Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today announced that 16 full-time faculty members have been promoted in academic rank, including four who have been elevated to the rank of full professor; of those 16 professors, 10 were also granted tenure.
"On behalf of the WPI Board of Trustees, I offer my congratulations and gratitude to this exceptionally talented and accomplished group of scholars and educators," said WPI President Laurie Leshin. "They are leaders in their respective fields, in our classrooms, and in our community. The university is proud of their distinguished accomplishments and their efforts to advance their disciplines as they prepare our undergraduate and graduate students to be tomorrow's innovators and leaders."
Sakthikumar Ambady has been promoted to associate teaching professor of biomedical engineering. He joined WPI in 2006 as a research scientist and was named director of the Biomedical Engineering Department's MQP labs and teaching facilities in 2010. Before coming to WPI, Ambady, whose research interests include regenerative medicine, genome analysis, and gene expression studies, conducted extensive research on non-coding RNA and developed the first complete micro-RNA databank of Xenopus laevis eggs. At WPI, he built an extensive library of transgenic vectors that are used in research and student projects. He received a DVM at Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University in India, an MVSc in cytogenetics at Kerala Agricultural University in India, and a PhD in molecular genetics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Donald R. Brown III has been promoted to full professor of electrical and computer engineering. A member of the WPI faculty since 2000, Brown received WPI's Joseph Samuel Satin Distinguished Fellow Award in 2002. His research focuses on fundamental technologies that enable next generation communication systems and networking, and he has been the principal investigator or co-PI on grants totaling more than $2 million, including a 2005 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, the agency's most prestigious award for young faculty members. His work has resulted in three patents and two pending patents. He has advised 13 PhD theses as individual or co-advisor and more than 20 master's theses. In addition to advising more than 50 undergraduate projects, he has served as resident advisor for student projects centers in Boston, London, and Limerick. He earned BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Connecticut and a PhD in electrical engineering at Cornell University. While earning the MS degree, he worked full-time at General Electric.
Shawn C. Burdette has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Burdette joined the WPI faculty in 2011 having already received two major awards from the National Science Foundation, including a prestigious CAREER Award, and has received several additional grants to fund his research addressing major scientific challenges in such areas as chemical synthesis, polymer chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, photochemistry, and neurological sciences. He is the author of 32 peer-reviewed publications and five commentaries in the journal Nature Chemistry. He holds a BS in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University and a PhD in inorganic chemistry from MIT.
James Cocola has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. In his scholarship, he explores ideas of place in American poetry and poetics, the literary and cultural production of Americans and others of Mediterranean descent, and experiential and experimental forms of writing. An invited member of the prestigious MacDowell Colony Resident Fellow Scholarship Program, he is the author of five peer-reviewed journal articles and eight book chapters, and has a book under contract. His scholarship has earned him a number of honors, including serving as resident scholar at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center in Santa Fe, N.M and a scholarship for the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin. A member of the WPI faculty since 2009, he earned an AB in history and literature at Harvard University and a PhD in English at the University of Virginia.
Robert E. Dempski Jr. has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Dempski joined WPI in 2009 after six years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany. At WPI, he has continued his research using biochemical and biophysical techniques to investigate the structure and function of proteins in cell membranes, including a protein involved in zinc transport that has been implicated in the initiation and progression of pancreatic cancer. He recently received a $1.4 million single-investigator R01 award from the National Institutes of Health to support that area of research. He holds a BS in cell biology and biochemistry from Bucknell University and a PhD in chemistry from MIT.
N. Aaron Deskins has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of chemical engineering. Deskins conducts research in molecular modeling, in particular trying to understand and solve energy and environmental problems using high-powered computer simulations. His work has resulted in 18 journal publications and he has been a co-principal investigator on research grants totaling $1.2 million. He holds BS degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering from the University of Utah and PhD in chemical engineering from Purdue University; he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., before joining WPI in 2009.
Jennifer deWinter has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Co-director of WPI's Professional Writing Program, deWinter she is also an active faculty member in the Interactive Media and Game Development Program. Her research interests include computer game theory, computer game development, writing assessment, and cultural studies, with a particular interest in how culture moves internationally. In 2003, she joined the Learning Games Initiative, which promotes the study of games and the use of games to teach concepts and skills in particular. She received a BA in English literature and Japanese language, an MA in teaching English as a second language, and an MA in rhetoric, composition, and technical communication at Eastern Washington University. She also holds a PhD in rhetoric, composition, and teaching English from the University of Arizona.
Bethel Eddy has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A scholar in philosophy and religion, Eddy focuses on American pragmatism and American religion in her work. The author of The Rites of Identity: The Religious Naturalism and Cultural Criticism of Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison Princeton, (Princeton University Press, 2003), she is completing her second book, Pragmatism, Evolution, and Ethics. Before coming to WPI, she spent three years at Central Michigan University and also lectured at Princeton. She is currently co-chair of the Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought group of the American Academy of Religion. A member of the WPI faculty since 2007, she holds a BS from Northeast Louisiana University, MA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Princeton University, and a PhD in religion from Princeton.
Eleanor Loiacono has been promoted to full professor of management in the Robert Foisie School of Business. Loiacono, who joined the WPI faculty in 2000, focuses her research on the intersection of technology and people as she seeks to better understand how people feel about the technology they use and how technologies, such as the Web can improve users’ experiences, work that has resulted in 25 peer-reviewed publications and 29 conference proceedings. Active in her profession, she was honored with the Outstanding Service Award by the Special Interest Group for Human Computer Interactions (SIGHCI) in 2010. WPI presented her with the Romeo Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education in 2003. She holds a BA in international relations from Boston University, an MBA from Boston College, and a PhD in business administration from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.
Yitzhak Mendelson has been promoted to full professor of biomedical engineering. Currently interim head of the Biomedical Engineering Department, a position he has held on three occasions, Mendelson has been a member of the WPI faculty since 1983. His research in medical and biomedical instrumentation, signal processing, instrument design, and noninvasive diagnostics has garnered more than $7.3 million in external funding. In recent years, he has made significant contributions to the development of innovations in pulse oximetry, including—with funding from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and other agencies—the development of a rugged, wireless oximeter that can monitor the vital signs of a soldier in training or a fire fighter on the job. With James Duckworth, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, he founded the company Advanced Body Sensing to commercialize that innovation. He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers and holds 11 patents. He received a BS and an MS in electrical engineering from State University of New York, Buffalo, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve University.
David Spanagel has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A historian of science, Spanagel' s research interests include American history, the history of Earth and environmental sciences, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the 2014 book DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York (Johns Hopkins University Press), which explores the origins of American geology and the culture that gave rise to it. He was a visiting assistant professor in the history of science at WPI for four years before being named an assistant professor in 2009, and he has previously taught at Emerson College, Harvard University, MIT, and St. John Fisher College. He holds a BA in mathematics and American studies from Oberlin College, an MSEd from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in the history of science from Harvard.
Berk Sunar has been promoted to full professor of electrical and computer engineering. Sunar, who heads WPI's Cryptography and Information Security Laboratory, is widely recognized for his innovative research in cryptography and data security. He joined the WPI faculty in 2000 after briefly working as a member of the research faculty at Information Security Laboratory at Oregon State University, where he received his PhD in electrical engineering (he also holds a BS in electrical engineering from Middle East Technical University in Turkey). In 2002, Sunar received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for research on new directions for cryptographic hardware. He has been principal investigator or co-PI on grants totaling over $2 million, including recent NSF grants for work on homomorphic encryption for cloud privacy and practical leakage resilience. The author of four books and nearly 70 peer-reviewed articles and conference papers, he is associate editor of the prestigious IEEE Transactions on Computers.
Erkan Tüzel has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of physics. Tüzel conducts research on soft-matter physics, an interdisciplinary field dealing with problems in biology, materials science, and chemical engineering. In particular, he has focused on modeling the physical principles of self-organization, growth, and transport in cells, and on coarse-grained modeling of flow and transport for microfluidic applications. He has collaborated with researchers at WPI and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Harvard Medical School, and Penn State University, among other institutions. His work has been supported by about $650,000 in research awards, including a grant from the Eppley Foundation, and resulted in more than 30 peer-reviewed publications. A member of the WPI faculty since 2009, he holds a BS in engineering physics and an MS in physics from Istanbul Technical University and a PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota.
Luis Vidali has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of biology and biotechnology. In his research, Vidali studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying plant cell organization and growth, with a particular focus on the role of the cytoskeleton in those activities. His long-term goal is to help increase plant productivity He joined WPI in 2009 having previously served as a scientist at New World Laboratories (Total ReCord Inc.) in Worcester and as a research associate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At WPI, his work has been supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the most prestigious NSF award for young researchers, and other significant awards. He received the Outstanding Junior Faculty Research Award from the WPI chapter of Sigma Xi in 2014. He earned a BS in basic biomedical research at National Autonomous University of Mexico and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology at UMass Amherst.
JoAnn Whitefleet-Smith has been promoted to associate teaching professor of biology and biotechnology. She had previously served the Biology and Biotechnology Department as a senior lab instructor, adjunct instructor, adjunct assistant professor, and assistant teaching professor. In addition to teaching courses she has advised student projects and independent study projects, including an ongoing MQP project through the BBT project lab that focuses on the use of crayfish as bioindicators of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in river sediment. She received the WPI Sigma Phi Epsilon faculty appreciation award in 2002 and the service award from the Goddard School of Science and Technology in Worcester in 2005. She earned a BA in chemistry from Hope College, an MS in organic chemistry from Purdue University, and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Zheyang Wu has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor of mathematical sciences. Working in the area of biostatistics and bioinformatics, Wu is developing novel statistical theory and methodology that can be used to analyze genetic data for factors related to complex human diseases and has developed statistical models that can predict carotid atherosclerotic plaque and stroke based on time series longitudinal data and survival, among other work. His research has been supported by about $800,000 in external awards and has resulted in 23 peer-reviewed publications and one pending patent. A member of the WPI faculty since 2009, he holds a BS in international trade from Chong Qing University in China, an MS in mathematics from the University of New Orleans, and an MPhil in epidemiology and public health and a PhD in biostatistics from Yale.