Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today announced that 26 full-time faculty members have been promoted in academic rank or awarded tenure. All promotions take effect July 1.
“These educators and scholars are remarkable leaders on campus and in their fields,” said WPI President Laurie Leshin. “Our entire community takes pride in their accomplishments as they mark this important milestone in their academic careers. On behalf of WPI’s leadership team and the WPI Board of Trustees, I congratulate these dedicated faculty members. Their success strengthens WPI and enhances the student experience.”
Provost Wole Soboyejo noted that three of the promoted faculty members were named last year to WPI’s new tenure track, which rewards excellence in teaching.
“Tenure has traditionally been awarded to faculty members who concentrate on teaching, research, and service,” Soboyejo said. “WPI’s new tenure track also recognizes the value of faculty members who focus on teaching and advancing the field of teaching, which greatly benefits students. I am proud that WPI is leading the nation in recognizing and rewarding teaching faculty members, and I am pleased that three members of the WPI teaching faculty are being promoted as they pursue tenure.”
Esther Boucher-Yip has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. She was named in 2021 to WPI’s new tenure track for teaching faculty, and her title effective July 1 will be professor of teaching. A member of the faculty since 2012, Boucher-Yip teaches writing and rhetoric courses, and directs two project centers. In 2021, she received the WPI Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching. Boucher-Yip has published book chapters and articles, and co-edited on topics related to her expertise in applied linguistics. She received her BA and DipEd from the University of Malaya in Malaysia, her MPhil from the University of Cambridge in England, and her EdD from the University of Leicester in England.
Drew Brodeur has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Brodeur joined the faculty as a visiting assistant professor in 2010 and then as an assistant teaching professor in 2011. He teaches general chemistry courses and sophomore/junior-level laboratory courses, including inquiry-based inorganic synthesis and advanced analytical instrumentation. He helped redesign his department’s general chemistry laboratory offerings to provide a project-based, self-directed research experience. He focuses his research on areas such as the long-term stability of dye-sensitized solar cells, synthesizing and testing new functionalized derivatives of existing sensitizers, and the integration of social justice principles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Brodeur received his BS, BA, and PhD from the University of Rhode Island.
Shawn Burdette has been promoted to professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Burdette, associate head of his department, joined the faculty in 2011 and was awarded tenure in 2015. He was previously a faculty member at the University of Connecticut. Burdette teaches a range of lower- to upper-level chemistry courses. His research focuses on the development of photocaged metal complexes for the spatio-temporal control of metal ion release within complex biological systems, with an emphasis on zinc biology. Burdette received his BS from Case Western Reserve University and his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
Jim Cocola has been promoted to professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Cocola joined the faculty in 2009, was awarded tenure in 2015, and has served as associate head of his department. He has taught courses and seminars in American studies, comparative literature, creative writing, and film studies, and he was awarded WPI’s Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education in 2015. His research focuses on intersections of geography and the humanities in American and world cultures, particularly literary and visual manifestations with emphases on ecological, ethnic, and racialized dimensions. Cocola received his AB from Harvard College and his PhD from the University of Virginia.
Joseph Cullon has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A member of the faculty since 2013, Cullon teaches American history courses and serves as associate head of his department. His courses lie at the intersection of environmental history and urban history, where students regularly engage in issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. With the support of a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he led an initiative to build an interdisciplinary set of courses in the urban humanities. Cullon received his BS from Cornell University and his MS, MA, and PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before joining the faculty, he taught at Dartmouth College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Robert Daniello has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Daniello has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on the application of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer to problems in fields such as transportation, energy, and the life sciences. His research focuses on experimental studies of fluid behavior, and he is the inventor or co-inventor on four patents. Before joining the faculty in 2015, Daniello held engineering positions at United Technologies and Alden Research Laboratory. He received his BS, MS, and PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Althea Danielski has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Since joining the faculty in 2016, Danielski has developed curriculum and introduced courses in Integrated Skills in English. She has been an advisor at WPI’s project center in Melbourne, Australia, and she helped create and teaches an English course for international graduate students. As a member of the Teaching and Research Track Council, Danielski was involved in WPI’s development of a new tenure track for the teaching faculty, which launched in 2021. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and her MA from the School for International Training Graduate Institute.
N. Aaron Deskins has been promoted to professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He joined the faculty in 2009 and has taught courses focused on topics such chemical engineering fundamentals for undergraduates and improving graduate student’s research skills. His research brings together materials science, surface science, catalysis, and computational chemistry to develop materials for clean, sustainable energy production. Much of his work focuses on photocatalysis/photovoltaics and electrocatalysis. Deskins is chair of the New England Catalysis Society, a professional organization. He received two BS degrees from the University of Utah and his PhD from Purdue University.
Wen-Hua Du has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A member of the faculty since 2017, Du teaches Chinese language courses and serves as associate director of WPI’s China Hub. Her research interests include language learning strategies, need-based curriculum design, and intercultural communicative competence. She has also collaborated on two business Chinese textbooks. Du is co-director of WPI’s project center in Hangzhou and co-founding director of the Taiwan center. She received her BA from Soochow University in Taiwan, her MA from National Taiwan Normal University, and her PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Du previously was a senior lecturer and coordinator of the Chinese language program at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Michelle Ephraim has been promoted to professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Ephraim joined the faculty in 1999 and was awarded tenure in 2006. She teaches creative writing and courses that focus on the intersection of religion, gender, sexuality, and race. Her research focuses on creative nonfiction and early modern English literature, with a specialization in Shakespeare, women’s studies, and Jewish studies. Ephraim is the author of Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage (Routledge, 2008) and co-author of the literary humor book, Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas. (Penguin, 2015, and Scribe, 2015) She received her BA from Tufts University and her MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
John Starosta Galante has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. He was named in 2021 to WPI’s new tenure track for teaching faculty, and his title effective July 1 will be associate professor of teaching. A member of the faculty since 2016, Galante teaches courses in history and international and global studies, with a particular focus on Latin America, migration, and global networks of interaction and exchange. He led the creation of WPI’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Initiative. Galante is the author of On the Other Shore: The Atlantic Worlds of Italians in South America During the Great War. (University of Nebraska Press, 2022) He received his BA from Tufts University, his MA from Columbia University, and his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh.
Thomas Gannon has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He joined the faculty in 2014 as a professor of practice with deep industry and management experience in enterprise systems engineering, real-time control systems, information management systems, communications, and technology transfer. Gannon’s teaching includes courses for WPI’s Office of Online and Corporate Education. He also holds leadership positions in the International Council on Systems Engineering, a professional society. Gannon received his BS from Illinois Institute of Technology, his MS from Purdue University, and his PhD from Stevens Institute of Technology.
Ron Grimm has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Grimm joined the faculty in 2014 after postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California, Irvine. At WPI, Grimm teaches general chemistry and the physical chemistry laboratory. Students conducting research with Grimm focus on surface science projects related to solar energy materials and nanocontainers for therapeutic drug delivery. Grimm received his BS from Case Western Reserve University and his PhD from Caltech.
Hektor Kashuri has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Physics. Kashuri became an adjunct teaching professor and postdoctoral researcher at WPI in 2008 and joined the faculty full time in 2010. He has taught all of his department’s introductory physics courses, as well as intermediate mechanics, and he is developing computational materials to introduce software programming into the physics curriculum. Kashuri has led summer programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students in Worcester and participated in pre-collegiate programs aimed at promoting STEM. He received his BSc from the University of Tirana in Albania and his PhD from Northeastern University.
Uma Kumar has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She was an adjunct teaching professor at WPI for several years before joining the faculty full time in 2005. Kumar has taught lecture courses and laboratories in general chemistry and organic chemistry. Her work has included designing a layout for the department’s laboratory space to improve hands-on learning, creating a laboratory-safety video for students, redesigning the department’s general chemistry laboratory curriculum, and participating in an overhaul that added a research component to all general chemistry courses. She received her BSc and MSc from Osmania University in India and her PhD from the University of Cincinnati.
Amity Manning has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology. A member of the faculty since 2015, Manning was previously an instructor at Harvard Medical School and an assistant in genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital. At WPI, she redesigned a foundational undergraduate cell biology course and created upper-level courses in cancer biology and genomic instability. Manning’s research is supported with more than $2 million in federal and private funding, and it focuses on the mechanisms underlying chromosomal and genomic instability, which are factors in cancer. She received her BA and BS from Brandeis University and her PhD from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
Rodica Neamtu has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science. She was named in 2021 to WPI’s new tenure track for teaching faculty, and her title effective July 1 will be professor of teaching. Neamtu joined the faculty in 2017 and teaches courses on databases, data mining, and the social implications of computing. She redesigned four courses to emphasize student engagement and projects, and she co-founded and co-directs the university’s project center in Romania. Neamtu’s research focuses on data mining and machine learning for use in diverse domains such as medicine, economics, transportation, and complex decision making. She received her BS and MS from the University of Craiova in Romania and her PhD from WPI.
Erin Ottmar has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies. A member of the faculty since 2015, Ottmar previously worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Richmond and a visiting research associate at Indiana University. She has taught in WPI’s Learning Sciences and Technologies program, the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences program, and the Teacher Preparation program. Her research, which has been supported by more than $6 million in funding, focuses on mathematics cognition, teaching, and learning. She has designed, co-developed, and researched a digital interactive mathematics notation tool called Graspable Math that has been used by more than 300,000 students and teachers in more than 150 countries over the past year. Ottmar received her BA from the University of Richmond and her PhD from the University of Virginia.
Joshua Rohde has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Rohde started at WPI in 2016 as director of choral activities and joined the faculty full time in 2017. He is the conductor of all the university's vocal ensembles. Rohde uses music to encourage students’ engagement with social issues, developing a course on music composed during, or in response to, conflict and discrimination. He was awarded WPI’s Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education in 2021. He received his BM and BS at the University of Minnesota, his MSM and DMA from Boston University, and his MA from the University of Birmingham in England.
Erin Solovey has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Her research, funded by more than $2.6 million from the National Science Foundation, is in the field of human-computer interaction. Solovey is deputy editor of the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies and associate editor of ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. She joined the faculty in 2018 and has taught a mix of undergraduate and graduate courses in computer science and neuroscience while placing an emphasis on mentoring women and supporting STEM education. Solovey received her AB from Harvard University and her MS and PhD from Tufts University. Before joining the WPI faculty, she was an assistant professor at Drexel University and a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Qingshuo Song, associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, has been awarded tenure. Song joined the faculty in 2019 and was previously a tenured associate professor of mathematics at the City University of Hong Kong. He focuses his research on stochastic control theory, with a concentration on singular control problems, stochastic exit problems, and mean field games. Song has revamped his department’s computational methods of financial mathematics course to include cloud computing and machine learning in the financial industry, and he is an associate editor of IEEE Control and Systems Letters and Nonlinear Analysis: Hybrid Systems. He received his BS and MS from Nankai University in China, and his MA and PhD from Wayne State University.
Michael Timko has been promoted to professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He joined the faculty in 2012 and was awarded tenure in 2018. Timko has taught courses on thermodynamics and energy, and he founded, directs, and advises student projects at WPI’s project center at UNICAMP in Campinas, Brazil. His research focuses on the environmentally responsible production of energy from waste and under-utilized resources, such as bamboo. In 2019, he received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for work in France aimed at supporting his research on biofuels. Timko received his BS from The Ohio State University and his MS and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Luis Vidali has been promoted to professor in the Department of Biology and Biotechnology. Before joining the faculty in 2009, Vidali held research positions at New World Laboratories Inc., Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard Medical School), and the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst. He was awarded tenure in 2015. Vidali leads his department’s graduate program and has implemented initiatives such as a new doctoral qualifying exam format and a reproducible biostatistics course. His research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying plant cell organization and growth. Vidali is faculty advisor for the WPI chapter of the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He received his BS from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and his PhD from UMass, Amherst.
Jacob Whitehill has been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. The author of more than 50 conference, workshop, and journal publications, Whitehill focuses on the intersection of multi-modal machine learning and education. He has taught courses in machine learning and deep learning for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as object-oriented programming for first-year computer science majors. Before joining the faculty in 2016, Whitehill was a research fellow at Harvard University and a co-founder of Emotient Inc., a company that develops facial expression recognition technology. He received his BS from Stanford University, his MSc from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, and his PhD from the University of California, San Diego.
Wilson Wong has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science. Wong joined the faculty in 2015 after holding several faculty positions at Bentley University and working in information systems and software positions in private industry. He teaches courses on subjects such as database systems and software engineering, and he is co-author of The Architecture of Computer Hardware, Systems Software, and Networking: An Information Technology Approach, 6th Edition. (Wiley, 2021) Wong received his BS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his MBA from Cornell University, and his PhD from Bentley University.
Yu Zhong, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been awarded tenure. Zhong carries out research on computational thermodynamics and kinetics simulation for integrated materials and process design. His work includes the development of new alloys and ceramics and is primarily focused on applications for the clean production of hydrogen energy. A member of the faculty since 2017, Zhong previously was an assistant professor at Florida International University and an internal technical consultant at the Saint-Gobain High-Performance Research Center in Northboro, Mass. He is an inventor on two patents and has published more than 58 peer-reviewed journal papers. Zhong received his MS from Sichuan University in China and his PhD from the Pennsylvania State University.