Mining Feature: NIOSH Researcher Awarded Science Honor

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

John J. Sammarco, Ph.D., an electrical engineer, was named an ABET Fellow during a ceremony at the ABET Awards Gala on October 20, 2017, in Baltimore.

Dr. John Sammarco at the 2017 ABET Awards

Dr. John Sammarco accepts his award at the ABET Gala.

Dr. Sammarco is a principal research engineer on the technology integration team of the human factors branch of NIOSH Mining. Through his membership in IEEE—a worldwide professional organization for the advancement of technology—he learned of the work of ABET, and thought volunteering for the organization would be an excellent way to give back to the profession.

ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization made up of volunteer scientists and engineers that accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology at the associate, bachelor and master degree levels. This accrediting body ensures that college or university programs who voluntarily seek—and successfully earn—this accreditation meet the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates.

Essentially, its accreditation is a mark of quality for academic science and engineering programs, and volunteers approved to be evaluators for ABET are considered to be experts in their fields.

Dr. Sammarco has served for 21 years as a member of the ABET program evaluators team, and has steadily taken on greater roles of responsibility with the organization, including leading multiple teams on overseas accreditation trips, and chairing a committee tasked with performing a major revision of 15 documents used to define accreditation procedures. Doing so resulted in a more streamlined process that provided consistency and saved valuable volunteer time. As part of the awards process, ABET produced a video about Dr. Sammarco's work and his contributions.

Receiving the award, "is a real honor," says Dr. Sammarco. "I know some of the people who have received this in past years, and I have the highest respect for them. Being counted among them is really amazing."

Dr. Sammarco took his daughter with him to the black-tie event—something he equated to the Oscars, but for science—and said it was both thrilling and humbling to be recognized for his work with the organization.

Although most accreditation work is done within the U.S., Dr. Sammarco has led several trips abroad. These ventures have afforded Dr. Sammarco an opportunity to grow his peer network of academics and fellow researchers and learn about how his line of work is taught the world over. It's also given him unique experiences he'll never forget, such as drinking camel milk in Egypt and eating guinea pig in Peru. Another event was one for the record books—the Guinness Book of World Records, that is.

"We happened to be in Kuwait during their independence day celebration and they set off a huge fireworks display over the water," he remembers. "It was absolutely incredible. I might never again see anything like it."

Page last reviewed: December 10, 2019
Page last updated: October 31, 2017