New BET and EMET program coordinators join New Kensington campus

Joie Marhefka, biomedical engineering technology; Karl Harris, electro-mechanical engineering technology
BET Faculty

Joie Marhefka is the new program coordinator the Biomedical Engineering Technology program at Penn State New Kensington.

Credit: Bill Woodard

UPPER BURREL, Pa. -- The spring semester at Penn State New Kensington brings two new faculty members to campus -- Joie Marhefka, senior instructor and coordinator of the biomedical engineering technology (BET) program, and Karl Harris, instructor and coordinator of the electro-mechanical engineering technology (EMET) program.

Marhefka, a bioengineer, brings to the campus a wealth of experience in teaching and biomedical research. She joins the faculty after serving as an adjunct faculty member for four years at Robert Morris University. In addition to teaching physics lab at Robert Morris, Marhefka worked as head of engineering at Accel Diagnostics, a start-up medical technology company in Pittsburgh. Accel developed an easy to use blood test card that can be used for monitoring heart failure at the point of care or in the home.

Prior to Accel, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships at Falcon Genomics and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. While at Falcon, a start-up company focusing on cancer genomics, she developed tools to personalize cancer therapy based on functional genomics.

"Dr. Marhefka brings to our BET program a new perspective that will enhance our students' learning," said Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs at the campus. "She is well equipped to continue our tradition of providing quality technicians to the regional healthcare industry. The BET program is a cornerstone of the Penn State New Kensington curriculum, and we welcome Dr. Marhefka into our community."

As BET coordinator, Marhefka is responsible for a program that is known for producing well-qualified and knowledgeable technicians. Healthcare providers, including hospitals and clinics, rely on biomedical engineering technicians to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair medical equipment. Technicians' tasks include inspections and calibration. The campus’ program is one of only four programs in the nation to be accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Marhefka succeeds Myron Hartman, the longtime BET coordinator who died last year. For information on the BET program, visit

Marhefka earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Villanova University and a doctorate in bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, where she served as a teaching assistant for a bioengineering methods laboratory as well as a biothermodynamics class. She  authored 10 peer-reviewed publications and presented at numerous national and international conferences. Marhefka enjoys mentoring undergraduate students throughout her career as well as volunteering in the community. She can be reached at [email protected]

EMET coordinator
Harris comes to the campus after 16 years as director of the Penn State Electro-Optics Center in Freeport, where he supervised research and development teams working on contracts from the United States Department of Defense. Among the numerous projects, the Electro-Optics Center developed and demonstrated laser weapons systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command, which supports the Navy's fleet of ships and its combat systems.

With over 30 years of technical and executive experience, Harris is at the forefront of emerging electro-optic technologies. His expertise complements current EMET faculty members Ron Land, associate professor of engineering and EMET program coordinator, and Frank Kadi, senior instructor in engineering, who will retire in June.

"Dr. Harris brings with him an amazing portfolio of experience and leadership, and I am pleased that he has joined our EMET faculty ranks," Adolph said. "He is already proving himself to be a dedicated educator, and his students will truly benefit from the scope of his work in industry. Our EMET program promotes hands-on, active learning for a variety of career paths, and the experience that Dr. Harris can share with our students will expand the ways that they can develop as engineering technologists."

This semester Harris is teaching industrial engineering courses, including production design, which is the study of the manufacturing process. Industrial engineering classes are required for the EMET major. In addition to teaching, he is learning about the EMET program so the transition from "old" coordinator to "new" coordinator will be seamless for engineering students.

The four-year EMET degree program emphasizes all fields of engineering technology related to typical, highly-automated manufacturing, production, or assembly plant processes. EMET graduates learn the skills necessary to apply current methods and technology to the development, design, operation, and management of electro-mechanical systems. For information on the program, visit

Harris holds a doctorate in physics from North Carolina State University and bachelor’s in chemistry and physics from University of North Carolina. He has written more than 100 papers that have been published by national journals and participated in numerous seminars, workshops and panel discussions throughout the country.

Harris’ connections to the campus go back many years. In 2006, he hosted a Penn State Alumni Breakfast at Electro-Optics Center. The annual morning socials are informal, one-hour gatherings of alumni and friends who have the opportunity to get "inside the ropes" of a selected industry and tour the facilities. During the Electro-Optics tour, guests got "inside the ropes” of a laser weapons system that Harris’ team was developing for the Navy. That system is now operational aboard a Navy ship in the Persian Gulf.

For the past five years, Harris worked with New Kensington as a partner for the GREAT (Growing Regional Excellence through Experience, Academics and Training) program. The initiative matches promising engineering and Information Sciences and Technology students at Penn State New Kensington with local internship opportunities. The GREAT program is a collaboration of the New Kensington campus, Electro-Optics Center and industries within the greater Pittsburgh region. Unlike many other programs, GREAT provides qualified engineering students with the opportunity to build professional skills and experiences starting as soon as their first year at the campus. The advantages of freshmen internships are numerous. This year, a record 15 freshmen were accepted into GREAT. For more about the GREAT program, visit


Bill Woodard

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

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