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Charles E. Vela Named as a Trailblazer in Science by Science Spectrum Magazine


November 5, 2005


Science Spectrum Magazine, one of the nation’s leading science and technology publications, has recognized Charles E. Vela, President and Chief Scientist of Afilon, as a one of the nation’s Top Minorities in Science. Those selected by the magazine as “Science Spectrum Trailblazers” represent outstanding minority professionals in the science arena whose exemplary work on the job and in the community extends throughout and beyond their industry. It is the highest national recognition given by the African American scientific community to a peer from the minority community for professional achievement and exemplary civic service that has had an impact in national public policy.


This award is especially cherished to me because it comes from my peers in the African American scientific community,” says Vela. “It is humbling to be recognized among so many outstanding minority fellow scientists.


The chosen winners have all made a significant, quantifiable, personal impact on the industry, while making contributions that have uplifted their communities and maintaining a powerful position of influence regarding public policy for minorities in science.

Vela has made substantial contributions in technology innovation and research. Previous to starting his Systems Engineering and IT company, Afilon, he was a Senior Science Advisor for the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute (IITRI), where he led a group of scientists and engineers in supporting the IRS in developing the vision and strategy for transforming and modernizing the IRS processes, operations, systems and infrastructure. Vela has also served as a Lead Engineer at the MITRE Corporation, where he directed Research and Development in the economic analysis and optimization of the federal telecommunications systems. As an Assistant Study Director at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Vela led research in the utilization of enabling technologies on the mapping of the brain. He holds advanced degrees in Electrical Engineering and Operations Research from the California State University, San Jose and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), respectively. Vela has served on thirty-three boards, commissions and studies, including the Presidential and Congressional Commission on Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, where he represented the Speaker of the House, Congressman Dennis J. Hastert; the National Science Foundation's Model Institutions of Excellence; The National Academy of Sciences’ Committee to Evaluate the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) Minority Programs; The National ResearchCouncil’s Knowledge Assessment Committee; The National Commission of Technology Education; The Board of Governors of the Latino Science and Engineering Consortium; The National Council of La Raza (NCLR); and The Hispanic Council of International Relations, among others. Charles Vela has written, published and presented over 30 papers and reports on technical and education related subjects.

Charles Vela is the founder and President of the Center for the Advancement of Hispanics in Science and Engineering Education (CAHSEE). Last year, CAHSEE’s Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Institute was recognized by The Council on Competitiveness’ BEST (Building Engineering and Science Talent), for its innovative practices in increasing the admission of students, primarely Hispanics and African Americans, into undergraduate math, science, and engineering studies, and for the superior college completion rates of participants. His system of model programs has also been implemented in El Salvador, with plans to expand to the rest of Central America.

Vela has received twenty-four awards for his technical contributions, and his innovations in science and engineering education, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) received at a White House ceremony in March 2004; the Vice Presidential National Performance Review Hammer Award in 1996, given for the first time to a non-government employee, for his contributions to the modernization of the Federal Telecommunications System; The Junipero Serra Award, 1997, the highest recognition given by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to one of its peers for sustained efforts and success in channeling Latinos into science and engineering careers; and most recently, a Meritorious Award from the Ministry of Education in El Salvador, for his contribution towards the development of the Center for Academic Excellence in Science and Engineering at the National University of El Salvador.

Vela was honored on September 16, 2005 during the Science Spectrum magazine’s Minorities in Research Science Conference Luncheon in Baltimore, Maryland.