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.

Engineering Health

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

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

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

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