Engineering community mourns death of Professor Janna Maranas

November 18, 2022

By Mary Fetzer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of Engineering community is mourning the sudden loss of Janna Maranas, professor of chemical engineering, who died on Nov. 3 at the age of 57.  

“Janna was a beloved teacher, adviser, collaborator and colleague,” said Mike Janik, acting head of Penn State’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “She genuinely cared for her students and colleagues. Janna combined a personal touch with her love of polymer science, and that has had a deep impact on many of us.” 

After graduating from high school, where she excelled in flute and vocal performance, Maranas considered a career in music and enrolled in college as a music major. However, she later switched to chemical engineering and earned her bachelor’s degree from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. In 1997, she earned her doctorate from Princeton University.  

Maranas joined the Penn State engineering faculty as an assistant professor on Jan. 1, 1997. She was the recipient of both the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Principal Investigator Award and the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2002. She was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor on July 2, 2005. She became a full professor on July 1, 2014. Maranas also was affiliated with the Penn State Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Materials Science and Engineering, the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, and the Materials Research Institute.  

Andrew Zydney, former head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, worked with Maranas when she served as the department’s graduate program coordinator.   

“Janna was passionate about the position and did an extraordinary job with our graduate students,” he said. “I was amazed at the personal connections she made with our students, including the prospective Penn Staters who visited during graduate student recruiting events. Janna seemed to know every student’s name, likes and dislikes. She treated every student as an individual, always looking to find and build upon their unique strengths. She will be truly missed.” 

Laurinda Benner, administrative manager, and Angela Dixon, department head staff assistant, both worked closely with Maranas in the chemical engineering department. 

“Janna was a very kindhearted person who took a vested interest in everyone she met,” Benner said. “She loved fashion, shoes, makeup and people. Janna was very excited about her own cosmetic line and let department staff serve as her models. She was fun, passionate and down to earth. She will be greatly missed in chemical engineering.” 

Dixon said she that appreciated the empathy and kindness Maranas showed on a daily basis. 

“No matter what Janna was going through, it mattered to her what other people were going through,” Dixon said. “She would message me just to check in to see what kind of day I was having or just to tell me how much she appreciated me. She took notice of even the small things I would do. Janna wasn’t afraid to be her true self and have real conversations, even when the subject wasn’t easy. She was a truly kind person. I will miss her.”  

Maranas is survived by her daughters, Cassandra and Christina Maranas; her mother, Mimi Mosbaugh; her sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and Brian Tuck; and nieces and nephews. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations in her memory be made to the PAWS animal welfare and safety organization.  

Maranas’ obituary can be read here.


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College of Engineering Media Relations

"Janna was a beloved teacher, adviser, collaborator and colleague.” — Mike Janik, head of Chemical Engineering