Following an especially ambitious recruiting year, the School of Engineering is excited to announce that 22 impressive new faculty members will join us for the fall 2013 and spring 2014 academic terms. It is the largest number of new hires in the history of UConn Engineering and reflects the dramatic growth in enrollments underpinned by UConn’s commitment to ensuring critical mass for strategic growth areas. The leap in faculty hiring is rooted in President Susan Herbst’s 2012 announcement that UConn will hire 290 new tenured/tenure track faculty members – in addition to filling vacancies – across the university by 2016.
The year’s hiring was focused in three cluster areas:
• Advanced Manufacturing & Materials Genomics
• Genomics and Biomedical Sciences & Engineering
• Human Sustainability & Physical and Cyber Infrastructure Resilience
All bring substantial academic credentials that will strengthen UConn Engineering programs. The new faculty members are profiled briefly below.
Marina Astitha joins the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department. She earned her PhD in Environmental Physics at the University of Athens in 2007 and brings expertise in atmospheric modeling with an emphasis on physical processes. As a post-doctoral fellow at The Cyprus Institute, she helped to develop a new physical parameterization for mineral dust emissions in the atmospheric chemistry general circulation model EMAC.
Mukul Bansal joins UConn with a dual appointment in Computer Science & Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. He received his PhD from Iowa State University in 2009 and brings expertise in computational biology and bioinformatics. He held postdoctoral positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Blavatnik School of Computer Science at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Kevin Brown joins the Biomedical Engineering Department. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 2003. Dr. Brown’s area of research expertise lies in mathematical modeling and inference in complex biological systems. He was a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellow at Harvard (2004) and conducted post-doctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2007-2011).
Kelly Burke joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department, and has an appointment in the Polymer Program of the Institute of Materials Science. Dr. Burke, who joins UConn under the Eminent Faculty Initiative, earned her PhD at Case Western Reserve University in 2010 and brings expertise in protein modification strategies, tissue engineering, structure-property relationships of liquid crystals, and biocompatible multifunctional polymeric materials. Dr. Burke was a post-doctoral associate at Tufts University (2010-13), where she received an NIH National Research Service Award Fellowship.
Yang Cao joins the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and also enjoys a research appointment in the Institute of Materials Science. He received his PhD from UConn in 2002 and was employed as a Senior Scientist and a Material Scientist at GE Global Research from 2002-13. His expertise includes the development of new dielectric materials based on emerging nanotechnologies for energy efficient electric machines for industrial applications, transportation and power generation.
Yongku Cho joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2010. Dr. Cho’s research centers on protein engineering, optogenetics, neuroimaging and molecular neurobiology. He was most recently a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his work involved the molecular engineering of light-activated proteins.
Ashwin Dani joins the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. Dr. Dani received his PhD in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida in 2011. His expertise lies in nonlinear estimation and control, robotics, autonomous navigation, multi-agent systems, stochastic estimation and control, and vision-based control. Dr. Dani was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Domenic Forte joins the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department as an Eminent Faculty Member in Hardware Security. He received his PhD from the University of Maryland in 2013 and brings expertise encompassing hardware issues in cyber-security, dynamic energy and thermal management in distributed systems, and green computing in large-scale datacenters. As a co-op student at the National Institutes of Health (2007-09), Dr. Forte developed an automated animal monitoring system.
Song Han joins the Computer Science & Engineering Department. He received his PhD from the University of Texas, Austin in 2012. Dr. Han’s expertise lies in cyber-physical systems, networked real-time and embedded systems. As a post-doctoral researcher at UT Austin, Dr. Han contributed toward the design of a semi-autonomous robotic system known as a cyberphysical avatar.
Christine Kirchhoff joins the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department. She earned her PhD in 2010 at the University of Michigan. Dr. Kirchhoff’s research expertise lies in water resources policy, management and governance. She held post-doctoral research positions at UMI and in the Center for Science, Technology and Policy Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Leila Ladani joins the Mechanical Engineering Department. Dr. Ladani received her PhD at the University of Maryland in 2007. Her research expertise spans additive manufacturing, manufacturing of nanomaterial and micro/nanoelectronics, material characterization and mechanics, and multi-scale modeling and simulation. Most recently, she was an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.
Michael Pettes joins the Mechanical Engineering Department. He received his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 and brings expertise in thermal transport physics at the micro- and nano-scale, and engineering of materials at the nanoscale for energy conversion and storage applications. Dr. Pettes was a post-doctoral researcher at UT Austin prior to joining UConn. Earlier, he served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps.
David Pierce joins the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Department of Mathematics. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 2007. Dr. Pierce’s research expertise includes computational and experimental solid (bio)mechanics, finite element methods, biomechanics of cartilage and arteries, reliability prediction and design tools for MEMs. He was an assistant professor and Vice Head of the Institute of Biomechanics at Graz University of Technology, Austria.
Donald Sheehy joins the Computer Science & Engineering Department. Dr. Sheehy received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2011 and brings expertise in computational geometry, mesh generation and topological data analysis. He conducted post-doctoral research (2011-13) at GEOMETRICA INRIA in Saclay, France prior to joining UConn.
Yong-Jun Shin joins UConn with dual appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering. He received his PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2010 and his M.D. from Seoul National University. Dr. Shin’s research expertise encompasses biological applications of estimation and control theory, multi-scale modeling of biological tissues, and digital microfluidics/bioMEMs. Dr. Shin was a post-doctoral researcher at Cornell University prior to joining UConn.
Luyi Sun joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department, and has an appointment in the Polymer Program of the Institute of Materials Science. Dr. Sun, who joins UConn under the Eminent Faculty Initiative, received his PhD at the University of Alabama in 2004 and brings expertise in multi-functional nanostructured materials; polymeric materials and new polymer processing development; layered compounds; green science and engineering; hydrates and porous materials for energy storage. He was an assistant professor of chemistry at Texas State University (2009-13) and was a post-doctoral fellow at both Texas A&M and the University of Alabama.
Julia Valla joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department with expertise in the design and development of novel catalysts for industrial applications and design of new, emerging technologies and processes for the clean and sustainable energy production. She earned her PhD at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2005. Dr. Valla was previously an assistant research professor in CMBE and the Center for Clean Energy Engineering and, earlier in her career, a Project Leader for Rive Technology Inc.
Marten van Dijk joins the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. He received his PhD from Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands in 1997 and brings broad expertise in system and processor architecture security, and in cybersecurity. Dr. van Dijk contributed to the design of Aegis, the first single-chip secure processor that verifies integrity and freshness of external memory. He was most recently a research scientist (2005-13) and visiting scientist (2001-05) at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Earlier, he was a research scientist at Philips Research Laboratories.
Kristina Wagstrom joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department as the Northeast Utilities Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Education. She brings expertise in sourcing and modeling atmospheric particulates, air pollutants, health impacts of atmospheric particulate matter deposition, and air quality models. Dr. Wagstrom received her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2009. She conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota (2009-12), and was an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. EPA (2012-13).
Liang Zhang joins the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2009. Dr. Zhang’s research expertise includes modeling, analysis, continuous improvement and control of manufacturing, supply chain and service systems; and mathematical modeling, analysis and control of battery systems. He previously was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Wei Zhang joins the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department with expertise in life-cycle performance design and reliability; and modeling of structural fatigue, damage and vibrations. Dr. Zhang received his PhD from Louisiana State University in 2012. He received his M.S. degree from Tongji University, China. At LSU, his thesis focused on fatigue performance of existing bridges under dynamic loads from winds and vehicles.
Guoan Zheng joins UConn with dual appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering. He earned his PhD at the California Institute of Technology in 2012 and brings expertise in high-throughput imaging/screening techniques for cellular, genomic and proteomic processes; and optofluidic/microfluidic technology for miniaturized analysis systems. Among his awards is the Lemelson–MIT Caltech Student Prize (2011) for his novel on-chip, inexpensive microscopy imaging technology.