Faculty Promotions

Faculty members promoted, granted tenure

March 10, 2016

The WPI administration has announced that 16 full-time faculty members have been promoted in academic rank; in addition, seven faculty members, including six of those who were promoted, have been granted tenure.

“On behalf of the WPI Board of Trustees, I offer my congratulations to this exceptionally accomplished group of scholars and educators,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “They are leaders in their 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 students to be tomorrow’s innovators and leaders.”

Added WPI Provost Bruce Bursten, “We are proud of our colleagues who are receiving their well-deserved promotions. Their passion and dedication as faculty members enhance our academic excellence and provide our students with the extraordinary learning opportunities that are the hallmark of the WPI experience.”

Esther Boucher-Yip

Esther Boucher-Yip has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. She joined the WPI faculty in 2012, having taught English at all levels in many parts of the world. In addition to researching and teaching in the field of English as a Second Language, she conducts research on minority language maintenance, in particular how language policies affect language use in indigenous communities. She holds an EdD degree from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Drew Brodeur

Drew Brodeur has been promoted to associate teaching professor of chemistry and biochemistry. He became an assistant teaching professor at WPI in 2011 after receiving his PhD in chemistry from the University of Rhode Island. With research interests in inorganic chemistry, environmental issues, renewable energy sources and solar energy, and pollutant remediation, he has advised undergraduate projects on the adhesion strength of silver nanoparticles to carbon substrates and the remediation of triclosan levels in drinking water supplies, among other topics.

Frank Dick

Frank Dick has been promoted to associate teaching professor of physics. He earned his PhD in physics at WPI in 2007, following 20 years of professional work in the field of computing, and then joined the WPI faculty. With research interests in particle physics, gravity, and astrophysics, he has developed new courses in astrophysics and has advised numerous student projects in the area. He also refined the first-year laboratory program in physics and is a contributor to WPI’s new Nuclear Science and Engineering program and its master of science program for physics educators.

Glenn Gaudette

Glenn Gaudette has been promoted to professor of biomedical engineering. He joined the WPI faculty in 2006 after holding faculty appointments at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He conducts research in the area of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, with the specific aim of developing new methods for restoring function in hearts damaged by myocardial infarction. With support from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and other organizations, he has experimented with the use of adult mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue and has used fibrin microthreads to stitch stem cells into heart tissue. The microthreads formed the basis of VitaThreads, a company Gaudette founded with George Pins, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Actively engaged in bringing an entrepreneurial focus to teaching and research at WPI, he worked with other faculty members to win a $488,500 award from the Kern Family Foundation to promote entrepreneurship and innovation at the university. The Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) named him its 2015 Outstanding Faculty of the Year. He holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Xinming Huang

Xinming Huang has been promoted to professor of electrical and computer engineering. He has been a member of the WPI faculty since 2006, having served previously as an assistant professor at the University of New Orleans. In 2008 he was named the Joseph Samuel Satin Distinguished Fellow in electrical and computer engineering. In the Embedded Computing Laboratory, he leads research on circuits and systems design for reconfigurable computing, wireless communications, and signal processing. Current projects include hardware architecture for cloud computing privacy and video analytics for autonomous cars and assisted driving. His work has been supported by more than $1.5 million in federal funding, including a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Young Faculty Award. He has published more than 20 journal articles and more than 40 peer-reviewed conference papers. He earned a PhD in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech.

Sharon Johnson

Sharon Johnson has been promoted to professor in the Robert A. Foisie School of Business. A member of the WPI faculty since 1988, she is an industrial engineer whose research focuses on applying engineering principles to improve the delivery of healthcare. In recent years, with funding from the New England Veterans Engineering Resource Center and the National Science Foundation, she has conducted work in the areas of improving health care delivery processes, the effects of electronic health record systems on care delivery, and lean systems in healthcare. In 2014 she was elected president of the Health Systems Engineering Alliance and she is currently president of the Lean Systems Division of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. She is a founding member of WPI’s Healthcare Delivery Institute and a member of its faculty steering committee. Johnson earned a PhD in industrial engineering at Cornell University.

Lifeng Lai

Lifeng Lai has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Lai joined the WPI faculty in 2012 after serving as a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University and as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. His research on wireless network security, information theory, and statistical signal processing has been supported by more than $1 million in sponsored awards (including a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award) and has resulted in 35 peer-reviewed publications. He earned a PhD in electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University.

Jennifer McWeeny

Jennifer McWeeny, associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Humanities and Arts, has been granted tenure. She joined WPI in 2012 after eight years of full-time teaching at John Carroll University, where she rose to the rank of associate professor of philosophy. With research interests in epistemology, continental philosophy, and feminist philosophy, she is past executive secretary of the Society for Women in Philosophy and co-author of the 2014 book Asian and Feminist Philosophies in Dialogue: Liberating Traditions (Columbia University Press). She organized the 2015 International Merleau-Ponty Circle conference; held at WPI, it explored the relationship of the 20th century French philosopher’s thoughts to 21st century challenges. She earned a PhD in philosophy from the University of Oregon.

David Medich

David Medich has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of physics. Before joining the WPI faculty in 2012, he was director of the Radioactive Materials Program and director of radiation safety at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. A researcher in the area of health physics, he conducts work on diagnostic and therapeutic medical physics including functional neutron imaging and intensity modulated brachytherapy dosimetry. His research has resulted in 22 peer-reviewed journal articles and 13 peer-reviewed proceedings. He is the principal investigator on four nuclear education grants from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission totaling more than $1.1 million for scholarships, fellowships, curriculum development, and medical and health physics research at WPI. Medich earned a PhD in physics/health physics/radiological sciences at UMass Lowell.

Nima Rahbar

Nima Rahbar has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Rahbar joined the WPI faculty in 2012 after four years at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he was an assistant professor. At WPI he conducts research on the mechanics of materials and structures, with a particular emphasis on the development of new bio-inspired materials. With more than $1 million in funding, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, he has published a total of 46 peer-reviewed journal articles and earned the 2012 Structural Materials Division Young Leader Professional Development Award from TMS, the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society. He received a PhD in civil engineering from Princeton University.

Derren Rosbach

Derren Rosbach has been promoted to associate teaching professor of civil and environmental engineering and Undergraduate Studies. He joined WPI in 2010 after serving as a visiting professor at Virginia Tech, where he earned his PhD in planning governance and globalization. With research interests in environmental governance, sustainability, and science and technology studies, he has been an active instructor in WPI’s first-year Great Problems Seminars, teaching sessions titled “The World’s Water” and “Power the World,” and has taught within the environmental studies and civil and environmental engineering programs. He also organized a workshop in WPI’s first Institute on Project-based Learning, which shared WPI’s expertise in the field with teams from 17 other colleges and universities.

Ingrid Shockey

Ingrid Shockey has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD). An environmental sociologist whose work focuses on natural literacy and the interplay of human-wilderness boundaries, she has led efforts in the IGSD to coordinate WPI project centers focused in environmental issues, including a center in New Zealand, which she co-directs, and a new center at the Indian Institute of Technology-Mandi, which she directs. An important contributor to the university’s project centers in Costa Rica, England, Namibia, Puerto Rico, and Thailand, she has advised 60 Interactive Qualifying Projects, two of which have won the President’s IQP Award. A member of the WPI faculty since 2008 and an assistant teaching professor since 2012, she received a PhD in environmental sociology from Brandeis University.

Alexander Smith

Alexander Smith has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of social science and policy studies. The director of WPI’s Experimental Economics Laboratory, he conducts research on altruism, trust, cooperation, and honesty, with a particular focus on how behavior relates to beliefs about the actions of others and how psychology can be used for promoting pro-social behavior. He has published 10 single-author publications in a variety of high-quality journals, including the prestigious Experimental Economics. Smith twice received the Queen Elizabeth 2 Graduate Scholarship while earning his PhD in economics at the University of Calgary.

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor has been promoted to professor in the Robert A. Foisie School of Business. He conducts scholarship in the area of organizational aesthetics, which takes as its premise that management is as much an art as it is a science, and applies art-based scholarship and practice to management and organizations. He has published four books and more that 30 journal articles, mainly in the area of leadership, and he is founding editor-in-chief of the journal Organizational Aesthetics, which was first published in 2011. He joined the WPI faculty in 2002 after serving as a faculty member at the University of Bath in England. He was a researcher in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, in 2008, and in 2013 was a Fulbright Specialist at Massey University in New Zealand, where he worked with students in a newly established theatre studies program to offer a public seminar combining theatre performance with a discussion of the role of the arts in business. He holds a PhD in management from Boston College.

Karen Troy

Karen Troy has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of biomedical engineering. She joined the WPI faculty in 2013, after serving as an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory, she conducts research on orthopaedic, whole-body, and comparative biomechanics. Current projects include a study of how bone structure changes over time in adult women who voluntarily apply mechanical loads to their bones and the measurement of changes in bone strength in individuals with spinal cord injury. Troy, who earned a PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa, received the Orthopaedic Research Society’s New Investigator Recognition Award in 2010.

Yan Wang

Yan Wang has been granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of mechanical engineering. The director of WPI’s Electrochemical Energy Laboratory and an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling (CR3), part of the university’s Metal Processing Institute, Wang conducts work related to energy storage technologies. He is currently developing a novel recycling method for lithium-ion batteries that has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Automotive Battery Consortium. The patented technology is the basis for a new company, Battery Resourcers LLC, which recently received a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from the NSF. He has published more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles. Wang received a PhD in engineering materials from the University of Windsor in Canada.

Suzanne Weekes

Suzanne Weekes has been promoted to professor of mathematical sciences. She joined the WPI faculty in 1998 after receiving her PhD in mathematics and scientific computing from the University of Michigan and serving as a visiting assistant professor at Texas A&M University. She has conducted research in areas such as numerical methods for wave motion through dynamic materials, flow through porous media, and the modeling of tumor growth. She is the former director of WPI’s Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, which serves as a mathematical resource for industry, and she has been principal investigator or co-PI for the university’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program in Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD). She is also co-director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Undergraduate Program (MSRI-UP) in Berkeley, Calif., a comprehensive program for talented undergraduates that aims to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in mathematics graduate programs by providing research opportunities, long-term support, and mentorship. Professor Weekes’ work has been supported by more than $5 million in awards from the NSF, DOD, and the National Security Administration (NSA). This funding includes $2 million from the NSF for Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences (PIC Math), a program developed with the Mathematical Association of America and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics that works with mathematics faculty all over the United States to help them prepare mathematical sciences students for industrial careers by engaging students in research problems that come directly from industry. In 2015, she received WPI’s Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community for service activities performed for her department and WPI, for organizations in Worcester and Central Massachusetts, and nationally.