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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Engineering Recipients

Young Alumna of the Year Award

Denise Demarais Zarins

ENG '93, GRAD '95

Saratoga, Calif.

“My mom came home one day when I was a junior in high school with a brochure for a Marquette College of Engineering open house,” recalls Denise Demarais Zarins.She pointed out biomedical engineering as a great combination of things I enjoyed – math, science and medicine. We went to the open house, and I was sold from that day on!”

While at Marquette, Denise studied under, and later befriended, Dr. Kris Ropella, professor and chair of biomedical engineering. “I absolutely loved her energy and teaching style, learned a lot, and gained confidence as a young woman engineer,” Denise says. Along with confidence, Denise credits Marquette for instilling another vital ingredient for success. “I learned how to learn,” she says. After receiving her master’s degree in biomedical engineering in 1995, Denise moved to Silicon Valley.    

Today, in addition to being the mother of two boys — Zachary 3 ½ and
Sven 2 — Denise is leading the development of products that improve and save lives. She co-founded Ardian Inc., a medical device development company, in 2003. Early in 2011, Ardian became part of Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology. While there, Denise worked to integrate the businesses and define a technology pathway forward. She recently moved on from Medtronic and is taking a break to spend more time with family and friends. 

“I have no idea what’s next for me,” she says “My plan is to enjoy life for a bit and explore new horizons later this year.”

Fun facts about Denise:
Hometown: Oak Creek, Wis.
Favorite quote: “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” — Gandhi
Someone alive or dead she’d like to have dinner with: Donald Driver
The Marquette faculty member who had an impact on Denise: Dr. Kris Ropella
Favorite Marquette memory: “Walking into the engineering building on my 21st birthday to find all kinds of childhood photos hung around.” Kris Ropella had called her parents to get photos. “It was fun and embarrassing.”   
In grade school, Denise wanted to be a veterinarian.
Most influential person/people: Her mother