Dr. Karinna Vernaza is the Dean of the College of Engineering and Business and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Gannon University. Dr. Vernaza was born in Panama City, Panama. She attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems. After graduating, she was employed as a Ship Manager in Braswell Shipyards in Panama. Dr Vernaza was awarded a Project Latin America 2000 Graduate Fellowship by the Kellogg Institute, the Coca-Cola Company and the University of Notre Dame to perform graduate studies. She earned a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 2003 from the University of Notre Dame. The title of her dissertation was “Thermal Measurements during High Speed Machining.”
In 2003, Dr. Vernaza joined Gannon University as an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering; in 2009, she was awarded tenure and advancement in rank to Associate Professor; and in 2014, she earned advancement in rank to Professor. Her primary teaching topics are in the solid mechanics and materials areas. She conducts research in the area of alternative fuels (biodiesel), high strain deformation of materials and engineering education. Dr. Vernaza is the author of over 30 peer-reviewed publications. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation S-STEM award for $1 million. She has served as the PI for two previous NSF S-STEM awards ($600,000 each) and one NSF ADVANCE-PAID Award ($385,919). Additionally, her projects have been funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Erie-Patterson Corporation, and the Gannon Center of Excellence in BioEnergy. Dr. Vernaza worked as a consultant for GE Transportation on different Off-Highway Vehicles projects as part of the GE/Gannon Master Program fromm 2006-2013.
Dr. Vernaza is active in the community, is an Erie Ambassador, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Erie Technology Incubator (2018- present) and the Experience Children Museum (2020 - presetn). She volunteers on the Society of Women Engineers, serves as a mentor for young women in partnership with the North West Pennsylvania Girls Scout Council, and serves as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the American Society of Engineering Education Conference. She serves in the Executive Board of the American Society for Engineering Education North Central Section.
Dr. Vernaza's loves to travel; she has visited over 20 countries. She loves the outdoors and, since moving to Erie, she has become a cycling enthusiat. She is a Notre Dame, tennis and soccer fan.