Thirty Faculty Join University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science
The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is in the midst of its largest faculty expansion in history, adding 30 new faculty members in the span of two years.
Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, has made faculty expansion a priority since his appointment in July 2015. The effort is part of the Penn Engineering 2020 strategic plan, which aims to expand the size of the faculty body to 150, an increase of 33 percent, by the end of the decade. The strategic plan also prioritizes expanding expertise in areas relevant to several key societal issues.
“Technology is taking center stage in society. Whether the challenge is water shortage, food security, malnourishment in children, clean energy, more efficient transportation networks or fighting infections and pandemics, it is difficult to imagine solutions that do not require technological innovation,” Kumar said. “Never before has the need for an engineering education in a liberal arts setting been more urgent — indeed, technology is becoming a liberal art itself. The discoveries and innovations our students make will inform social scientists, politicians, economists and historians as they address the biggest problems of the 21st century.”
Most of the new hires are in three priority areas: Engineering Health, Data Science and Computation, and Energy Science and Technology.
New and complex systems that bridge and advance both engineering and the health sciences will be a key area in the next decade. Examples of these systems include implantable devices, data-driven diagnostics, detection and drug delivery with wearable technologies, precision biomedicine, and robotics for surgery and hospital operation.
Konrad Kording, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering in Engineering and of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine, is one of the new faculty members working in this area. Kording’s research uses data science to advance a broad range of topics that include understanding brain function, improving personalized medicine, and collaborating with clinicians to diagnose diseases using mobile phone data. By gathering new kinds of observational data, including from patients themselves, Kording and his colleagues aim to find causal, rather than correlational, treatment and lifestyle factors that improve health.
Data Science and Computation
While technological innovation and new algorithms continue to advance computational science, data science is now revolutionizing the scientific discovery process, going well beyond the now-conventional experimental, analytical and computational techniques. Data science and novel computational techniques are impacting medicine, drug discovery, marketing, synthesis of novel materials, climate research, artificial intelligence, robotics and social science.
Dan Roth, Eduardo D. Glandt Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science, embodies efforts in this field. Roth’s research interests are in the computational foundations of intelligent behavior, contributing to major conceptual and theoretical advances in the modeling of natural language understanding, machine learning, and reasoning. His current work involves developing algorithms and tools for understanding human language. These tools are used by numerous researchers and some commercial companies to access and analyze text in more sophisticated ways than a keyword search. He is also interested in developing machine learning and algorithmic tools in the area of information trustworthiness.
Energy Science and Technology
Developing the science and technology to provide sustainable energy solutions is another important area of expansion for Penn Engineering, drawing on expertise that spans multiple departments and partnerships with other schools. Engineering researchers will develop technologies in order to both harvest and convert energy into useful forms, creating renewable and energy-efficient devices, and to manage energy utilization through the building of intelligent systems.
Aleksandra Vojvodic, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, designs new materials that could be the backbone of a future “hydrogen economy.” Using chemical intuition and solving the complex quantum mechanical equations of a material at the atomic level, Vojvodic employs supercomputers to churn through hundreds and thousands of candidate materials, some of which do not yet exist. The goal: to rationalize and design chemical reactions that not only liberate hydrogen from water, but capture the leftover oxygen as well.
Other new faculty and their research areas include:
Shivani Agarwal: Machine Learning
Osbert Bastani: Programming Languages, Formal Methods, Machine Learning
Joel Boerckel: Mechanobiology, Tissue Engineering, Regenerative Medicine
Lukasz Bugaj: Cell Signaling, Optogenetics
Vanessa Chan: Materials, Entrepreneurship, Health Technology
Eric Detsi: Nanostructured Materials, Surfaces and Interfaces, Electronic and Optical Properties
Liang Feng: Photonic Materials, Metamaterials, Nanophotonics, Optoelectronics
Hamed Hassani: Coding and Information Theory, Machine Learning, Theory and Applications of Graphic Models
Ani Hsieh: Autonomous Multi-agent Robotic Systems
Alex Hughes: Tissue Engineering, Synthetic Biology
Deep Jariwala: Nanoelectronics, Nanodevices, 2D Materials
Chenfanfu Jiang: Computer Graphics, Computer Vision
Bomyi Lim: Systems Biology, Chemical Kinetics
Vincent Liu: Distributed Systems, Computer Networks
Michael Mitchell: Molecular Engineering, Biomaterials
Manfred Morari: Model Predictive Control, Biomedical and Chemical Process Systems
Mayur Naik: Programming Languages, Formal Methods, Software Engineering
George Park: Computational Fluid Dynamics, Turbulence, Numerical Methods
Paris Perdikaris: Machine Learning, Stochastic Modeling, Fluids and Bio-Fluids
Linh Phan: Real-time Embedded Systems, Cyber-physical Systems, Cloud Computing
James Pikul: Energy Storage and Conversion, Multiscale Transport, Nanomanufacturing, Multifunctional Materials
Michael Posa: Robotics, Control Systems, Mechanical Systems
Aaswath Raman: Nanophotonics, Energy, Metamaterials
Jordan Raney: Micro- and Nanomechanics, Mechanics of Materials, Mechanical Systems
Eric Stach: Nanotechnology and Nanoscience, Materials Characterization, Crystallography
Cynthia Sung: Computational Design, Robotics, Mechanical Systems
James Weimer: Medical Cyber-physical Systems, Embedded and Cyber-Physical Systems Security