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Winning the Talent Wars

"I wanted the challenge of teaching and advising, as well as research. WPI has that balance."

By Carol Hildebrand

Prominent science and technology scholars have traditionally gone to the MITs and Cornells of the world. But with its dual mission of preparing students for life and giving them a stellar technology education, WPI is competing favorably with some of the nation's best univer-sities for top-notch faculty.

This record is reflected in WPI's success in winning CAREER awards--the National Science Foundation's most prestigious research honor for young faculty members: about two per year since 1996; three this year. "That's an extraordinary record for a school our size," says John F. Carney III, WPI's provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Carney has hired 92 new faculty members--about 14 per academic year--since he arrived in 1996. This year's 18 new hires include Stephen L. Matson, the first Francis Manning Chair in Chemical Engineering. Matson's distinguished career as an engineer and entrepreneur includes election to the National Academy of Engineering.

His groundbreaking research in membrane reactors served as the technical foundation for Sepracor Inc., which he co-founded in 1984. The company was among the first to put such research to commercial use.

"I wasn't interested in working at a large, traditional research university," Matson says. "At WPI, I can do world-class research, but with the focus on project-based education, there's an opportunity to do more. I wanted the challenge of teaching and advising, as well as research. WPI has that balance."

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