Individual photos of new WPI faculty members

WPI Welcomes 19 New Full-Time Faculty Members

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has welcomed 19 full-time educators and researchers to its faculty for the 2020-21 academic year.

“We are excited to add these talented and accomplished individuals to the WPI faculty,” said Provost Wole Soboyejo. “They possess stellar credentials and will expand the university’s teaching and research agenda.”

New members of the faculty:

Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Ayobami will join the faculty in January 2021 as assistant teaching professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She is currently assistant dean for inclusion and engagement in the Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Ayobami has studied orthopedic biomechanics, mechanobiology, contact mechanics in human joints during activities of daily living, and the persistence and success of traditionally underrepresented populations in higher education. A WPI alumnus from the Class of 2011 with a BS in biomedical engineering and professional writing, she has an MS and PhD in biomedical engineering from Cornell University. At Cornell, she received the 2014 Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award. Ayobami completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biomechanical engineering at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.


Francesca Bernardi is assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Before joining WPI, she was a postdoctoral scholar in mathematics at Florida State University. Her research focuses on small-scale fluid mechanics and microfluidics. Bernardi has a BS in engineering physics and an MSc in nuclear engineering from Politecnico di Milano in Italy. She earned a PhD in applied mathematics and a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a co-founder of Girls Talk Math, a free math and media camp for female and gender non-conforming high school students.


Crystal Brown is assistant professor in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies. She was an assistant teaching professor at WPI from 2019 to 2020. Brown has a Master of Public Administration from Pennsylvania State University, and an MS and a PhD in political science from the University of Oregon. Her research compares policies and politics that impact marginalized groups in different societies. She is most interested in comparative politics, international relations, human rights, immigration policies, women’s rights, and race/ethnicity and politics. She was a 2017-2018 Fulbright Schuman Scholar and received the Russell Sage Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Proposal Development Institute award for summer 2020 that was postponed to the summer 2021 due to the pandemic.


Kelly Colvin is assistant teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Colvin previously taught courses on European history and gender history at the University of Maryland and Brown University. Her research focuses on the intersection of gender, culture, and politics, and how those factors impacted events and conflicts of the 20th century. She is the author of the book “Gender and French Identity since the Second World War” (Bloomsbury, 2017). Colvin received a BA in history and French studies from Bowdoin College, and an MA in history and a PhD in European history from Brown University. 


Fatemeh Ganji is assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in the Cybersecurity Program. She was previously a post-doctoral associate at the University of Florida and the Telecom Innovation Laboratories/Technical University of Berlin. Ganji earned a PhD in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Berlin. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to machine learning and cryptography for design and evaluation of security-critical hardware.


Aswin Gnanaskandan is assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Before joining the WPI faculty, he was a research scientist at Dynaflow Inc., developing numerical models for multiphase flows for applications in aerospace engineering, marine engineering, and biomedicine. His research focuses on high-fidelity mathematical models for multiphase flows to answer critical questions in engineering and biomedicine. Gnanaskandan has a BS in aeronautical engineering from Madras Institute of Technology in India and an MS and a PhD in aerospace engineering and mechanics from the University of Minnesota. He did postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology.

Mitchell Lutch is assistant teaching professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. Lutch earned a BA in music education at the University of Lowell, an MA in music at the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in instrumental conducting at the University of Washington. He began his teaching career in the Malden Public Schools in Massachusetts and has conducted concerts and made presentations around the world. He is the author of “In Search of Meaning: Frank L. Battisti—The Conservatory Years and Into the New Millennium” (Meredith Music, 2019). Lutch was previously interim associate director of bands at the University of Northern Colorado and associate professor of music and director of bands at Central College in Pella, Iowa.


Markus Nemitz is assistant professor in the Department of Robotics Engineering. Nemitz earned a Bachelor of Engineering in electrical engineering from Bochum University of Applied Sciences in Germany, and an MS in electronics and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. During his PhD, he was a research scholar at the University of Michigan. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, under the mentorship of George Whitesides. His work blurs the line between machines and materials by integrating intelligence into elastomeric polymers, thermoplastics, and textiles to develop collaborative robotic systems that support, protect, and interact with humans.


Doug Olsen is instructor/lecturer in the Department of Humanities and Arts. A jazz educator and trumpeter, Olsen has performed with Boston and national acts, and he coordinates clinics for the Massachusetts Association for Jazz Education. He was previously interim director of jazz studies at WPI. Olsen has directed jazz programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Community College of Rhode Island, and he was director of music for the Medfield Public Schools. He has a BA in jazz and African-American music studies and in music education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he has an MA in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory. Olsen’s CD of original compositions, "Two Cents," was published in 2019 by BMI.


Guanying Peng is assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. He received a BS in mathematics from Peking University and a PhD in mathematics from Purdue University. He has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Arizona. Peng’s research explores partial differential equations with a focus on applications to the sciences. His work has been published in journals such as the Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis, and Annales de l'Institut Henri Poincaré C, Analyse non linéaire.


Dina Rassias is assistant teaching professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Rassias has taught at WPI since 1994 and has broad project-based research and teaching experience. Her recent research focused on molecular mechanisms that drive malignancies, novel drug delivery, and treatment strategies for cancer, including those with the natural product Artemisia annua. She earned a BA in mathematics at Assumption College and has MS degrees in applied mathematics and mechanical engineering and a PhD in biomedical engineering from WPI.


Farnoush Reshadi is assistant professor of marketing in the Foisie Business School. Her research focuses on consumer well-being, financial and health-related decision making, and social influence. Reshadi previously taught consumer behavior and marketing research courses at West Virginia University, where she also earned a PhD in business administration. She has a BS in computer engineering from Bu Ali Sina University, an MSc in e-commerce from Iran University of Science and Technology, and an MBA from the University of Tehran, all in Iran.

Sarah Riddick is assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Arts. She teaches courses in rhetoric and writing, and she directs the Professional Writing Program. Riddick earned a BA in English and a BA in Spanish from the Honors College at Virginia Commonwealth University, an MA in comparative literature at University College London, and a PhD in English with an emphasis on rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on the relationship between rhetorical tradition, digital rhetoric and writing cultures, and emerging media.


Adam Sales is assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, with an affiliation with the Learning Sciences and Technology Program and the Data Science Program. Formerly the lead statistical consultant in the University of Texas College of Education, Sales researches methods for causal inference using administrative or high-dimensional data, especially in education. He has a BS in physics and mathematics from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in statistics from the University of Michigan. Sales also was a post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University and RAND.


Stacy Shaw is assistant professor in the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies. Her research focuses on creative thinking in mathematics, how anxiety and other experiences impact mathematical cognition and reasoning, and how classroom experiences can impact learning and performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Shaw has a BA in human development from California State University and an MA and PhD in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles. She is an ambassador for the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting transparency and reproducibility in science.


Shahin Tajik is assistant research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is affiliated with the Cybersecurity program. Tajik previously was an assistant research professor at the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research at the University of Florida. His research focuses on noninvasive and semi-invasive side-channel analysis, Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs), machine learning, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) security, and designing anti-tamper mechanisms against physical attacks. Tajik has a BS in electrical engineering from K.N. Toosi University of Technology in Iran and an MS and a PhD in electrical engineering from Technical University of Berlin in Germany.

Raisa Trubko is assistant professor in the Department of Physics. Trubko is an experimental quantum physicist who comes to WPI from a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Her research uses ensembles of nitrogen-vacancy quantum defects in diamond to image magnetic fields with high spatial resolution. She graduated from the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI and went on to earn a BS in optics and a BA in physics, both at the University of Rochester, and a PhD in optical sciences at the University of Arizona. Trubko founded the University of Arizona Women in Physics group.


Edvina Uzunovic is assistant teaching professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Uzunovic has been an adjunct professor at WPI since 2012 and has also served as associate director of power systems engineering in the Corporate and Professional Education Office. Her research focuses on power system modeling, simulation, control, and optimization in distribution and transmission power systems. After earning a BSc in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she earned an MSc and PhD in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada.


Zhangxian Yuan is assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. He comes to WPI from a postdoctoral fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he also earned an MS and PhD in aerospace engineering. Yuan has a BS in aircraft design and engineering and an MS in engineering mechanics from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China. His research focuses on the mechanics of advanced structures, composite materials and structures, computational methods for high performance computing, structural dynamics, stability, and fracture mechanics.