College of Engineering Honored Alumna: Nannette Van Antwerp
September 14, 2012
Contact: Amy Hewes
Cal Poly Engineering
The College of Engineering has named Nannette Van Antwerp as its 2012 Honored Alumna. Established 30 years ago to provide recognition for outstanding graduates, the Honored Alumna/Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon Cal Poly alumni by the University’s Alumni Association.
From her first patent submitted on her Cal Poly senior project to her most recent encounters with underwater microscopic creatures, Nannette Van Antwerp’s life has been about discovery.
Van Antwerp (B.S., Mechanical Engineering, 1989) was always interested in the medical side of engineering. “I applied to schools all over the U.S., but fell in love with Cal Poly, especially the camaraderie between students – because we studied together, we developed a team spirit even in lecture classes,” she said.
Cal Poly’s co-op program gave Van Antwerp the opportunity to discover her professional path in medical device design and development in the area of insulin pump and glucose sensor systems. She worked for three quarters at MiniMed, a spin-off of Pacesetter which was later acquired by Medtronic. Not only did the experience give her first-hand industry experience, but the company sponsored her senior project and hired her when she graduated.
During the course of her career, Van Antwerp received 24 patents on products that help diabetics. “I basically worked on steps towards development of an artificial pancreas,” explained Van Antwerp. “I still have the picture of a preemie born without a functioning pancreas hooked up to pumps larger than her head. But with the advances we’ve made, she’s doing great, while I’ve had the privilege of doing good in people’s lives.”
Now retired, Van Antwerp is still doing good and still discovering. An avid scuba diver, she has become an underwater filmmaker, winning awards, most recently, for “Pacific Drifters” and “Crustaceans of Ambon Bay.” “I’ve fallen in love with diving because I’ve discovered that these tiny creatures, like pelagic jellyfish, have personalities – each time I’m out is a treasure hunt,” said Van Antwerp.
While she is sharing the wonder of the underwater world through her films, Van Antwerp has also provided a generous gift that will aid students and College of Engineering. She and her husband Bill have made a $4 million bequest to establish an endowed scholarship as well as a general endowment for the College of Engineering.
“Cal Poly does a great job teaching the skills you need to be successful – plus, I have great friends and memories from my time there. I’d love to see other students have that experience, too.”