WPI Welcomes 36 New Full-time Faculty Members

January 12, 2017
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) this year welcomed 36 new full-time educators and researchers to its faculty ranks.

The new faculty class includes Winston Soboyejo, who joined WPI in July as Bernard Gordon Dean of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering; he was previously professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University. Also joining the full-time faculty was Douglas T. Petkie, professor and chair of the Department of Physics. He was previously chair and professor of physics at Wright State University.

Here are the other new full-time faculty members for 2016-17:

Nicholas Bertozzi is a senior instructor in robotics engineering. With an MS in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University, he came to WPI from Daniel Webster College, where he had been a faculty member since 1982 and where he was most recently dean of engineering and computer science. While at Daniel Webster, he was honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2007 and an honorary doctorate of education in 2016. In 2006 he received the Chair’s Award for Outstanding Technical Paper from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Design Graphics Division. His research interests include active learning/flipped classroom and program and course student outcomes assessment.

Mohamed Brahimi is an instructor in the Humanities and Arts Department. With expertise in Arabic literature, politics, journalism, advocacy, and jurisprudence, he was the founder and managing director of the Al-Arab News in Malden, Mass, a monthly publication serving the New England Arab community, and was named Muslim Leader of Tomorrow in 2009. He holds a BA in communications and an MS in political science from Suffolk University. Before joining WPI, he was an adjunct professor at Worcester State University, where he taught Middle Eastern cultures and Arabic.

​Tiffiny A. Butler is an assistant teaching professor in biomedical engineering. She joined WPI in 2013 as a postdoctoral research fellow, working in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory of assistant professor Karen Troy. Her research focuses on bone and bone mechanics, musculoskeletal biomechanics, solid tissue mechanics, and exercise physiology. In 2013 she received the American College of Sports Medicine Bone Interest Group Basic Science Research Award. At Temple, she was a First Summers Research Initiative (FSRI) Research Fellow and received a NATA Research and Education Foundation Doctoral Scholarship.

Lucia Carichino is a postdoctoral scholar in the Mathematical Sciences Department. With expertise in mathematical biology, fluid-structure interactions, and numerical analysis, she conducts research on mathematical and computational modeling of biological fluids and tissues, particularly the relevance of mechanical and vascular factors in the pathophysiology of glaucoma. She has a BS and an MS in mathematical engineering from Politecnico di Milano in Italy and a PhD in mathematics from Purdue University in Indianapolis, where she received the IUPUI Elite 50 Graduate and Professional Student Award. She also received the STEM Chateaubriand Fellowship. Before joining WPI, she was a research fellow at the University of Strasbourg in France.

Simone Cassani is a postdoctoral scholar in the Mathematical Sciences Department. His research focuses on applications of partial differential equations, mathematical modeling of ocular blood flow, numerical analysis, and turbulence models. He received his PhD in mathematics from Purdue University in Indianapolis, where he was the Department of Athletics Favorite Professor in 2014. His dissertation research explored ocular blood circulation and aqueous humor flow in relation to ocular diseases, with a particular interest in glaucoma. He also earned BS and MS degrees in mathematical engineering at Politecnico di Milano in Italy. Before joining WPI he was a visiting researcher at the University of Strasbourg in France.

Farley J. Chery is an assistant teaching professor of interactive media and game development. He joined WPI from Fitchburg State University, where he was a full-time faculty member. His research focus areas include motion capture, character kinematics, and Afro-futurism and its application to diversity media. He was the creator of the Enhanced IK rigging featured in the Unreal Engine 4, a popular game development engine. He hold a BA in animation from Collins College in Tempe, Ariz., and an MFA in media design from Full Sail University.

Jeannine M. Coburn is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. With expertise in biomaterials, tissue engineering, in vitro disease models, and drug delivery, she conducts research aimed at developing clinically translatable tissue regeneration and drug delivery strategies and three-dimensional, in vitro human disease models using biologically-derived biomaterials. She earned a BS in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Johns Hopkins University. With a Ruth L. Kirschtein NIH/NIDDK Postdoctoral Fellowship, she was a postdoctoral fellow in biomedical engineering at Tufts University before joining WPI.

​Amalene Cooper-Morgan is an assistant teaching professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Her research focuses on regulation of IGF2 (insulin-like growth factor 2, one of three protein hormones that share structural similarity to insulin) in heptocellular carcinoma cells, work she began as a National Cancer Institute postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She holds a BS in biology from Long Island University and an MS, an MPhil, and a PhD in biological sciences from Columbia University, where she received a Doctoral Faculty Fellowship.

Robert Daniello is an assistant teaching professor of mechanical engineering. He joined WPI from United Technologies Aerospace Systems, where he was a thermodynamic performance analyst. With expertise in microfluidics, superhydrophobicity, drops and wetting, and thermo-fluid systems, he conducts experimental studies of fluid behavior, looking in particular at how fluids move and interact with surfaces at small lengthscales, including microfluidics and superhydrophobic surfaces. He holds a BS, an MS, and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he won first place ($50,000 award) in the 2010 UMass Innovation Challenge, a selective business plan competition for students and recent alumni.

Leslie L. Dodson is an assistant teaching professor in Undergraduate Studies. A broadcast journalist who has been a senior national and international correspondent for the NBC news networks, including CNBC and MSNBC; a senior correspondent and producer for Reuters Financial Television; a senior supervising producer and reporter for NHK Broadcast Network; and a field producer, show producer, writer, and editor for CNN, she has additional expertise in transmedia storytelling, humanitarian engineering, and human-centered design. Her 2011 TED Talk, “Don’t Misrepresent Africa,” called for journalists, researchers, and NGOs “to stop representing entire continents as one big tragedy.” She has a PhD in technology, media, and society from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Ali Fallahi is an assistant research professor of civil and environmental engineering. A building engineer with experience in the areas of building envelope assessment, energy conservation technologies, and mechanical system analysis, he was an R&D building science engineer at Fraunhofer USA before he joined WPI, conducting research and development work in the areas of sustainable energy, building energy efficiency, and high-performance thermal insulation technology. He was also involved in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America research program, for which he led several research projects. He has a PhD in building engineering from Concordia University.

​Kelum D. Gajamannage is a postdoctoral scholar in the Mathematical Sciences Department. He previously served as an instructor at Clarkson University and a lecturer at Uva Wellassa University in Sri Lanka. His research expertise is in manifold learning and dimensionality reduction, machine learning, network analysis, and biological modeling. He earned a BS in mathematics and an MS in applied statistics at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and a PhD in mathematics at Clarkson University, where he was research fellow in the Chaos Lab.

​Tian Guo is an assistant research professor of computer science. Her research interests include distributed and operating systems, cloud computing, performance modeling, and data-intensive computing. She received a bachelor of engineering degree from Nanjing University in China and an MS and a PhD in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she received a Graduate School Dissertation Writing Fellowship. During her graduate studies she held research internships at NEC Labs and AT&T Research.

Edward R. Gutierrez is an assistant teaching professor of computer science and interactive media and game development. A professional animator, illustrator, and independent filmmaker, he has worked as an artist, animator, and illustrator with Warner Brothers Animation Studio and Walt Disney Feature Animation, among many other production houses. Before joining WPI, he was an assistant professor at the California College of Arts. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in 2D Animation at the California Institute of the Arts and an MFA in 3D animation and visual effects at the Academy of Arts University. He also completed the animation internship program at Walt Disney Pictures.

​Daoru (Frank) Han is an assistant research professor of mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. He was previously an instructor of astronautical engineering at the University of Southern California, where he earned a PhD in astronautical engineering. At USC, where he received the Best Research Assistant and Best Teaching Assistant awards, he developed and applied first-principle-based plasma simulation models on supercomputers to resolve fundamental plasma physics phenomena arising from space exploration. His current research interests include plasma dynamics, space propulsion, and large-scale and high-performance computing.

​Songbai Ji is an associate professor of biomedical engineering. He joined WPI from Dartmouth College, where he was an associate professor of engineering in the Thayer School of Engineering. With nearly $2 million in current support from the National Institutes of Health, he pursues research in biomechanics, computational modeling, medical imaging applied to the central nervous system, and surgical image guidance. His current research on the brain focuses on the biomechanical mechanisms of traumatic brain injury, particularly sports concussion. His research collaborations with physicians at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center was supported, in part, by the Dartmouth SYNERGY Scholars Program. He earned an MS in computer science and a DSc in mechanical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Jeffrey P. Kesselman is an instructor in computer science and interactive media and game development. A 30 year game industry software engineering veteran, his previous posts have included chief technology officer at Blue Fang Games and chief instigator of Project Darkstar at Sun Microsystems Laboratories. He has also previously held teaching positions at Northeastern University, Daniel Webster College, Becker College, and WPI, where he was most recently an adjunct faculty member. With expertise in game programming, game project management, and online and cross-platform game technologies, he is co-author of Java Platform Performance: Strategies and Tactics. He holds a BS in computer science and film production from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Zhi (Jane) Li is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Her research focuses on robotic manipulator motion control and human arm motion control, particularly the design and optimization of robotic systems, teleoperation, haptics, and human-robot interaction. Her current interests include the design and motion-control of biologically-compatible robots and improving the usability and availability of nursing and assisting robots with shared autonomy, teleoperation, and haptics. She earned a BS in mechanical engineering at the China Agricultural University, an MS in mechanical engineering at the University of Victoria in Canada, and a PhD in computer engineering at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Elizabeth Long Lingo is an assistant professor in the Foisie Business School, where she was previously an assistant teaching professor. With expertise in leading change and innovation, co-creating across disciplines and silos, design thinking, and gender and leadership, she conducts research on how entrepreneurs, innovative leaders, change makers, and creative producers advance their ideas from concept stage to implementation, and, in particular, on the negotiated nature of collective creativity. In her 2013 TedX Talk, “Design for Creative Practice,” she proposes ways that education can prepare students to harness collective creativity. She holds a BA in finance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an AM in sociology from Harvard University, and a PhD in organizational behavior and sociology from Harvard Business School.

​Yousef Mahmoud is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. A senior member of the Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), he conducts research on renewable energy, solar energy conversion, smart grids, and power electronics. He is particularly interested in improving the efficiency, reliability, operation, and control of renewable energy systems, as well as the application of those systems in smart cities. He received a PhD in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, where he received the Outstanding Teaching Award. He also received an MS in electrical and computer engineering from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (with MIT).

Anita E. Mattson is an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. She was most recently an associate professor of chemistry at The Ohio State University, and she was also previously an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With expertise in catalyst design, method development, and complex molecule synthesis, she is conducting research on the synthesis and study of new families of non-covalent catalysts, with the long-term goal of finding applications for these compounds in naturally-inspired medicinal agents. Her many awards include the Thieme Chemistry Journal Award. She earned a BS in chemistry at Northern Michigan University and a PhD in organic chemistry at Northwestern University.

F. Patricia Medina is a postdoctoral scholar in the Mathematical Sciences Department. She was previously an instructor at Oregon State University, where she earned a PhD in mathematics. She also received a BS in mathematics from Universidad Central de Venezuela, an MS in mathematics from Universidad de Los Andes, and an MA in mathematics from Bowling Green State University. Her research is in applied mathematics with a focus on the mathematical and computational treatment of models given by systems of partial differential equations with nonlinearities—in particular, methane hydrate models and coal-bed methane models. At Oregon State, she organized the first “Sonia Kovalevsky Days,” which was funded by an Association for Women in Mathematics-National Science Foundation grant.

​Padraig Ó Catháin is an assistant professor of mathematical sciences. He was most recently a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University in Finland. With expertise in combinatorics and algebra, he is particularly interested in symmetric designs, Hadamard matrices, and difference sets, which he has applied to problems in compressed sensing and communications engineering. His research has been recognized with the Kirkman Medal of the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications, among other honors. He holds a BA, an M Litt, and a PhD in Mathematics from National University of Ireland in Galway.

Carissa Perez Olsen is Leonard P Kinnicutt Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her primary interest is in understanding the mechanisms that control the phospholipid composition in cell membranes, which helps preserve the membranes over time. Membranes are composed of hundreds of distinct kinds of phospholipids, and the types of lipids found within a membrane bilayer affect its biophysical properties. Her lab uses stable isotope tracing and mass spectrometry to quantify phospholipid abundance and dynamics in the model organism C. elegans. She holds a BA from Cornell University and a PhD from the University of Washington.

Carlo Pinciroli is an assistant professor of computer science. He was most recently a postdoctoral Researcher in the MIST Lab at École Polytechnique de Montréal. His research interests include swarm robotics, swarm intelligence, multi-robot systems, and software engineering. The author of ARGoS, a widely used simulator for multi-robot systems, he notes that robot swarms must react intelligently to environmental stimuli and interact with humans in a friendly manner. In his Novel Engineering for Swarm Technologies (NEST) laboratory, he studies how to best express swarm algorithms and how to make swarms aware of their internal state and the environment. In 2015 he received a F.R.S.-F.W.R.S. Chargé des Recherches fellowship. He earned a PhD in applied sciences at the Universitée Libre de Bruxelles.

​Jahangir Rahman is an assistant teaching professor of electrical and computer engineering. Before joining WPI he was a professor of engineering technology at Bristol Community College. He has also held positions as chair of the School of Electronics Technology at ITT in Norwood, Mass., assistant professor in the School of Business and Technology at Excelsior College, assistant professor in the Engineering and Technology Department at Central Michigan University, and engineering director at RCIPP Networks Inc. in Toronto. His research expertise is in signal processing, microelectronics, communication systems, and analog and digital systems. He earned a PhD in electrical engineering at Syracuse University, where he received a research and teaching fellowship.

Sara Saberi is an assistant professor in the Foisie Business School. She was most recently an instructor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned a PhD in management science and where she received the Outstanding Doctoral Research Student Award and the Eugene M. Isenberg Scholar Award. She also earned a PhD in industrial engineering at University Putra in Malaysia, an MS in socioeconomic systems engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, and a BS in computer engineering from Shiraz University. In her research, she applies game theory models to different aspects of supply chain management.

Patricia A. Stapleton is an assistant professor of social science and policy studies and director of WPI’s Society, Technology, and Policy Program. She was previously an assistant teaching professor at WPI. With expertise in science, technology, and environmental politics, food safety and security, global public health, and GMOs, she conducts research on food regulation, particularly the role of technology in food safety and security. She is the co-editor of Biopolitics and Utopia: An Interdisciplinary Reader (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and received an InTeGrate Module Award from the Science Education Resource Center (NSF, through Carleton College). She earned a BA in French from Ursinus College, an MA in French Literature from Rutgers University, and an M Phil and a PhD in political science from the CUNY Graduate Center.

Andrew R. Teixeira is assistant professor of chemical engineering. He was most recently a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering at MIT. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a BS in chemical engineering at WPI. His primary research focus combines a multidisciplinary approach with classical and new experimental techniques to uncover fundamental understandings in the fields of catalysis and reaction engineering for energy and pharmaceutical sciences. Utilizing microfluidics and micro-catalytic reactors, his research group aims to unlock extreme heterogeneous catalytic performance and study the intricacies of single crystal crystallization processes.

Robert J. Walls is an assistant professor of computer science. Before joining the WPI faculty, he was a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University. With expertise in security, privacy, and digital forensics, his conducts research at the intersection of security and digital forensics, with a focus on analyzing and securing the large-scale, complex, interconnected systems underpinning critical Internet services. He received the 2011 Yahoo Key Scientific Challenges Award, which provides seed funding for graduate researchers working on important challenges facing the Internet industry. He received a BS and an MS in computer science from the University of Texas Arlington and a PhD in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Jacob Whitehill is an assistant professor of computer science. He was most recently a research scientist in the Office for the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning at Harvard University, where, among other work, he conducted interventions in HarvardX MOOCs to increase student engagement. In 2012 he co-founded Emotient, a San Diego-based startup company for automatic emotion and facial expression recognition. He conducts research in machine learning and computer vision, including deep learning and its applications to affective computing, automatic facial expression recognition, human behavior analysis, and educational data mining. He earned a PhD in computer science at the University of California-San Diego.

Eric M. Young is an assistant professor of chemical engineering who was most recently a postdoctoral fellow in synthetic biology at the MIT-Broad Foundry within the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biological engineering at MIT. In his research he uses chemical engineering tenets to rewire the metabolism of yeasts and fungi to create “chemical factories” capable of producing interesting molecules. He earned a BS in biological engineering at the University of Maine at Orono and a PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Biological Engineering, and the International Metabolic Engineering Society.

​Xiaodan Zhou is a postdoctoral scholar in the Mathematical Sciences Department. She was most recently a teaching assistant and a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a PhD in mathematics and where she received a University of Pittsburgh Graduate Research Fellowship. She also hold a BS in mathematics from Beijing Normal University. Her primary research is in analysis on metric measure spaces, a relatively a new area of contemporary mathematics that is playing a fundamental role in the unification of previous methods. She also has expertise in nonlinear partial differential equations and differential games, geometric evolution, and analysis of fractals.

Walter P. Zurawsky is an associate teaching professor of chemical engineering. Before joining WPI he was associate dean for graduate academics at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, where he had been a member of the faculty since 1987 and where he received the Polytechnic University Distinguished Teacher Award. He was also previously a member of the research staff at the AT&T Engineering Research Center in Princeton, N.J. His research expertise is in the area of polymeric thin films. He earned a BS in chemistry at Temple University and an MS and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.