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WPI Welcomes 26 New Full-time Faculty Members

The largest entering faculty class in the university's history, these researchers and educators continue a historic investment in talent that has brought 250 new full-time faculty members to campus over the past decade

December 12, 2014

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) this fall welcomed 26 new full-time educators and researchers to its faculty ranks. The largest groups of entering faculty in the Institute's history, the new faculty class continues a historic investment in talent that has brought 250 new full-time faculty members, including 130 new tenured and tenure-track faculty, to campus over the past decade.

"With their outstanding professional accomplishments and diverse interests—from bioinformatics, to cybersecurity, to nanomaterials— these researchers, scholars, educators, and leaders bring an exceptional range of expertise and experience to WPI," said Eric W. Overström, provost and senior vice president. "They will help further expand WPI's reputation for education and research that blends theory and practice to have a true impact on some of the world’s most pressing problems."

Andrew Clark, who is currently completing work toward a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Washington, will join the university in January 2015 as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. His research interests include the performance and security of cyber-physical systems, adaptive and proactive network defenses, lightweight cryptography, and, vulnerability metrics. He was the co-author of a paper that received the 2010 IEEE/IGIP William C. Carter Award, and he also won the WiOpt Best Student Paper Award in 2012 and 2014. He earned a patent on privacy-preserving constant-time identification in RFID systems.

Daniel DiMassa, postdoctoral scholar of German in the Department of Humanities and Arts, received a PhD in German from the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year. While at Penn, he held a fellowship for teaching excellence at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Teaching and Learning and was recognized with the Arthur Daemmrich and Alfred Guenther Memorial Prize. His expertise is in Romanticism and modernism.

Thomas Gannon, professor of practice in electrical and computer engineering, was most recently director of information systems engineering at The MITRE Corporation. With expertise in enterprise systems engineering, real-time control systems, and information management systems, he helped establish, guide, and manage the evolution of several national research consortia, including the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina, SEMATECH, and the Semiconductor Research Corporation. He has also been a member of the National Academy of Science Committee on International Trends in Computer Science and Technology and he co-authored several major publications of the National Research Council and National Academy Press. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from Stevens Institute of Technology

Ronald L. Grimm, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was a visiting assistant professor at Harvey Mudd College before joining WPI. With expertise in surface science and photo-electrochemistry, he is working to develop an atom- and bond-level understanding of material properties with an eye toward developing materials that are more efficient at converting sunlight to electrical or chemical energy. He received a PhD in physical chemistry at California Institute of Technology. During his graduate work, he was awarded a patent for his research on field-induced droplet ionization.

Joshua Harmon, assistant teaching professor of English and creative writing in the Department of Humanities and Arts, is a writer with more than 200 poems, stories, and essays and five books published or in-press. He previously served as an instructor, faculty member, and writer-in-residence at Hampshire and Vassar Colleges and Bucknell and Cornell Universities, and was also writer-in-residence at the Portsmouth Abbey School. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Fiction in 2004. He was a Cabell First Novelist Prize finalist in 2008 and he won an Akron Poetry Prize in 2012. He holds an MFA in writing (fiction) from Cornell University.

Robert Hersh, lecturer in interdisciplinary and global studies, directs WPI’s Sustainable Food Systems Project Center and a new off-campus student project center in Thessaloniki, Greece. Previously a fellow with Resources for the Future, a nonprofit organization that conducts independent research on environmental, energy, natural resource, and environmental health issues, he is an expert on food systems, community participation in environmental decision making, social theories of risk, and environmental policy innovation. He holds an MA in urban and environmental policy from Tufts University and has been the recipient of a fellowship from the United Nations Environmental Programme.

Jianjun Huang, postdoctoral scholar in mathematical sciences, joins WPI after receiving a PhD in applied mathematics from Tulane University. He previously earned BE and MS degrees in the School of Information at Renmin University in China, where he received a national scholarship awarded by the Chinese government. His expertise is in applied mathematics and applications to biology.

Seong-kyun Im, assistant professor pf mechanical engineering, was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University before joining the WPI faculty. With research interests in air-breathing propulsion, fluid mechanics, combustion, and energy, he is working to discover the detailed mechanism of unstart shock propagation that leads to engine failure in scramjet inlets. He is also developing methods for suppressing the propagation of those shockwaves. He has co-authored 16 papers published in such journals such as Applied Physics Letters, Combustion and Flame, and Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. He received a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.

Snehalata Kadam, assistant teaching professor in physics, was a postdoctoral scholar at California Institute of Technology before joining WPI. With expertise is in live imaging and microscopy as well as cell and molecular biology techniques, she has had articles accepted in Development (2009 and 2012) and Cell Adhesion & Migration (2012). She holds a PhD in development genetics and cell biology from the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

Xiangnan Kong, assistant professor of computer science, conducts research on data mining and big data analysis, with a particular interest in designing algorithms to tame data variety issues in such fields as biomedical research, social computing, neuroscience, and business intelligence. Earlier this year he was a finalist for the best paper award at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Data Mining. He earned a PhD in computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dmitry Korkin, associate professor of computer science and a core faculty member in WPI's Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program, was most recently an associate professor of computer science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His interdisciplinary research spans the fields of bioinformatics of complex disease, computational genomics, systems biology, and biomedical data analytics, with the goal of developing computational methods to help discover new or more efficient treatments for complex diseases and perform fast and accurate diagnostics. In 2009, he received a CAREER Award, the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award for young faculty members. He also received the University of Missouri's Junior Engineering Research Faculty award in 2013. He holds a PhD in computer science from the University of New Brunswick.

Susan Landau, professor of cybersecurity policy in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies, is a widely respected authority on cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy. She joins WPI after a distinguished career in academic and industry, most recently serving as senior staff privacy analyst at Google. In recent years, her scholarly focus has been the security risks of embedding surveillance in communications infrastructures. She has briefed members of the Unites States and European governments and participated in several industry reports on this issue. A fellow of Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), she was a 2012 Guggenheim Scholar and a 2010-11 fellow of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. She won the Surveillance Studies Book Prize in 2012 for Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies. She was the co-author, with Whitfield Diffie, of the 1999 book Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption, which received the 1998 Donald McGannon Communication Policy Research Award and the 1999 IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession. She earned a PhD in computer science at MIT.

Kwonmoo Lee, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School before joining WPI. While at Harvard, he was supported by the Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. In his research he develops quantitative live cell imaging methods to better understand cytoskeleton organization and dynamics. His ultimate goal is to develop novel therapeutics based on this knowledge. He earned a PhD in physics (biophysics) from MIT.

Amity Manning will join WPI as an assistant professor of biology and biotechnology in March 2015 after completing an assignment as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Her research interests are in cancer cell biology and the mechanisms of chromosome segregation, and genomic instability. She has received the National Cancer Institute's (NIH/NCI) Pathway to Independence Award and an American Cancer Society grant to study the manipulation of genome stability as a therapeutic approach in cancer treatment. She earned a PhD in biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University.

Randy Paffenroth, visiting associate professor of mathematical sciences and a core faculty member in WPI's Data Science Program, was most recently a program director and computational scientist at Numerica Corporation, where he served as principal investigator or co-PI on a number of research grants from federal agencies and private industry. An expert on statistical machine learning, signal processing, compressed sensing, and cybersecurity, he holds a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland.

Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering, was previously a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Louisville. At WPI, he is the director of the Small Systems Laboratory, which is dedicated to the development of multi-functional materials, devices, and systems at the macro-, micro-, meso-, and nanoscales. His research focuses on the scalable manufacturing of nanomaterials, MEMS sensors and actuators, photo-thermal nano-positioners, polymer nanocomposites, stimuli responsive mesoscopic materials, and biomedical nanotechnology. A 2006 recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, he is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the Nanotechnology Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation, and a member of the editorial boards of the journals Nanobiotechnology and SRN Nanomaterials. He earned a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

Buddika Peiris, postdoctoral scholar in mathematical sciences, earned a PhD in statistics at Southern Illinois University, where, as a teaching assistant, he received a department nomination for a 2013 Doctoral Research Fellowship Award and a 2014 Dissertation Research Award. His research interests include order-restricted statistical inference, meta-analysis, and Bayesian statistics. His PhD research focused on developing modified regression models under restrictions on regression parameters.

Pradeep Radhakrishnan, assistant teaching professor in mechanical engineering, conducts research on automated design with the goal of developing methods and tools to automatically generate multiple, innovative, and ready-to-manufacture designs. His particular interests include computational representation, kinematics, and optimization and semantic-web and their integration in design and manufacturing. He has completed internships at the GE Global Research Center, the Palo Alto Research Center, and TVS Motor Company Ltd. India. He earned a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Zoe Reidinger, instructor in biomedical engineering, is currently completing her PhD in tissue engineering at WPI (expected May 2015). In 2012, she was honored as WPI’s Teaching Assistant of the Year, an award that recognizes the contributions graduate students make to the quality and success of WPI’s undergraduate curriculum. She has also been named a Point Foundation Scholar. Her research interests include tissue engineering and biomaterial fabrication.

Shanshan Rodriguez, assistant teaching professor of physics, was a research associate at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center before joining the WPI faculty. Her research interests include large-format detector array characterization and the investigation and simulation of magnetospheric plasma dynamics. She received the Goertz-Nicholson Memorial Scholarship and a Graduate College Summer Fellowship at the University of Iowa, where she earned her PhD in space physics.

Scarlet Shell, assistant professor of biology and biotechnology, was a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health before joining the university. With expertise in bacterial stress response, bacterial pathogenesis, regulation of gene expression, epigenetics, genomics, and transcriptomics, her primary research interest is in understanding how pathogenic mycobacteria cause tuberculosis and other diseases. During her graduate studies, she received fellowship support from the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and her research has resulted in publications in such journals as Molecular Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and PLoS Pathogens. She holds a PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of California San Diego.

Elisabeth (Lisa) Stoddard, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies and Undergraduate Studies, was most recently an adjunct faculty member in geography and environmental studies at Moravian College. Her research interests include food and agriculture, environmental governance, hazard vulnerability, social movements and environmental justice, and geographies of disease and contagion. Her current work focuses on the policy and politics of food production in a changing climate and global economy. She has been a Switzer Environmental Fellow and is currently an advisor to the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. She earned a PhD in geography at Clark University.

Lyubov Titova, assistant professor of physics, was most recently a research associate in the Ultrafast Nanotools Laboratory at the University of Alberta, where she received the Avadh Bhatia Women's Postdoctoral Fellowship. She conducts research on optical excitations and ultrafast carrier dynamics in nanomaterials; the spectroscopy of liquids, organic materials, and biomolecules; and medical and biological applications of terahertz radiation. At WPI, she is the director of the Ultrafast Terahertz Physics Laboratory, where she uses ultrafast optical spectroscopy and terahertz spectroscopy to probe the dynamics of photo-excited charge carriers in nanomaterials, with applications in photovoltaics and solar fuel production. She received a PhD in physics at the University of Notre Dame.

Seth Tuler, assistant teaching professor in interdisciplinary and global studies, has been at WPI since 2002 as an adjunct faculty member. His research interests focus on public participation, risk communication, long-term stewardship of contaminated sites, and developing tools to characterize human impacts and vulnerabilities to risk events. The co-director of WPI's undergraduate Bangkok Project Center, Tuler in 2009 received a Fulbright Scholar Award to explore the need for improved environmental health communications in Thailand. He has also received a National Science Foundation Professional Development Fellowship and served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Transportation of High-level Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel from 2003 to 2006. He holds a PhD in environmental science and policy from Clark University.

Zhongqiang (Handy) Zhang, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, was most recently a postdoctoral scholar at Brown University. With research interests in numerical analysis and applications to stochastic differential equations, he is currently exploring structure-preserving numerical methods for stochastic ordinary and partial differential equations, higher-order numerical methods for integral equations with weakly singular kernel, high dimensional numerical integration, and computational fluid dynamics. He earned a PhD in applied mathematics at Brown University, where he received the 2014 David Gottileb Memorial Award.

Jian (Frank) Zou, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, was previously an assistant professor of statistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His research focuses on financial time series and spatial statistics with applications to epidemiology, public health, and climate change. His most recent research on statistical theory and methodology addressed a wide range of challenges, including high-dimensionality, complex dependencies, and space and time variations. He has received support for this work from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other organizations. He earned a PhD in statistics at the University of Connecticut.