Outstanding WPI Faculty Honored at Convocation

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WORCESTER, Mass. -- WPI Board of Trustees' Awards for Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship were presented earlier this month at the annual Faculty Honors Convocation. Also honored were the outstanding faculty advisor, teaching assistant of the year, graduate researchers and retiring faculty.

Leonard D. Albano of Belmont, Mass., was honored for outstanding teaching. Albano is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering who joined the WPI faculty in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree at Tufts University, a master's at Northwestern University, and a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a registered professional engineer in Massachusetts and serves as the advisor to the WPI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. His teaching and professional practice is in the area of structural engineering and his research activities focus on the integration of design and construction and the concept of performance-based design.

According to the citation, Albano is highly regarding by students and colleagues, who have remarked upon his impressive knowledge and depth of understanding of the material he presents. "I have never met a professor who cares more about his students," said one undergraduate. Albano is described as a model teacher and a team player who is actively involved with the WPI Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and as an advisor to student projects. In 1996 he was honored by Tau Beta Pi as Advisor of the Year.

English Professor Kent P. Ljungquist of Holden, Mass., received the award for outstanding research and creative scholarship. A faculty member since 1977, Ljungquist earned a bachelor's degree at Clark University, a master's degree at the University of Connecticut, and a doctorate at Duke University. He is one of the world's leading authorities on the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe. He is the author of The Grand and the Fair: Poe's Landscape Aesthetics and Pictorial Techniques (1985). From 1991 to 1996 he edited the Poe Studies Association Newsletter, published at WPI.

During a 1991 sabbatical at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester he determined that an unsigned review of Poe's series on "Autography" that appeared in the Philadelphia Public Ledger in 1841 was, in fact, written by Poe himself. He is a lifetime member of the Poe Studies Association and a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society.

Ljungquist was cited for his work as a literary critic, bibliographer and editor whose "painstaking scholarship has produced definitive guides to 19th century American novelists, comprehensive literary biographies of antebellum writers in New York and the South, and the standard critical edition of James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer." He has also contributed important essays on Emerson, Longfellow, Melville, Thoreau and Whitman and "has helped put not just Worcester, but also WPI on the literary map." In 1994, he was Tau Beta Pi's Advisor of the Year.

Michael Gennert of Rutland, Mass., associate professor of computer science, received the Outstanding Academic Advisor Award from the Massachusetts Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society. Gennert, who joined the faculty in 1987, earned an S.B.C.S., an S.B.E.E., an S.M.E.E. and an Sc.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He was cited as a professor who "gives freely of himself, his time and his energy, cares about his students, and has made a lasting impression on them."

The following graduate student awards were also presented during Convocation:

Teaching Assistant of the Year Awards: Sean C. Emerson of Worcester, formerly of North Attleboro, Mass., and Moises Gomez-Morante of Puebla, Mexico.

Emerson graduated from WPI in 1992 with a degree in chemical engineering. He worked for three years at Mobil Research and Development Corp., in Paulsboro, N.J., before returning to campus for graduate studies. He completed his master's degree in chemical engineering in October 1997 and expects to receive his Ph.D. in 1999. He was cited for embodying "the true spirit of a scientist, being able to share his knowledge with those who need it, and having the persistence to find the truth."

Gomez-Morante, who will receive his master's degree in electrical engineering in May, was identified by nominators as a " perfect TA and mentor in EE courses that are designed to get electrical and computer engineering freshmen excited about their major."

Sigma Xi Graduate Research Awards
The WPI Chapter of Sigma Xi, the National Research Society, selects worthy students to receive awards based on their graduate research and theses. This year's winners are:

Charles S. Buer of Shrewsbury, Mass., a Ph.D. candidate in biology/biotechnology, was honored for his thesis research, "Laser Applications in Plant Biology." His research advisors are Biology/Biotechnology Professor Pamela J. Weathers and Grover A. Swartzlander Jr., assistant professor of physics. Originally from Dawson, Minn., Buer earned a B.A. in biology and a B.A. in chemistry at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn. His research at WPI focuses on developing and using precision laser tools (laser scissors and tweezers) to study the characteristics of linkages (called Hechtian strands) between plant cell membranes and the cell wall. His work has resulted in the first insertion of a microscopic object (a bacterium) into a plant cell using only light. In addition, he accomplished the first binding of a microsphere to a Hectian strand by any means>thus providing a way to test the tension of these strands. The techniques have been used to attempt the genetic transformation of Ginkgo biloba, an important pharmaceutical plant that has particular applications to the treatment of asthma and other inflammations. In 1997, Buer's research was recognized with the prestigious Philip White Memorial Award from the Society of In Vitro Biology and with an Outstanding Poster Award from that year's meeting of the American Optical Society.

Qingyun Zhang of Worcester, Mass., formerly of Shandong Province, China, who completed his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in October 1997, was honored for his doctoral thesis "Measurements of Passive Scalar Concentration Fields in Accelerating Jets." His work was supported by the National Science Foundation. Zhang is employed as an engineer at Harvard Medical School's Joint Center for Radiation Therapy in Boston. For his doctoral thesis, he examined the effects of acceleration of the jet flow field on dilution and mixing rates. His discovery that jet acceleration can alter the far-field jet structure promises to have far-reaching implications for the control of mixing rates in combustion systems. His research has already impacted technology development in the aerospace and chemical processing industries because the role of "unsteadiness" in many practical devices is being recognized as an important factor in their ultimate performance. Hamid Johari, associate professor of mechanical engineering, was Zhang's advisor.

The following retiring faculty member was honored at Convocation:

John Mayer of Holden, Mass., director of the Nuclear Engineering program and, since 1993, associate head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, retired in December. During his 34-year career at WPI, Mayer made major contributions to engineering education as a teacher and consultant who bridged the gap between academia and industry and formed strong partnerships between the two. In a 1996 report, the Secretary of the Interior praised WPI's Nuclear Engineering program as one of the top two programs in the country and commended it for its success in hands-on education and the quality of its graduates.

Mayer served as an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Congressional Fellow, chaired two of five committees that report to ASME's Board of Governors, and served as associate editor of the Applied Mechanics Review. He is a recipient of ASME's Dedicated Service Award and was named an ASME Fellow , in 1997. He was chairman of the Holden Municipal Light Department, and chairman of the Massachusetts Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Board.

"John Mayer has assisted us through the most difficult and challenging times and helped our students and programs to strive for the best," said ME Department Head Mohammad N. Noori, who praised Mayer for being a great mechanical engineer and a man of integrity and values. "Thank you for the recognition that you brought to our department and for WPI through your devotion and by being an ambassador for us at the national level."

Harold W. Hilsinger of Spencer, Mass., an associate professor of physics, and civil and environmental engineering Professor Krishnaswamiengar Keshavan of Worcester, Mass., also retired. Hilsinger joined the faculty in 1962.His research and teaching interests focuses on classical relativistic field theory. Keshavan's research and teaching interests were in the areas of water quality and engineering education.

An independent technological university founded in 1865, WPI is renowned for its project-based educational program. Under the WPI Plan, students are provided with unique opportunities to integrate classroom studies with preprofessional projects conducted o campus and at off-campus locations throughout the world.

WPI was ranked among the top 50 national universities in the 1997 edition of U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges Guide and was ranked 35th among the top national institutions in the magazine's Best College Values report.