2007-2008

Two Outstanding WPI Faculty Members Honored with Inaugural Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prizes

John A. McNeill, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Richard D. Sisson Jr., George F. Fuller Professor of Mechanical Engineering, two outstanding members of the WPI faculty, have received the inaugural Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize. Established through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson ’71, chair of the WPI Board of Trustees and former Chairman and CEO of Avaya Inc., the prize honors WPI faculty members for overall excellence.

WORCESTER, Mass. – Two outstanding members of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) faculty have received the inaugural Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize. Established through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson ’71, chair of the WPI Board of Trustees and former Chairman and CEO of Avaya Inc., the prize honors WPI faculty members for overall excellence.

"WPI's existing Board of Trustees Awards recognize excellence in particular areas of faculty performance: teaching, research and scholarship, and advising," WPI President Dennis Berkey noted in announcing the new awards. "The purpose of the new chairman's prizes is to recognize and reward members of the faculty who excel in all relevant areas of faculty performance. They are true exemplas of the Institute's highest aspirations and most important qualities."

Two prizes, each in the amount of $10,000, were presented during WPI's 2007 Commencement exercises to John A. McNeill, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Richard D. Sisson Jr., George F. Fuller Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

McNeill was honored, in part, for his pioneering research in mixed-signal integrated circuit design. His work has been recognized with multiple patents, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (the most prestigious honor bestowed on young scholar educators), and, among other awards, a Best Paper Award at the 2005 International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

In 1999 he founded the New England Center for Analog and Mixed-Signal Integrated Circuit Design, a research center within WPI's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department that has brought in more that $1 million in funding and supported more than 30 master's and PhD students and some 40 undergraduate Major Qualifying Projects. Current member companies are Analog Devices, Allegro Microsystems, BAE Systems, and Texas Instruments.

McNeil's skill as an educator has been recognized several times, including with the Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Electrical Engineering Professor Award (in 1998 and 2000) and with WPI's Board of Trustees Award for Outstanding Teaching (in 1999). His educational innovations include a new undergraduate analog microelectronics curriculum and three new graduate courses, as well as a student project center in Ireland. He has also been generous in service roles within his department and the university and is an active mentor to young faculty.

He joined the WPI faculty in 1994 after holding design and consulting positions at a number of companies, including Analog Devices, EG&G Reticon, Adaptive Optics Associates, and General Electric. He holds a PhD from Boston University and an MS from the University of Rochester, both in electrical engineering, and an AB in engineering sciences from Dartmouth College.

Richard D. Sisson Jr.

Sisson's prolific contributions to the literature in materials science and engineering over the course of nearly three decades at WPI, including nearly 200 technical articles on materials process modeling and control, hydrogen embrittlement of steels, and environmental effects on metals and ceramics, have ranked him among the top 5 percent of scholars in his field. His work, which has received more than $7 million in external support, has earned him significant honors, including fellowship in ASM International, the materials information society, and induction into the Academy of Engineering Excellence at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Sisson's work as an educator has been recognized by students, who named him advisor of the year in mechanical engineering in 2006, and the university, which presented him with the Board of Trustees Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1987. He has introduced new courses and developed new programs, including an interdisciplinary master's program in materials systems engineering. Between 1994 and 1999, he was director of the National Science Foundation's Product REALIZATION Consortium, a coalition of five universities that worked to reform undergraduate manufacturing engineering education. He also founded and directs the Learning Factory, a WPI student project center that run in collaboration with Pratt & Whitney's jet engine manufacturing facility in East Hartford, Conn.

Sisson's service to WPI includes a year as interim head of the Mechanical Engineering Department and his current posts as director of the Manufacturing Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering programs. Beyond campus, he has held a wide range of professional leadership roles, including service as a trustee of ASM from 2002 to 2005. He is currently president of the ASM Heat Treating Society, an organization for which he has organized many symposia.

Sisson holds a B.S. in metallurgical engineering from Virginia Tech and a master's and a PhD in metallurgical engineering from Purdue University. He worked briefly in industry and as research metallurgist for E. I. DuPont at the Savannah River Laboratory before joined the WPI faculty as Morgan Distinguished Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 1976. He returned to Virginia Tech in 1979 as assistant professor of materials engineering and worked as a staff engineer for Exxon Chemical Co. before rejoining the WPI faculty in 1982.

July 3, 2007