Outstanding teachers and researchers honored
Recipients of the Board of Trustees' Awards for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship and Outstanding Teaching were announced at the Faculty Honors Convocation in April as part of the celebration honoring the 25th anniversary of the WPI Plan.
David Cyganski, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Albert Sacco Jr., professor and head of the Chemical Engineering Department, and Christopher H. Sotak, associate professor of biomedical engineering, were honored for outstanding research and scholarship.
Cyganski was cited for his deep mathematical insights, which he has used to develop bold new ideas and applications. In the 1980s Cyganski established a name for himself in the image-processing community with his work on the use of tensor theory, differential calculus, and Lie theory as it applies to the development of geometric invariants for object recognition. In the 1990s Cyganski has applied his experience in object recognition to the more complex and general problem of automatic target recognition. His Linear Signal Decomposition/Direction of Arrival Algorithm has been recognized as a major step forward in this field and a major breakthrough in machine vision and image understanding.
Sacco was honored for his distinguished scholarly achievement on Earth and in space. The citation noted that Sacco is known and respected around the world for his scholarly research on carbon desposition, ilmenite processing, and zeolite crystal growth. He is best known for his research on zeolite crystals, his early laboratory studies and his microgravity experiments in space on the first and second U.S. Microgravity Laboratory. His hands-on work on the space shuttle Columbia last fall and his ability to grow extraordinarily large crystals has already begun to set the research agenda for NASA's planned space station. The citation also noted the contributions of Sacco and the Columbia crew to exciting young students about science with their Nov. 2 downlink from space.
Sotak was chosen for his many prominent contributions to the biomedical application of magnetic resonance imaging technology. During the last eight years Sotak has built and established an internationally recognized facility for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy at WPI. He is widely recognized for his pioneering work in diffusion-weighted imaging methods for the assessment of stroke-affected regions of the brain. The narrative also noted that Sotak has collaborated in developing noninvasive methods of measuring anisotropy of water diffusion in ligaments subjected to mechanical loading. He has also developed q-space diffusion imaging techniques to characterize structural data in saturated porous media.
Van Bluemel, associate professor of physics, and Nicholas Kildahl, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, were honored for their outstanding teaching.
Bluemel was cited for his dedication to the education of his students, his integrity, his commitment to the highest educational aspirations, and his enjoyment of the interaction between student and teacher. The citation noted that "Professor Bluemel's greatest impact has been through his outstanding advising of projects."
Kildahl was chosen for his unique integration and excellence in teaching that have greatly enriched the classroom experiences of his students. According to the citation, "He has replaced traditional one-way lectures with 'dialogues' in the Socratic tradition. These dialogues place more responsibility on the students for their own learning and, as Professor Kildahl uses them, foster a true partnership between students and faculty in the learning process."
History Professor Michael M. Sokal, representing the Selection Committee, noted that it was increasingly clear just how much of the Plan's great success derived directly from the simultaneous growth of faculty scholarship. "We realize that the intellectual vitality of the WPI faculty, upon which rests the ultimate success of the MQPs, IQPs, Sufficiency Projects, and other student achievements that we celebrate today, follows in large part from our faculty's scholarly activities."
Also honored were:
Hartley T. Grandin Jr., professor of mechanical engineering, who retired as professor emeritus after 34 years of service to WPI, and Leonard Albano, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who was named Outstanding Academic Advisor by the WPI Chapter of Tau Beta Pi.
Lobat Hashemi received the Sigma Xi Master's Research Award for "Bayesian Inference of a 2x2 Table: An Assessment of Gender Difference in the Worcester Heart Attack Study." Honorable mention went to Dmitry V. Blumberg for "Recursively Polynomial Representation of Expressions in Symbolic Manipulations." Murat G. Suer won the Sigma Xi Doctoral Research Award for "Catalytic and Transport Mechanisms of Supercritical Fuels." Naod Kebede of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant of the Year Award.
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