Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today announced that 18 full-time faculty members have been promoted in academic rank or awarded tenure. All promotions take effect July 1.
“On behalf of the WPI Board of Trustees, I am delighted to congratulate these dedicated educators, researchers, and contributors to the academic community,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “They are leaders in their fields, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and innovating for impact. Given the gender inequities that still exist within STEM professions, it’s especially thrilling to see that half of the faculty members promoted to full professor are women. We know that their success as role models will inspire more young women to contemplate their own futures in the STEM fields.”
Provost Wole Soboyejo praised the faculty members for their talent and passion, noting that six were awarded tenure. “Those who were considered for tenure this year showed they are remarkable contributors to the university,” Soboyejo said. “We are proud of their achievements.”
Andrew Clark has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. A member of the faculty since 2014, Clark is an expert on the control and security of networked and cyber-physical systems. He has authored more than 80 peer-reviewed conference and journal publications, including multiple best-paper award winners and a monograph on submodularity in dynamics and control. He has procured more than $1.3 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Defense, and he has received two prestigious NSF awards aimed at early-career faculty: He received a CAREER award and was the first in his department to receive a Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) award. Clark teaches advanced undergraduate and graduate courses while serving on the program committee for NSF principal investigator meetings. He earned his BS and MS at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and his PhD at the University of Washington.
Robert Dempski has been promoted to professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research focuses on the structure and function of membrane proteins, including a zinc transporter that has been implicated in pancreatic cancer and a class of light-sensitive proteins that have been used to control neuronal cell function. Dempski has designed multiple WPI courses and has developed augmented reality programs to improve laboratory and classroom instruction. He has been involved in the Biophysical Society, an international organization, and has served as an editor, board member, or reviewer for journals and for national agencies that fund scientific work. At WPI, Dempski has been involved in a new Neuroscience initiative. He serves on the university’s research development council and is chairman of the radiation health and safety committee. A faculty member since 2009, he earned his BS at Bucknell University and his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dempski was awarded tenure in 2015.
Lane Harrison has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Harrison is an expert in visualization and human-computer interaction, teaching courses in data visualization and web development. His research leverages computational methods to understand and shape how people interpret, use, and create visualizations and visual analytics tools. Harrison’s work has led to design guidelines for visualizations in cybersecurity, news, and education. He participates in WPI’s Data Science, Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD), and Bioinformatics and Computational Biology programs. Harrison joined the faculty in 2015. He earned his BS and PhD at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and he completed postdoctoral work at Tufts University.
Songbai Ji has been promoted to professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Ji is affiliated with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and WPI’s Neuroscience initiative. A member of the faculty and tenured since 2016, he has taught a range of courses. His research focuses on computational modeling and medical imaging for the study of traumatic brain injury and surgical image guidance. Ji has received more than $3 million in research funding as a principal investigator, with more than $2 million funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous conference papers and abstracts. Ji serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, a reviewer for a number of journals and the NIH and NSF, and for his department’s tenure committee and graduate committee. He earned BS and MS degrees from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and MS and PhD degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.
Yanhua Li has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Li is a data science expert who joined the faculty in 2015 and focuses his research on spatial-temporal data science and artificial intelligence with applications in smart cities. He has led or supported research funded with $8.1 million. As a principal investigator, he has secured $4.6 million from industry and the NSF, including prestigious NSF CAREER and CRII awards. Li has taught a range of undergraduate to graduate courses and developed a new course in reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning concerned with how intelligent agents take actions to maximize the notion of cumulative reward. He has also served on a number of WPI committees, including the Data Science program steering committee. Li earned a BS and MS at Sichuan University, a PhD in computer science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a PhD in electrical engineering at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
Sarah Olson has been promoted to professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Trained in both biology and mathematics, Olson focuses her research on the development of novel computational methods, fluid dynamic issues in biology, and models that bring together mechanics and chemical regulatory mechanisms. She has published more than 33 scholarly articles and led or supported nearly $2 million in funded research. In 2019, she was named a Fulbright Research Scholar. Olson has taught a range of courses and developed new courses. In addition, she has served as secretary of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Life Sciences, and she has served as graduate coordinator in her department and as a member of the Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom at WPI. A member of the faculty since 2011, she was awarded tenure in 2017. Olson earned her BA at Providence College, her MS at the University of Rhode Island, and her PhD at North Carolina State University.
Randy Paffenroth, an associate professor with a collaborative appointment in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, the Department of Computer Science, and the Data Science program, has been awarded tenure. Since joining the faculty in 2014, Paffenroth has developed or co-developed five new courses in data science and mathematical sciences. His research focuses on deep learning, signal processing, compressed sensing, and the interaction between mathematics, computer science, and software engineering, with applications in the physical sciences, engineering, and cyber defense. Paffenroth has served as chair of the faculty’s Committee on Information Technology Policy and secretary of the faculty’s Committee on Financial and Administrative Policy, as well as director of the Smart World Interdisciplinary Group Leadership Team. He earned his BS at Boston University and his PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Marsha Rolle has been promoted to professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Since joining the faculty in 2007, Rolle has taught introductory through graduate-level courses and advised projects in biomaterials, cell and molecular engineering, and engineering design. She focuses her research on vascular and tracheal tissue engineering, cellular self-assembly, disease modeling, and antimicrobial wound treatments. Her work is supported by awards from the NIH, NSF, ARMI BioFabUSA, the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Her work at WPI has led to four issued U.S. patents, including three that have been licensed. Rolle, who was awarded tenure in 2013, earned her BS at Brown University and her PhD at the University of Washington.
Joshua Rosenstock has been promoted to professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A faculty member since 2005 and tenured since 2011, Rosenstock was one of the university’s first art instructors and one of the first faculty members in the IMGD program. He teaches courses in digital art, artistic game development, interactive media, and electronic arts. He received WPI’s Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education in 2008. His artwork has been exhibited and performed at venues including the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Santa Fe International Biennial, and the Cabaret Voltaire. He earned his BS at Brown University and his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Elizabeth Ryder has been promoted to professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology. Ryder is a founding member and associate director of WPI’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program. She has developed numerous courses, including a course that introduces students to building simulations of biological systems. Ryder’s most recent research has focused on science education as well as computational modeling of biological systems. With collaborators, she created the NSF-funded Bio-CS Bridge Project, an integrated biology and computer science curriculum that engages high school students in solving real-world problems such as pollinator decline. The team has developed apps, a database, analytical tools, and simulation software for the citizen science Beecology Project. A member of the faculty since 1996, Ryder was awarded tenure in 2003. She earned her AB from Princeton University, her MS from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and her PhD from Harvard University.
Scarlet Shell has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology. Shell’s teaching accomplishments include launching a redesign of two undergraduate courses in molecular biology and microbiology to include biotechnology applications. Her research uses genetics, genomics, transcriptomics, and biochemistry to investigate how bacteria survive stressful conditions, with a focus on the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. She has received the prestigious NSF CAREER Award for early-career faculty as well as multiple NIH grants. A reviewer for numerous scientific journals, she has also served on WPI’s Undergraduate Research Advisory Board and Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Steering Committee. She won the WPI Board of Trustees Award for Outstanding Academic Advising as well as the Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarship at WPI. Shell joined the faculty in 2014. She earned her BA at Smith College and her PhD at the University of California, San Diego.
Burt Tilley has been promoted to professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. An applied mathematician, Tilley joined the faculty in 2009 and was awarded tenure in 2013. His teaching has ranged from freshman calculus courses to graduate level mathematics. He focuses his research on the development or implementation of models in fluid dynamics, porous media flows, electromagnetic energy, and the collection and storage of geothermal energy. Tilley served as director of the university’s Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, working to strengthen connections between WPI, industry, and government. He earned his BA in Modern Languages and his BS in Electrical Engineering at the University of Lowell, and his PhD in Applied Mathematics at Northwestern University.
Karen Troy has been promoted to professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. A member of the faculty since 2013, she teaches upper- and graduate-level courses. Her research focuses on the interactions between physical activity and musculoskeletal health, disease, and injury. She has been awarded more than $2.4 million in government, corporate, and foundation funding for research since 2013 while involving students as co-authors on published articles. She also has served in leadership roles in the Orthopaedic Research Society and the American Society of Biomechanics. Troy earned two BS degrees at Washington University in St. Louis and a PhD at the University of Iowa. She was awarded tenure in 2016.
Bengisu Tulu has been promoted to professor in the Foisie Business School. After joining the faculty in 2006, Tulu helped lead the business school’s new focus on analytics and developed teaching on machine learning. She was awarded tenure in 2013. Tulu is a leader in designing digital health interventions and implementing health information technology solutions. Her research focuses on the ways that information systems and technology can support healthcare delivery. She has edited two books and six book chapters, and she has published more than 34 journal articles and numerous conference papers, abstracts, and posters. Tulu’s work has been supported by more than $10 million in federal grants. She has served on numerous WPI committees and was recently co-chair of the search committee for a new business school dean. She also was co-chair for the 14th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology at WPI. Tulu earned BS and MS degrees from Middle East Technical University, and MS and PhD degrees from Claremont Graduate University.
Darko Volkov has been promoted to professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. A faculty member since 2004, Volkov has taught a range of courses, from freshman calculus to graduate-level mathematical analysis. His research centers on integral equations and inverse problems in partial differential equations, with applications in computational electromagnetic theory and seismology. Volkov has published more than 30 research papers in prestigious scientific journals. He was awarded tenure in 2010. Volkov has served as chair of his department’s graduate program committee since 2014 and has been a reviewer for a number of scientific journals. He earned his BSc from the University of Paris 6 and his PhD from Rutgers University.
Gu Wang has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Wang teaches undergraduate and graduate courses covering subjects such as calculus, probability, and financial and actuarial mathematics. An expert in mathematical finance, he focuses his research on building probabilistic models of the behavior of financial market participants and developing theories about those behaviors. Wang has been the lead organizer of WPI’s annual Invitational Mathematics Meet and the annual STEM Faculty Launch for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. He also leads his department’s efforts to recruit and admit PhD students. A member of the faculty since 2015, Wang earned his BS at Peking University and his MS and PhD at Boston University.
Zheyang Wu has been promoted to professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. He joined the faculty in 2009 and was awarded tenure in 2015. A co-founder of the university’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program, Wu is a biostatistician who has produced research on theoretical statistics and statistical genetics and genomics. He has published nearly 50 journal articles and a book chapter while leading research projects funded by multiple NSF grants. Wu has acted as a reviewer for 21 journals, serving on two editorial boards, and organizing conference sessions. He earned his BS at Chong Qing University, his MS at the University of New Orleans, and his MPhil and PhD at Yale University.
Hong Susan Zhou has been promoted to professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. As director of her microfluidics and bionanotechnology lab, Zhou focuses her research on microfabrication and nanotechnology for biomedical, energy, and environmental applications, with emphases on microfluidics and biosensors, biomaterials, and nanomaterials for fuel cell and biocatalytic applications. She has received NSF funding to use nanomaterial synthesis and nanostructure fabrication, microfluidics, and biosensors to develop a lab-on-a-chip for the detection of the infectious bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Zhou has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses since joining the faculty in 2005 and directs the Shanghai Project Center. She is a reviewer for more than 50 scientific and professional journals, serves on government grant proposal panels, and has organized and served as chair or co-chair on conference sessions. She was awarded tenure in 2012. Zhou earned her MS at Clarkson University and her PhD at the University of California, Irvine.