Faculty Achievements

The Quest for “Everyday Robots”

In 2012, two WPI faculty members received the CAREER Award, the most prestigious distinction bestowed on young faculty members by the National Science Foundation. Sonia Chernova, assistant professor of computer science, received a five-year, $500,000 award to pioneer a way for non-expert users to train robots to do new tasks or adapt to new environments. The editor of an upcoming special issue of the International Journal on Social Robotics, she is co-chairing “Wisdom of the Crowd,” the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence spring 2012 symposium.

Lighter Metals, Greener Cars

Diana Lados, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Integrative Materials Design Center, received a five-year, $525,000 award to develop a fundamental understanding of crack formation and propagation in light metals, which could lead to a significant increase in the use of those materials in transportation applications. In 2011, she was selected to serve as team leader for “Multi-Materials Integration in Clean Energy Systems,” part of a U.S. Department of Energy/TMS program called “Linking Transformational Materials and Processing for an Energy-Efficient and Low-Carbon Economy.”

New Fellows

Nancy Burnham, associate professor of physics, has been named a fellow of AVS, which promotes the science and technology of materials, interfaces, and processing. She was honored for technical leadership in nanoscience and nanotechnology, “especially for contributions in scanning probe microscopy and nanomechanics.”

Nikolaos Gatsonis, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Aerospace Engineering Program, has been named an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Karen Kashmanian Oates, Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society. Election recognizes scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Dalin Tang, professor of mathematical sciences and biomedical engineering, has been elected a fellow of the American Heart Association. Tang was elected to fellowship by the AHA’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences in recognition of his “major and productive contributions in cardiovascular basic science.”

Distinguished Professional Honors

Diran Apelian, Howmet Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Metal Processing Institute, was selected to receive the 2011 A. Frank Golick Lectureship at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He was also one of 11 international educators named to a committee to choose the finalists for the inaugural $500,000 WISE Prize for Education.


Ryan Baker, assistant professor of social science and policy studies, was named the inaugural president of the International Educational Data Mining Society.

Soussan Djamasbi, associate professor in the School of Business, is chair-elect of the Association of Information Systems Special Interest Group on Human Computer Interaction.

David Dollenmayer, professor of German, received the 2010 Translation Prize from the Austrian Cultural Forum for his work-in-progress on the novella Idyll With Drowning Dog (Idylle mit ertrinkendem Hund) by Michael Köhlmeier.

Cosme Furlong, associate professor of mechanical engineering, received the 2010 A. J. Durelli Award from the Society for Experimental Mechanics. The award recognizes a young professional who has introduced an innovative approach or method into the field of experimental mechanics.

John Orr, professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Educator Award, which recognizes significant lifelong contributions to ASEE and to ECE education.

Mahadevan Padmanabhan, adjunct professor of mechanical engineering, received the 2011 Hydraulic Structures Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which recognizes significant contributions to the advancement of the art and science of hydraulic engineering as applied to hydraulic structures.

Ryzard Pryputniewicz, Kenneth G. Merriam Professor of Mechanical Engineering, was elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2011. The transnational body has over 1,400 members, including 28 Nobel Laureates and Pope Benedict XVI.

Reeta Prusty Rao, assistant professor of biology and biotechnology, has been named a member of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a visiting scientist at the Broad Institute at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Mark Rice, dean of the School of Business, was named in 2011 to a one-year term as chair of the Accreditation Quality Committee for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), which accredits undergraduate and graduate programs in business and accounting internationally.

David Spanagel, assistant professor of history, was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Forum for the History of Science in America.

Bogdan Vernescu, professor and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, was the Bitdefender Invited Professor at the Institute of Mathematics of the Romanian Academy in June 2010.

Vadim Yakovlev, research associate professor of mathematical sciences, received the 2011 Honorable Guest Professorship from Kunming University of Science and Technology in Kunming, China. The recognition was awarded during the 15th National Conference on the Application of Microwave Energy, at which he was an invited speaker.

Invited Presentations

Janice Gobert, associate professor of social science and policy studies, delivered the keynote address at the 2011 Roger Penrose Conference at Google headquarters in California. The talk was titled “Developing Assessment of Geological Thinking and Reasoning and Studying Their Affordances for Studying Spatial Cognition.”

Rob Krueger, associate professor of geography and director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, in 2011 made a presentation on sustainable development to the European Union in Brussels and delivered the keynote address at an international conference on sustainable development in Luxembourg.

Christopher Larsen, associate professor of mathematical sciences, delivered an invited keynote lecture at the International Workshop on Phase Separation, Damage, and Fracture in Berlin in September 2011. The lecture was titled “On Dynamic Griffith Fracture.”

Brian Meacham, associate professor of fire protection engineering, was an invited keynote speaker in 2010 and 2011 at international fire conferences sponsored by the Korean Institute of Fire Science and Engineering, the Spanish Association of Fire Protection Engineers, the Society for Fire Safety in Australia, and the Fire Protection Association in New Zealand and the New Zealand branches of the Institution of Fire Engineers and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

Eduardo Torres-Jara, assistant professor of computer science and robotics engineering, delivered an invited talk at the 2011 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering conference in Osaka, Japan, which was sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Academy of Japan.

Best Paper Awards

A paper by Marion Emmert, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was featured on the back cover of Vol. 50, No. 40, of the international edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie in 2011. The paper was titled “Remarkably High Reactivity of Pd(OAc)2/Pyridine Catalysts: Nondirected C-H Oxygenation of Arenes.”

Kathi Fisler, associate professor of computer science, PhD candidate Guillaume Marceau, and Shriram Krishnamurthi (Brown University) won the inaugural best paper award at the flagship 2011 ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) conference on Computer Science Education for “Measuring the Effectiveness of Error Messages Designed for Novice Programmers.”

Carolina Ruiz, associate professor of computer science, WPI graduate students Amro Khasawneh and Shivin Misra, Sergio Alvarez (Boston College), and Majaz Moonis (University of Massachusetts Medical School) received the Best Paper Award at the 2011 International Conference on Health Informatics for “EEG and ECG Characteristics of Human Sleep Composition Types.”

Alexander Wyglinski, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, WPI PhD candidate Si Chen, Sudharman Jayaweera (University of New Mexico), and Chittabrata Ghosh (University of Washington), co-authors of “Impact of Group Cooperation over Competitive Secondary Subnetworks,” received the Gold Award for Best Communications Paper presented at the 2011 IEEE Pacific Rim Conference on Communications, Computers, and Signal Processing.

Editorial Honors

José Argüello, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was appointed to the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the most-cited biomedical research journal in the world.

Arne Gericke, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been appointed to the editorial advisory board of the journal Chemistry and Physics of Lipids.

Umberto Mosco, Harold J. Gay Professor of Mathematical Sciences, accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of the book series Nonlinear Analysis and Applications, published by De Gruyter. 

Lance Schachterle, professor of English, is advisory editor of Literature in the Early American Republic: Annual Studies on Cooper and His Contemporaries, which received the Best New Journal of the Year award from the