Our Favorite Things and Stories From 2023
As you finish wrapping your brown paper packages tied up with strings, we invite you to see the cheer a year at WPI brings, along with 23 of the top moments at WPI from 2023. From robots on drums and those that can buzz (really no one can achieve like WPI does).
Many of these stories were also covered by the media, further highlighting WPI’s distinctive research, expert analysis, faculty, student achievements, project-based learning, and our focus on STEM education.
WPI innovations seemed to be everywhere this year, even—in the case of this robot—inside the walls of Worcester City Hall. The soft robot can creep into walls, ductwork, and pipes to perform inspections and three-dimensional mapping tasks that could be dangerous or impossible for humans.
This small but mighty drone created a lot of buzz with its ability to pollinate crops and could one day help to solve a real-world problem caused by the ongoing decline of global bee populations.
WPI formed a 40-year partnership with Chicago-based investment management firm Harrison Street that will support initiatives to reduce WPI’s carbon footprint by expanding energy-conservation measures, improving the campus power plant, developing sustainable energy technologies, and creating new research opportunities for students and faculty.
The January opening of the Center for Well-Being was the culmination of years of planning to centralize a broad range of services to support students in an integrated approach that recognizes the important connections between physical health, mental health, overall well-being, and academic and professional success.
WPI will build upon its longstanding expertise in fire protection through new partnerships with the NSF to address catastrophic wildfires, save lives and property, and increase community resiliency; the partnership also expands the Center’s footprint to the East Coast.
Work is underway on a first of-its-kind wearable sensor for premature infants that will help address racial bias in healthcare. The noninvasive sensor, about the size of a bandage, accounts for variations in skin color and enables infants at risk of lung disease to leave hospitals sooner and be accurately monitored at home.
Wang, a pioneer in lithium-ion battery recycling, was one of five individuals recognized with the American Innovator Award by the Coalition, which consists of “a diverse group of innovation-oriented organizations and individuals committed to celebrating and protecting the Bayh-Dole Act.”
Every year the NSF selects a number of researchers for CAREER grants, and this year four WPI faculty members received the prestigious award. This marks the second consecutive year that four WPI researchers received the early-career grants.
Freshly minted Nobel laureate Katalin Kariko, whose research helped pave the way for rapid development of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, headlined the Nature conference at WPI, a three-day event run by the family of leading scientific journals. Scientists and researchers from around the world traveled to campus for the forum.
Grace Wang got right to work in April after assuming the role of WPI’s 17th president, introducing herself to students, meeting with community leaders, and getting up to speed on the groundbreaking research going on in WPI labs. Wang came to WPI from The Ohio State University, where she was executive vice president for research, innovation, and knowledge.
On the quad under sunny skies, 1,088 WPI undergraduates received their diplomas at the 154th Commencement exercises. “You have earned your place among generations of exceptional WPI alumni,” Wang said in her address. “I hope you will take the opportunity, as they did, to push boundaries, explore unknowns, and deliver a tangible and profound impact to the world.” It was a final farewell for on-campus Commencement; next year’s exercises will be held at the DCU Center in downtown Worcester.
Wang and College of the Holy Cross President Vincent D. Rougeau signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in June to collaborate on combined bachelor’s/master's programs that will provide opportunities for Holy Cross students to complete their Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree at Holy Cross and their Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) degree at WPI in an accelerated 4+1 model.
Work continued in 2023 on developing the Experiential Robotics Platform, or XRP, a small, open-source robot that could revolutionize robotics engineering and help democratize global STEM access. Commercial units went on the market in August; partnerships are being formed with school districts in New Hampshire, and a pilot is being explored in Worcester.
Dmitry Korkin, the Harold L. Jurist ’61 and Heather E. Jurist Dean’s Professor of Computer Science, led a team of researchers that used artificial intelligence to better predict suicide risk in women who suffer from certain trauma-related disorders. The findings from the three-year study were published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.
A fee-for-service facility, CERES (the Cell Engineering Research Equipment Suite) is located on Grove Street in Worcester, next to the WPI Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center, which offers training programs for engineers and other industry professionals. CERES provides WPI and outside researchers with access to instruments that are used in the quantitative analysis of engineered cells.
King, Peterson Family Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and a widely respected neuroscientist and researcher, joined 26 other council members who advise the NIH Director on policies and activities of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI).
The university’s Global Projects Program and Global Projects for All initiative received the Institute of International Education (IIE) Andrew Heiskell Award for its ongoing efforts to expand access. A signature component of WPI’s project-based learning model, the Global Projects Program facilitates student travel to more than 50 project centers across the USA and in 30 countries around the world.
Robots are nothing new at WPI, but since April, a fleet of six-wheeled cubes operated by Starship Technologies has been delivering food from campus eateries, using computer vision-based navigation that helps them map their environment to the nearest inch.
The newest exhibit of the George C. Gordon Library’s Archives and Special Collections, “Video Game Console Wars 1976-2001 featuring WPI’s Interactive Media Archive & Interactive Media & Game Development Department,” had a kickoff event in October. The exhibit includes a 1970s Atari 2600, vintage system controllers, and games such as Frogger and Metroid.
This work focuses on hydrogen storage and power generation technology for all forms of air travel, including unmanned aerial vehicles and passenger and cargo travel. Honeywell is supplying hydrogen equipment and technology expertise and has established a significant presence on WPI’s campus.
The Business School earned re-accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The hallmark of excellence in business education, AACSB accreditation has been earned by fewer than five percent of the world’s business programs: just 989 business schools across 60 countries and territories are currently accredited.
Michelle Ephraim won the Juniper Award for Creative Nonfiction, from the University of Massachusetts Press, for GREEN WORLD: A Tragicomic Memoir of Love and Shakespeare. Awarded annually, the Juniper Literary Prizes are highly competitive and a highly regarded showcase of distinctive and fresh voices who share their work with a wide array of readers.
Last but certainly not least, WPI rounded out 2023 with the launch of a new degree program in AI offering students the opportunity to earn a master’s degree, a combined bachelor’s/master’s,or a graduate certificate through courses, projects, and thesis work. The program will leverage the university’s extensive experience in research and project-based education in AI to provide students with the technical skills and ethical understanding needed for careers in industry, government, and academia.