Leila Carvajal Erker ’96 grew up around chocolate, spending much of her childhood shadowing her father at his cocoa processing plant in Guayaquil, Ecuador before making the business her own. Now, she’s using a fusion of tradition and science to help the world’s chocolatiers build a better bar. Discover more alumni stories in the WPI Journal.
“It sounds sci-fi, but it’s a real solution.”
WPI researchers are using an enzyme found in red blood cells to create self-healing concrete that’s four times more durable than traditional concrete, extending the life of concrete-based structures and eliminating the need for expensive repairs or replacements. Read more, and sign up for the research newsletter for the latest research news.
My research program focuses on understanding and managing fungal diseases. We primarily study Candida albicans, an opportunistic pathogen and the most prevalent fungal pathogen of humans. It is responsible for common clinical problems including oral thrush and vaginitis, but can also lead to life-threatening systematic infections in immunocompromised individuals such as AIDS patients, resulting in 30-50% mortality rates. The estimated annual cost of treating nosocomial Candida infections exceeds $1 billion per year.
I'm an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute since January 2015. My main research areas are in control and security of networked and cyber-physical systems. Prior to joining WPI, I received a BSE in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (2007), an MS in Mathematics from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (2008), and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington - Seattle (2014) under the supervision of Radha Poovendran and Linda Bushnell.
My research and teaching activities in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are in the area of the mechanics of materials and structures. At WPI, my favorite aspect of teaching is working one on one with graduate and undergraduate students on research projects. I like to excite students’ curiosity towards discoveries and creative scientific advancements. In our research group, we focus on the fundamental principles that control the behavior of materials in engineering and biology at multiple scales.
Since my first day of teaching, I believed that I loved being in the classroom. I enjoy my role as an instructor because it enables me to see directly the outcome of my effort. I like the fact that as someone in higher education, I have the opportunity to make a positive influence on a young person's life. I make every effort to not only deliver the material of the course, but to develop a mentoring relationship with each student to help them grow as individuals and strive for success.
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