WPI Appoints New Heads for Its Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Departments

Kristen Billiar will chair the Biomedical Engineering Department and Susan Roberts will head the Chemical Engineering Department. Both have strong ties to the WPI community.
September 15, 2015

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has announced the appointment of new leaders for two of its 14 academic departments. Kristen L. Billiar, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI, will head that department. Susan C. Roberts, previously a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will chair the chemical engineering department. Roberts is returning to WPI, where she received a bachelor of science in chemical engineering 17 years ago.

"Professors Billiar and Roberts each bring the special mix of quality teaching, impactful research, dedicated service, and commitment to the student experience that WPI's unique educational approach requires," said WPI dean of engineering ad interim David Cyganski. "I am confident that their departments will flourish under their superb leadership and direction."

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Billiar joined the WPI faculty 2002 after several years as an engineer at Organogenesis Inc. He holds a BS degree from Cornell University and MS and PhD degrees in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. His research in tissue mechanics and mechanobiology has been supported by significant funding from the Whitaker Foundation, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Department of Defense. A member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), a Coleman Faculty Entrepreneurship fellow, and a Fulbright fellow, he serves on the boards of the ASME Bioengineering Division and the Biomedical Engineering Society, and is the associate editor for the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Billiar says his objective is to continue to grow a high-quality department with an excellent reputation in both teaching and research by leveraging the support, involvement, and collaboration of the department's faculty, staff, students, alumni, as well as colleagues in industry.

"I am extremely excited about this opportunity," he said. "The biomedical engineering department is thriving by all measures of success. I will work to further its innovative quality in terms of research, education, and societal impact by supporting current faculty members and staff and recruiting additional high-quality faculty. My goal is to make this department a great place to learn, teach, and work."

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Roberts, most recently associate dean of the graduate school at UMass Amherst, received her PhD in 1998 from Cornell University. Her research is focused on cellular engineering, especially plant culture biotechnology and cell encapsulation. She has served as the director of the Institute for Cellular Engineering and the associated IGERT program at UMass Amherst for the past eight years. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Glass Foundation.

"I am thrilled to be returning to WPI to lead the department that instilled in me a love of learning, project-based work, and interdisciplinary problem solving," said Roberts. "The WPI chemical engineering department is renowned for its excellence in undergraduate education and is primed to become a leader in both interdisciplinary research and graduate training."

In her new position, Roberts says she will work to increase the visibility and role of the chemical engineering department. "With the excellent faculty and students we have in place, along with enhanced recruiting and support for innovative research, I look forward to collaborating with this tremendous group of diverse colleagues to further elevate the reputation and impact of the department."