Terri Camesano Named WPI’s Dean of Graduate Studies

August 04, 2014

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Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has been appointed the university's new dean of graduate studies. In this role, Camesano will oversee WPI's graduate education programs, which award graduate certificates, master's degrees, and PhDs in more than 20 areas of science, engineering, and business. Camesano served previously as assistant dean of engineering.

"Widely recognized for her stellar record as an educator and researcher, Terri Camesano has been a staunch advocate for our graduate students and a proponent for growing WPI's graduate programs in size, diversity, and quality," said Eric Overström, provost and senior vice president. "I look forward to working with her to advance our existing and future graduate initiatives."

WPI awarded its first master's degree in 1893, its first doctorate in 1904, and its first PhD in 1960. In the fall of 2013, close to 2,000 students, from 44 states and 48 countries, were pursuing graduate degrees at the university on a full- or part-time basis. New graduate programs have been added regularly over the years in response to the changing needs of the professions. Recent additions have included master's degrees in Data Science and Interactive Media & Game Development, and master's and PhD programs in Robotics Engineering (WPI is the only university in the nation to offer BS, MS, and PhD programs in this new discipline).

"Graduate students are an integral part of WPI’s vibrant student population," Camesano said. "From providing professional development workshops to showcasing research breakthroughs in the labs, the Office of Graduate Studies aims to build a community full of enrichment and scholarship. We are here to develop student leaders who will go onto become innovators in their professions."

Camesano joined the WPI faculty in 2000 after earning a BS in chemical engineering and environmental science at the University of Rochester, an MS in environmental engineering at the University of Arizona, and a PhD in environmental engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She has conducted pioneering research on the biochemical mechanisms bacteria use to adhere to living and non-living substrates. To start infections, for example, bacteria must stick to surfaces and form antibiotic-resistant colonies called biofilms.

Building on this research, she has identified compounds that can disrupt adhesion and prevent biofilm formation. For example, she showed how compounds in cranberry juice can prevent urinary tract infections by keeping E. coli bacteria from sticking to epithelial cells, and she is investigating natural antimicrobial peptides that could be used as coatings to prevent biofilm formation on biomedical devices and implants (read about her current research in this area).

This work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army, and other agencies and organizations (her funding includes a prestigious NSF CAREER Award), and has resulted in more than 60 scholarly publications and book chapters, one edited book, more than 100 presentations, and invited lectures in the United States, Australia, and Europe.

Camesano has also had considerable success in winning federal funding for high-profile academic programs. She was the principal investigator for an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program and established an innovative program for middle school teachers, which was also supported by the NFS. She is currently the principal investigator on five-year, $3 million award through the NSF's highly competitive Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The first such award received by WPI, it is funding an innovative graduate program in biofabrication through which students learn to translate research into innovative solutions that can improve people's lives.

Active in service to her profession, Camesano is on the editorial board for the highly regarded journal Applied & Environmental Microbiology and she is organizing an Advanced Research Workshop on Nanotechnology to Aid Chemical and Biological Defense; funded by NATO, it is planned for September 2014 in Antalya, Turkey.

To support her interest in academic administration, she won an appointment as a HERS Faculty Fellow at the Wellesley College Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration and was selected for the inaugural class of ELATE (Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering) fellows at Drexel University.

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