral T32 fellowships, in addition to funding from universities, private foundations, and the NIH. His research has led to the development of exciting intellectual property in both stem cell technology and cancer, yielding 11 issued US patents as well as multiple pending and international patents. He has served as a mentor to numerous emerging scholars, including several IMSA SIR students, and is most proud of being a father to his amazing daughter.
Distinguished Leadership Award
The Alumni Distinguished Leadership Award, an annual award, goes to alumni who have made distinguished achievements or leadership contributions in their professional fields of endeavor consistent with IMSA’s mission. The awardees also may be recognized for significant civic or community contributions or extraordinary courage and selflessness under challenging circumstances.
Elizabeth “Spike” Malecha ‘90
Elizabeth Malecha is an accomplished military officer dedicated to service and leadership.
After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1994, she was in the first wave of women allowed to defend our nation in combat military roles. After completing flight training, she became a Radar Intercept Officer in the F-14 Tomcat. Flying missions from aircraft carriers across the world, she developed as a leader and a combat aviator in support of our national objectives and defense. Her talent and work ethic resulted in her selection for elite training at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School and she became the first female graduate of TOPGUN in 2001. Elizabeth’s next assignment was to instruct current and future generations of fighter aviators to train, fight and win under pressure and in hostile environments. In addition, she paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.
After leaving active duty, Elizabeth continued to lead and serve as a Naval Reserve Officer since 2009 in a variety of roles. She holds the rank of Captain and is currently serving in support of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet home-ported in Naples, Italy.
Elizabeth is motivated by nature, advocacy, and service. Living in Stockholm, her recent activities include informational engagements with Swedish military and high school students, leading an English as a second language group for military attaché spouses, and exploring the country’s magnificent landscape through the nascent Swedish sport of swimrun.
She received her B.S. in ocean engineering from the United States Naval Academy and an MBA from California State University.