Engineering Departments

Computer Science

Cal Ribbens
Blacksburg, VA , December 10, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Cal Ribbens, professor and associate head of the department of computer science, has been named as the new head of the department. His new position officially begins December 10.

Ribbens has been a member of the computer science department since 1987. He was named associate head for the department in 2003 and associate head for undergraduate studies in 2008. His research has focused on advancing high-performance computing and its applications for computational science and engineering, with the goal of making high-performance computing an effective tool for solving important scientific and engineering problems.

Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering who holds the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair, said Ribbens emerged from a very strong field of candidates.

“Cal is very well known to this department, and many other corners of the university, for his long and exemplary service as an associate head for the department,” Benson said. “I am grateful to the search committee for its great work, and especially grateful to the department heads who Cal succeeds — Dennis Kafura and Barbara Ryder. I’ve watched the department thrive under their leadership and know that it is in excellent hands moving forward.”

Ribbens has taught 19 different courses at Virginia Tech, including all levels of core computer sciences courses, an honors course and several advanced topics courses. He chaired 17 master’s committees and eight Ph.D. committees, and served on dozens of others.

As associate head for undergraduate studies, he had a lead role in faculty teaching assignments and course scheduling, and graduate teaching assistant selection and assignment. Ribbens also supervised the academic advising staff and lead curriculum revisions and assessments.

“I am looking forward to this opportunity to lead a strong and growing department,” Ribbens said. “This is a very exciting time to be in computer science. Our students and faculty are working on challenging problems drawn from a remarkably wide array of application areas, and affecting virtually every aspect of life.”

Ribbens completed his undergraduate work in mathematics at Calvin College. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science from Purdue University. He has been widely published in journals, including the Journal of Parallel & Distributed Computing, the Journal of Computational Science, and ACM Transactions On Mathematical Software.

Ribbens has served on more than 20 conference program committees and as general chair of the 17th High Performance Computing Symposium, and is founding director of the Laboratory for Scientific Computing and Applications. He played a major role in the System X supercomputer project.

As associate head, Ribbens helped guide the department through considerable change, including joining a new college and the hiring of more than 20 faculty members.

“It is an exciting time for Virginia Tech, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Computer Science, as we continue to grow in size, impact, and quality,” Ribbens said.

Written by Dan Radmacher.

From left: Kurt Luther and Christopher North
Blacksburg, VA , October 26, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Big data, the almost endless growth of information available today to individuals, businesses, and government agencies, is often a challenge “to make sense of because human cognition, while remarkably powerful, is nevertheless a limited resource,” said Kurt Luther, assistant professor of computer science at Virginia Tech.

For example, if an individual analyst is working on a complex task such as identifying a threat to national security, most advanced machine learning techniques do not have the needed capabilities to solve the problem. Neither does crowdsourcing, Luther added.

Crowdsourcing, in this sense, means soliciting contributions of data from a large group of people, most of whom are online users.

Luther and Christopher North, professor of computer science and associate director of Virginia Tech’s Discovery Analytics Center, have designed a series of four experiments they said will enhance crowdsourcing as a “promising technique for applying human intelligence to problems computers cannot easily solve.”

The National Science Foundation is supporting this work with a $500,000 grant over three years from its cyber-human systems program area.

According to Luther, the principal investigator on this project, the challenge is to “understand when crowds are more useful than computation” in the attempts to make sense out of a problem. The second task is to determine how to provide crowd investigators with sustained complex lines of inquiry and not spend their limited amounts of time pursuing dead ends.

“We are in the midst of a data deluge,” Luther quipped. “In 2008, the world generated 14.7 exabytes of new information, almost three times more than five years earlier.” (an exabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information with just one exa indicating multiplication by the sixth power of 1000)

How can an analyst sort through so much available information?

Luther and North, who are both faculty members with the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, think they have the answers with a novel concept they developed in computer science called context slices. The method uses a combination of human and computational guidance to give crowd workers only the information they need to complete their assigned tasks.

They will use their prototype in a series of experiments that are aimed at making better sense of big data with the simultaneous use of crowdsourcing. “Ultimately this system design will be a major step towards realizing our longer-term vision of developing powerful software tools to augment human intelligence and sense making,” Luther said.

As an example, Luther described a situation where an analyst working in intelligence might be investigating three different individuals suspected of being involved in a terrorist plot. After collecting a large stockpile of potentially relevant documents including police reports, depositions, and surveillance footage, the expert can launch the context slices software program and sift through and categorize related documents.

The software will begin seeking potential connections between the suspects using both computational and crowd based techniques.

Prior work conducted by Luther and collaborators Steven Dow, Nathan Hahn, and Niki Kittur at Carnegie Mellon University showed how crowd workers can synthesize information from diverse sources gathered on line to produce useful overviews. This work led to Crowdlines, a crowdsourcing system that generates an overview of a domain of knowledge, such as major topics in psychology, and allows users to easily identify the more common perspectives or idiosyncrasies across a diverse range of sources.

“From our earlier promising results, we conclude that crowdsourcing offers great potential to augment an individual’s ability to make sense of complex and unfamiliar topics,” Luther concluded.

The computer scientists plan to develop a new graduate course on social computing and analytics that will study the issues associated with big crowds for big data

Walid Saad
Blacksburg, VA , September 23, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Smart cities with integrated power grids, wireless communications, and intelligent transportation networks could improve everyday life for millions of people, but they would also be vulnerable to any number of cascading failures, due to natural disasters, day-to-day operations, or malicious attacks. These problems could lead to power outages and disruption of communications, which could bring an entire city to a screeching halt.

A multidisciplinary research team led by Walid Saad, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a framework that ties together techniques from network science, operations research and economics, machine learning, wireless communications, power systems, and psychology to develop processes that can give smart city systems the resiliency to recover from such failures.

The grant is part of a larger $2.5 million grant that is led by Virginia Tech and includes collaborators from Rutgers and Florida International University. The Virginia Tech grant includes researchers from electrical and computer engineering, economics, and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

“Laying the technological foundations of tomorrow’s smart cities is one of the most critical challenges of the coming decade,” Virginia Tech’s research team wrote in their proposal.

Smart cities will require sharing and processing a huge amount of resources that are scattered across a number of critical infrastructures. These critical cyber-physical systems must work interdependently, opening many new points for failures that could easily spread to other areas.

The failure of a generator, for instance, could knock out power to residential areas, while also taking down wireless access points, causing a communications failure. Consequently, home customers, as well as connected vehicles that rely on the wireless network for control data, would be affected..

To prevent such failures from becoming catastrophes, the systems must be able to work together to manage common resources — energy, users, computational power, communication spectrum, etc. — to quickly recover.

The project goal is to develop a foundational framework to understand the interdependencies among a smart city’s critical infrastructures and to design new, resilient resource management techniques that are cognizant of both the technology and the human users of this technology.

The interdisciplinary research will weave together notions from the study of cyber-physical systems, security, game theory, behavioral economics, psychology, transportation systems, social science, and power systems.

The framework will lead to theoretical and practical advances, such as the development of rigorous mathematical techniques for delineating the interdependencies between different critical infrastructures through a novel mix of graph theory and machine learning; new resilient resource management mechanisms based on game theory; and new behavioral models and studies related to trust relationships between a smart city’s residents and critical infrastructure systems.

Saad has expertise in game theory, cyber-physical systems, and security. Others on team include Sheryl Ball, an associate professor of economics; Danfeng Yao, an associate professor of computer science and head of the Human-Centric Security Laboratory; Myra Blanco, a human factors engineer at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI); and Tammy Trimble, senior research associate at VTTI.

This smart cities grant is part of a larger NSF initiative known as Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP). CRISP funds three- and four-year projects, each with funding of up to $2.5 million.

Saad also received a $150,000 grant from NSF, announced as part of the 2015 Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC), an activity launched in 2014 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to showcase smart technologies with the potential to transform cities and communities around the world.

Saad’s GCTC grant is aimed at developing a machine-learning framework to enable the “Internet of Things” to dynamically identify, classify and authenticate devices based on their cyber-physical environment by leveraging data analytics tools. Saad is collaborating with Sanjay Raman from Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region on this grant.

The idea is to develop environment-based device credentials that can verify a device’s identity and validate the physical environment it claims to monitor and the actions it claims to be performing over time.

The research will involve high school students and science, technology, engineering and mathematics  educators, and deal with a variety of research topics, including security, cyber-physical systems and data analytics.

Written by Dan Radmacher.

Students from Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering work on developing a smart radio.
Blacksburg, VA , September 15, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Virginia Tech will host Spectrum – ShaRC, an adaptive and cognitive student radio design contest for students, and the first place winner will receive $5,000 in prize money.

Cognitive radios are similar to intelligent cell phones that can determine the best way to operate in any given situation. Instead of blindly following a set of predefined protocols, like regular radios, cognitive radios can now configure to their environment and their user’s needs.

The new cognitive radios are similar to living creatures in that they are aware of their surroundings and understand their own and their user’s capabilities and the governing social constraints.

The contest, open to all students worldwide, is organized by Wireless @ Virginia Tech and is supported in part by a $30,000 Motorola Solutions Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation. The grant is supplying the prize money for the first, second and third place winners, and travel support for participants in the final competition.

Teams will be supplied with basic working codes for software-defined radios at the beginning of each leg of the competition and will adapt or develop and implement algorithms to improve the radios' performance. Contest participants will also have the option to substitute radio code developed using the popular GNU Radio toolkit or other open-source software.

While the initial competitions test the students' submitted entries in signal environments generated by the contest organizers, a final invitational round for the top four designs is planned for the Wireless@VT Symposium and Summer School, to be held May 25 – 27, 2016. At that time, the top four teams will compete against each other for the final top awards.

Additional support for the competition comes from Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and other sponsors. Virginia Tech’s contest organizers include Carl Dietrich, Vuk Marojevic  and Richard Goff of engineering education.

Others who are working on closely related research and / or developing software that will be used in the contest include Goff, Jason Snyder, a project associate of electrical and computer engineering, and Michael Fowler, of Blacksburg, Virginia, a Hume Center research faculty member and Ph.D. student. Additional support comes from faculty and students in the department, as well as Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Computing Center,  the department of computer science, and the Software Technologies Laboratory.

The contest organizers will be able to provide technical and administrative support to teams within and outside Virginia Tech through an email list or online forum, although they may not serve as team advisors.

An entry form can be downloaded from Wireless @ Virginia Tech’s website, and emailing teams can enter the contest by mailing the completed forms it to Dietrich with subject “Spectrum Contest Entry”.

About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation.

Founded in 1953, the Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its financial contributions on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming.

Innovation Generation (STEM) Grants in North America

The Innovation Generation Grant (IGG) Program is designed to inspire students to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and increase engagement in STEM careers by providing support to education programs for elementary through university students and teachers in the United States and Canada.

When the 34 new faculty join Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering for the 2015-16 academic year, they will be educating some of the top engineering students in the country. In this photo, industrial and systems engineering faculty member Pat Koelling teaches the opening class in the Quillen Auditorium in Goodwin Hall.
Blacksburg, VA , August 23, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Virginia Tech's College of Engineering attracted 34 new faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions for the 2015-16 academic year. This results in a net gain of 23 faculty members as 11 professors left the college in 2015 for new employment or to retire.

"This welcome growth in the size of the engineering faculty is in response to a tremendous rise in interest in our undergraduate and graduate degree programs," said Richard C. Benson, dean of the college and the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering.

Undergraduate admission to the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech remains a highly competitive process. As evidence, in 2005, 4,800 prospective students applied for admission to the College. In 2015, 9,245 applied, a near doubling.

"We currently enroll close to 8,000 undergraduates and close to 2,300 graduate students. Our entering freshman class is the largest in the University's history, with approximately 1,800 students, and the total number of engineering undergraduates is 44 percent greater than in 2006-07," Benson explained.

The entering freshman class is 23.4 percent female, well above the national average.

In total, approximately 30 percent of the 2015 entering engineering class are members of underrepresented populations. This percentage comes from the self-reporting by 553 of the first year students of the 1734 who accepted the offer to enter engineering. These students checked one of the following descriptions: Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, two or more races, or female.

Degrees are offered in 14 engineering disciplines as well as in computer science.

A one paragraph summary of each of the new faculty appears below by alphabetical order. Complete biographical sketches can be found here.

Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

  • W. Nathan Alexander received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech in 2011. Afterwards, he remained at Virginia Tech as a postdoctoral associate, as a research scientist, and as a research assistant professor, all in the aerospace and ocean engineering department. As a research assistant professor he studied aero/hydroacoustic noise sources and served as an affiliate faculty member in the Center for Renewable Energy and Aerodynamic Testing. His past research has focused on the noise produced by rotating machinery, airfoils, and rough surfaces as well as aeroacoustic measurement techniques.

Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Andrew R. Kemper received his doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2010 from the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. Afterwards, Kemper continued his work at Virginia Tech as a research assistant professor. Kemper's research in the field of injury biomechanics specializes in characterizing the biomechanical response and injury tolerance of human and animal tissues under dynamic loading conditions and aims to identify and characterize the injury mechanisms associated with both automotive and military loading events.
  • Robin Queen joins Virginia Tech from the Duke University Medical Center's Department of Orthopaedics Surgery. She will direct the Kevin P. Granata Biomechanics Laboratory at Virginia Tech. At Duke, she spent two years as a research associate in orthopaedics surgery, and in 2005, simultaneously assumed the position of director of its Michael W. Krzyzewski (Coach K) Human Performance Laboratory and became a medical instructor. In 2010 the division became the Department of Orthopaedics Surgery, and she remained a medical instructor until 2013 when she became an assistant professor, and stayed on as the director of the Coach K human performance laboratory until she left to join Virginia Tech. She is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
  • Since obtaining her doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia (UVA) in 2006, Alexandrina Untaroiu has worked in UVA's Rotating Machinery and Controls (ROMAC) Laboratory of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. She started as a research associate, and within two years was promoted to a research scientist. In 2011 she was named a senior scientist, a title she retained when she was also named the associate director in 2014. ROMAC laboratory has currently 42 industrial members from eight countries that pay a membership fee. As a result, the lab has approximately $1.1 million in annual funding.
  • Costin Untaroiu first joined the university in 2011 as a research associate professor in the Virginia Tech -- Wake Forest University School of Biomechanical Engineering and Mechanics (SBES). His research interests are in biomechanics, modeling and simulation, finite element optimization, and probabilistic design. He has advised two Ph.D. students to completion and three master's candidates. He has mentored five undergraduate engineering students. He has 57 refereed journal articles and another 85 conference papers, 64 of which are refereed. His name appears on four book chapters. During his combined years at UVa (he was at UVA from 2001 until 2011) and Virginia Tech, he has received close to $25 million in funding of which his share is more than $4.5 million. He is a member of seven editorial boards of technical journals, and a reviewer for another 40 journals. He is a peer reviewer for five government agencies.
  • Since 2005 Vincent M. Wang served as the director of Rush University Medical Center's Department of Orthopedic Surgery's Sports Medicine Research Laboratory of Chicago, Illinois. He also became an assistant professor at the university's orthopedic surgery department that same year. Concurrently, he was named an adjunct assistant professor in 2006 at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Department of Bioengineering. In 2007, he received a conjoint appointment at Rush as assistant professor in its anatomy and cell biology department. In 2014, he was promoted at both universities. The University of Illinois at Chicago named him an adjunct associate professor, and Rush University awarded him tenure and associate professor status in orthopedic surgery, with a joint position in anatomy and cell biology. The primary focus on Wang's National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research program is skeletal soft tissue healing.

Chemical Engineering

  • Michael J. Bortner, who as an instructor received the Sporn Award for excellence in teaching engineering subjects from the Virginia Tech undergraduate students in 2015, has now accepted a tenure track position in chemical engineering (ChE). Bortner received his Ph.D. in ChE from Virginia Tech in 2003. Advised by Don Baird, who holds the Alexander Giacco Professorship, Bortner concentrated in non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, composite and polymer processing, and green engineering. Subsequently, he joined an entrepreneurial company, spun off from research conducted at Virginia Tech called NanoSonic, Inc., as its vice president of manufacturing process development. While at NanoSonic, Bortner developed new material technologies. Among them, he was a co-inventor of the HybridSil® nanocomposite technology that developed into a multi-million dollar a year core business. HybridSil®, a technology that focuses on protective coatings, used in composites for ballistic, blast, anti-corrosion, anti-icing, and high temperature/ thermal protection, received a 2011 R&D 100 Award.
  • Since 2010 Rong Tong has worked as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School. In this position, he is credited with developing photo-switchable nanoparticles for light triggered release of chemotherapeutics to treat cancers. This technology has enhanced tissue penetration properties and improved in vivo efficacy results. He was the lead on the use of a photo-caged aptamer for in vivo tumor imaging with minimized distribution in livers and in kidneys. Tong also developed nanoparticles that target tumor desmoplasia with minimal systemic toxicity, through the collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital. He was involved in the use of polymeric biomaterials to deliver local anesthesia and ocular drugs through the cornea for intra-ocular disorder. His work on photo-switchable nanoparticles was featured on the Journal of the American Chemical Society cover, and Nature News reported on his "On-demand drug release" in 2012.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Matthew H. Hebdon, Professional Engineer (PE), received his doctorate in civil engineering in 2015 from Purdue University. Previously, he earned a master's and a bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering (CEE) from Utah State University in 2005. He worked as a structural design engineer at Sargent Engineers, Inc., from 2005 until 2010. As a licensed PE, his responsibilities included the structural design of residential and small commercial buildings, as well as inspection of bridges for structural deficiencies. In his doctoral studies, Hebdon investigated the member-level redundancy of built-up steel girders by testing full-scale specimens for fracture resilience and remaining fatigue life of partially failed members.
  • Farrokh Jazizadeh Karimi's research interests are at the intersection of data management, data driven informatics, and built environment sustainability and adaptability. He is interested in leveraging the dynamics of the built environment towards improved and flexible performance at different scales from building/facilities to regional/urban levels. Karimi received his doctorate in civil engineering with a focus on informatics for intelligent built environment from the University of Southern California (USC) at Los Angeles in 2015. His Ph.D. followed two master's degrees, also earned from USC's Viterbi School of Engineering in computer science (2013) and in civil engineering (2011). Prior to his Ph.D. studies, Karimi attended the Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan, Iran, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 2002 and Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, where he earned a master's degree in civil engineering in 2004.
  • Tripp Shealy is a three-time civil engineering (CE) graduate of Clemson University. He received his bachelor's degree in 2010, his master's in 2013, and his doctorate in 2015. While obtaining his doctorate he was the primary instructor for the construction section of the CE Capstone Design course. He guided students through project estimating, scheduling, and sustainability concepts. He also developed two additional online courses: "Are codes enough? Disaster mitigation and residential buildings" and "Sustainable construction." His research focus is on judgment and decision making for sustainable infrastructure. He targets underexplored areas by applying concepts from psychology, behavioral economics, and data science to implement cost effective ways to guide stakeholders in the infrastructure development process towards decisions that lead to more sustainable outcomes.
  • Since December, 2011 Zhiwu (Drew) Wang has served as a visiting assistant professor at The Ohio State University. For the past year, he has handled additional responsibilities as director of the renewable energy program. At OSU, Wang pursued a number of research projects including: development of a unique biogranulation process for agricultural drainage water treatment; research of the solid-state anaerobic digestion technique; development of a copyrighted software program for anaerobic digester simulation; and the establishment of an advanced bioenergy laboratory. He also developed syllabi for and taught six courses including topics relating to waste-to-bioenergy conversion and feedstock evaluation and analysis. He also lectured in environmental resource, agricultural business, and Upward-Bound programs.

Computer Science

  • For the past three years Aisling Kelliher has worked at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) School of Design as an associate professor, where she also served as adjunct faculty in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). She co-directed CMU's Masters in Tangible Interaction Design program in the School of Architecture and lead transdisciplinary research in the Visible Process Lab. Kelliher creates and studies interactive media systems for enhancing reflection, learning, healing, and communication. Her work is grounded within the fields of human-computer-interaction, multimedia, and interaction design, and is motivated by a desire to integrate computational processes into everyday mediated experiences. Her current research explores the role of design in multiple interdisciplinary contexts including healthcare, learning cultures, and future studies. Working with colleagues in computer vision and machine learning, she is developing a home-based interactive neurorehabilitation system for stroke survivors.
  • After receiving her doctorate in computer science from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin in December of 2014, Na Meng worked as a postdoctoral researcher, with her advisors: Miryung Kim, and Kathryn S. McKinley. For the past six years she has focused her UT work on: generating program transformations from code change examples; locating and applying systematic edits by learning from examples; and exploiting systematic edits for refactoring. She also worked as a research intern with the RISE group at Microsoft Research during the fall of 2013. While in this position, she designed and implemented an approach to improve accuracy of applications that base computations on noisy estimated data from hardware sensors, machine learning, and crowd sourcing. Her approach, when implemented in a specific game called Simon, improved the accuracy from 60 percent to 89 percent.
  • For the past two years Alla Rozovskaya has worked on an automated system for a spelling and grammar correction project for the Arabic texts as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University's Center for Computational Learning Systems. With a 2013 doctorate in computational linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she has worked on natural language processing (NLP), statistical and machine learning methods in NLP, and NLP for educational purposes and for social media. Rozovskaya has three master's degrees to her credit. Two are also from the University of Illinois: computer science in 2010 and linguistics in 2007. Her third master's degree is in French studies, received in 2003 from the State University of New York at Albany. Her undergraduate degree in English philology with honors was received in 1997 from the Institute of Foreign Languages, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Among her awards, she was an invited participant in the Rising Stars in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Workshop at the University of California, Berkeley in 2014.
  • Francisco Servant received his doctorate in software engineering in June 2015 from the University of California, Irvine. His master's diploma in information and computer sciences was awarded six years earlier from the same university. He received his bachelor's degree in computer science in 2005 from the University of Granada, Spain. For the past seven years he has worked as a graduate student assistant, conducting research in mining software repositories, software analysis, and computer-supported collaborative work. His research focuses on software development productivity and software quality. He uses software evolution analysis and program analysis to create practical, efficient, and human‐friendly techniques and tools that provide automatic support for all stages of software development. He held three different internships:  with Microsoft Research, Redmond, Washington, summer of 2011; DreamWorks Animation, Glendale, California, summer of 2008; and Valeo Lighting Systems, Martos, Spain, fall of 2004. He also worked as a development support engineer for Microsoft Corporation of Madrid, Spain from July 2005 until July 2007.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Xiaoting Jia spent the past three years as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). In this capacity, she has designed and developed multifunctional polymer fibers for studying neuron-fiber interfaces and interactions. She has also conducted in vivo and in vitro studies of fibers with electrical recordings, drug delivery, and optical guidance functions as neural probes and neuron scaffolds. Her work has also allowed her to investigate semiconductor materials synthesis inside fibers for solar energy harvesting and conversion applications. She has also explored structural properties of silicon nanospheres in silica fibers formed by capillary instabilities. Leading up to her doctorate in materials science and engineering from MIT in 2011, she worked for five years in the research group of MIT's institute professor Mildred Dresselhaus.
  • Vassilis Kekatos is a three-time graduate of the University of Patras, Greece. He received his five-year degree in computer science and engineering in 2001, his master's in signal processing in 2003, and his doctorate in computer science and engineering in 2007. The same year he earned his first degree, he co-founded ADEN Ltd., in Patras, Greece. The company delivered custom information technology solutions for small- and medium-sized enterprises. From 2002 until 2006, he worked as a signal processing engineer for the Computer Technology Institute, also in Patras. He programmed image watermarking algorithms and implemented and validated voiceprint models for speaker verification. In 2007, he was a communication engineer with Sciencis Ltd., of Patras; while in 2008, he performed his mandatory service with the Greek Navy as a communication engineer. In 2009, Kekatos became a postdoctoral researcher, working with both the University of Minnesota's SPiNCOM Group and the University of Patras' Signal Processing and Communications Group
  • Pratap Tokekar earned his bachelor of technology degree in electronics and telecommunications from the University of Pune, India in 2008. He was accepted into the University of Minnesota's graduate program and received his doctorate in computer science in 2014. While earning his doctorate, Tokekar spent two weeks as a visitor at the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany in 2013. Between September of 2014 and July of 2015, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) lab. His research focuses on multi-robot systems. In particular, he is studying search, coverage, tracking, and active perception algorithms with theoretical performance guarantees. This research finds immediate applications in environmental monitoring and precision agriculture, and he often collaborates with researchers from these areas to develop and deploy robots in the field.
  • Wei Zhou has spent the past three years as a postdoctoral fellow in Charles Lieber's group at Harvard University, focused on nanoelectronics for biology and healthcare applications. In the Lieber group, Zhou has developed a large-area nanowire transfer technique to fabricate flexible three-dimensional macroporous nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic cyborg tissues. He has recently demonstrated three-dimensional real time electrical mapping and regulation of cardiac action potential propagations in three-dimensional nanoelectronics innervated heart tissues. In 2012, Zhou graduated at Northwestern University with his Ph.D. thesis on "Manipulation and Amplification of Light in Strongly Coupled Plasmonic Nanocavity Arrays". His Ph.D. study focused on designing, making, and exploiting novel plasmonic nanostructures for applications including biosensors, nanolasers, photodetectors, and solar cells. As he develops his own research program at Virginia Tech, Zhou will focus on nano-enabled photonic and electronic materials, devices, and systems targeting applications in the interdisciplinary areas of information technology, healthcare, and energy.

Engineering Education

  • For the past two years Diana Bairaktarova was an assistant professor of engineering practice at the University of Oklahoma's College of Engineering Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department. She taught six different courses at Oklahoma. At the undergraduate level, she focused on "Spatial Reasoning and Engineering Graphics," "Thermodynamics," "Dynamics," "Design and Manufacturing Processes," and "Interactive Engineering Design Graphics." At the graduate level Bairaktarova taught "User Experience Design," where the design of artifacts was addressed from a multidisciplinary perspective that includes opportunity determination through inspiration, ideation, and implementation using design thinking framework. In her position at Oklahoma, Bairaktarova also participated in the industrial systems engineering summer camp, introducing high school students to concepts and tools for computer aided design and rapid prototyping. And she served as the faculty advisor for the Sooner-Off Road or Baja Student Team for two years. Oklahoma was her first position after receiving her doctorate in 2013 from Purdue University's School of Engineering Education.
  • Jacob Grohs holds four degrees from Virginia Tech: a bachelor's degree in engineering science and mechanics, summa cum laude in 2008; a master's degree in engineering mechanics in 2009; a master's and a Ph.D. in education in curriculum and instruction in 2012 and in 2015, respectively. For the past year he has worked as an instructor in Virginia Tech's Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. He taught multiple sections of large lecture courses in engineering mechanics. His research interests focus on understanding how individuals reason through complex ill-structured problems and the learning environments and experiences that cultivate such a capacity. He also studies aspects of learning and development that help students become reflective, proactive regulators of their own engagement and learning. During the 2013-14 academic year, Grohs was the associate director for engaged learning and scholarship, part of VT Engage: The Community Learning Collaborative.
  • Walter Lee earned his doctorate in engineering education in 2015 from Virginia Tech. His dissertation, funded by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, was on "Influencing the Institutional Experience: A Multi-Case Study of Engineering Student Support Centers." Lee's study explored the use of co-curricular student interventions intended to support undergraduate engineering students by comprehensively examining six student support centers with varying structures. The purpose of this multi-case study, where each student support center represented a case, was to explore how student interventions, offered alongside the engineering curriculum, influence the undergraduate experience from the perspective of both administrators and current students. From 2011 until 2015, Lee was a graduate student member of the Studies in Motivation, Identity, and Learning in Engineering (SMILE) Research Group in the Department of Engineering Education (EngE), led by Holly Matusovich, a professor in EngE and Lee's Ph.D. adviser. Simultaneously, he also earned a master's degree in industrial and systems engineering (ISE) under the guidance of John G. Casali, a chaired professor of ISE.. He received his master's in 2013 with a focus on human factors engineering and ergonomics.

Industrial and Systems Engineering

  • Blake Johnson  spent the past two years as a postdoctoral associate in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at Princeton University. He took this position after receiving his doctorate in chemical engineering from Drexel University in 2013, earning its Best Dissertation Award for his thesis on integrated biosensing. While at Princeton, Johnson worked on advanced biomanufacturing technologies which included applications in tissue engineering, neuroscience, 3D electronics, and nano-bio interface. Johnson's name appears on one patent for piezoelectric-based biosensing technology. His name also appears on several additional patent applications in the areas of biosensing and 3D printing. He is the co-author of two book chapters. One is on nanotechnology to aid chemical and biological defense and the second one concerns resonant MEMS. He has 20 journal publications, and 12 colloquium and conference proceedings.
  • Alejandro Salado attended the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain where he received multiple degrees. While working full-time in engineering in industry, he simultaneously earned his integrated bachelor and master degree in electrical and electronics engineering with honors in 2007, a second master's in electronics engineering in 2010, and a third master's in project management in 2009. He also received a fourth master's degree in space systems engineering from the Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands, in 2008. His doctorate in systems engineering was awarded by Stevens Institute of Technology in 2014. He has over 10 years of industrial experience in the space industry. Before joining Virginia Tech, he had worked as a systems engineer at OHB System AG of Germany since 2012, holding various technical leading positions.

Materials Science and Engineering

  • Carolina Tallón received her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 2003 from the University of Granada, Spain. She earned her graduate degrees from the Institute of Ceramic and Glass and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in 2008. Her Ph.D. was in inorganic chemistry and her research topic focused on synthesis of ceramic nanoparticles and colloidal processing. Upon obtaining her doctorate, Tallón joined the University of Melbourne's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as a research fellow in George V. Franks' group. Since then she has been contributing to the research and teaching in the School of Engineering, and she has been lecturer (teaching and research) in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering of the University of Melbourne. In 2015, she became the academic convenor of the Hallmark Materials Research Initiative at the University of Melbourne. She is the co-author of 17 refereed international journal articles. She is the co-author of one book chapter on near-net-shaping of ultra high temperature ceramics in Ultra-High Temperature Ceramics: Materials for Extreme Environment Applications, published in 2014.
  • Hang Yu started his academic career with an appointment as a research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). He joined Carl V. Thompson's group in September of 2007. He was promoted in February of 2013 to postdoctoral associate with Thompson. Since March of 2014 Yu has worked as a postdoctoral associate with Christopher Schuh, a chaired professor and MSE department head at MIT. Yu has focused on three specific areas: materials design in additive manufacturing; design and manufacturing of smart materials including shape memory alloys and shape memory ceramics; and the origin and control of residual stresses in manufacturing of metallic materials. Among his accomplishments, he developed a scheme for materials optimization in multi-materials additive manufacturing. He also discovered stress-induced texture formation and martensitic transformation in granular shape memory ceramics, based on which he developed a process to enable ultra-high energy dissipation in granular shape memory ceramics for vibration damping applications.

Mechanical Engineering

  • Since receiving his doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 2010, Alan T. Asbeck was a postdoctoral researcher at his alma mater for two additional years, and then went to Harvard University in June of 2012, first as a postdoctoral research fellow and later as a research scientist. Asbeck worked as part of Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in the Biodesign Laboratory with Conor Walsh. This lab focuses on applying disruptive technologies to the development of robotic devices for augmenting and restoring human performance. Asbeck's research goal is to create wearable robotic devices that will help people move. At Harvard, Asbeck's role was to act as the lead designer of several textile-based exosuit systems that assist a wearer during walking, to perform biomechanical analysis to determine suit architectures and their actuation strategy, to model the suit-human interaction, and to develop control algorithms to synchronize the exosuits with the wearer's motions.
  • Pinhas Ben-Tzvi was the director of George Washington University's Robotics and Mechatronics Laboratory (RML) in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He founded this lab when he joined the GWU faculty in 2008. His research focuses on field robotics, specifically the kinematics, dynamics, design, control, and implementation of autonomous dexterous manipulation and locomotion systems. This research includes investigations of upper-extremity wearable exoskeleton robotic mechanisms for tele-operation. He has used this technology to expand his research into rehabilitation therapy. Prior to his tenure at GWU, Ben-Tzvi spent two years as a lecturer at the University of Toronto's Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. From 2006 until 2008 he was a consultant at the Mobile Robots Division of Engineering Services, Inc., Toronto, Canada. He was responsible for the design, analysis, development, and integration of mobile robot systems. Among his awards, he received the 2013 International Journal of Control, Automation, and Systems Academic Activity Award in recognition of his outstanding service and dedicated work as an editorial board member and for his contributions in the development of the journal.
  • Jiangtao Cheng started his professional academic career in 2002 as a postdoctoral research associate at Texas A&M University. After two years, he moved to the University of California at Irvine as a postgraduate researcher. In 2006 he joined the Pennsylvania State University as a research associate. In 2007 he accepted an offer from the Teledyne Scientific Company (formerly Rockwell Science Center) as a research scientist III for the next four years. He returned to academia in 2011 as an associate professor at the University of North Texas. His areas of expertise include: sustainable energy and renewable energy; optofluidics and electrofluidics; microfluidics and nanofluidics; thermal-fluid science and heat transfer; thermal management and microelectronics cooling. Recently Cheng introduced surface plasmon resonance and terahertz technology in to his research in thermal-fluid science. Among his honors, Cheng received the Best Paper Award at the 2014 International Conference on Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, and Thermodynamics.
  • For the past five years Weiwei Deng was an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research interests are in fluid dynamics of low-dimensional liquid subjects, such as droplets, jets, and films, and their applications in additive manufacturing. His current National Science Foundation sponsored projects include printing ceramic sensors for harsh environments and nano-manufacturing of polymer solar cells via an electrospray deposition. His industry sponsored research includes spray drying routes for biodegradable micro/nano particles for drug delivery, as well as processing complex liquid suspension for manufacturing lithium ion batteries. He has obtained over $1.46 million in total funding, all as principal investigator, with a personal share of $1.06 million. He is the recipient of a NSF CAREER award "Scalable Electrospray Processing of High-Efficiency Perovskite Solar Cells" starting August 2015. Prior to joining Central Florida, Deng was a post-doctoral associate at Yale University from 2008 until 2010. His doctorate was awarded by Yale in 2008 in mechanical engineering.
  • Azim Eskandarian, previously a professor of engineering and applied science and the director of The George Washington University's (GWU) Center for Intelligent Systems Research and its National Crash Analysis Center, has assumed the department head position of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. He is leading the university's highest ranked department in a 2015 survey of more than 3,500 universities by the QS World University Rankings, a resource for prospective students worldwide. Eskandarian has spent most of his career in the academic world. He earned his bachelor and doctoral mechanical engineering (ME) degrees from GWU in 1982 and in 1991, respectively. He received his master's degree, also in ME, from Virginia Tech in 1983. While at GWU, Eskandarian played an instrumental role in the establishment of a unique graduate program of study in automotive safety and intelligent transportation systems. He also founded the Center for Intelligent Systems Research in 1996 and held the position of its director for 19 years. He co-founded the National Crash Analysis Center in 1992 and became its director from 1998 to 2003 and again in 2013. In 2003 he founded and became director of GWU's Area of Excellence in Transportation Safety and Security.
  • For the past four years Xiaoyu "Rayne" Zheng has worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Livermore, California. He started in 2011 as a postdoctoral research staff member working on additive manufacturing initiatives and micro-architected materials, and in two years was promoted to staff engineer/scientist leading projects in additive manufacturing and hierarchical architected materials as a principle investigator. At Livermore he developed over a $1 million supported research program on additive manufacturing and hierarchical micro-architected material development from Department of Defense (DOE) Laboratory Directed Research and Development office (LDRD) and Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA). The aim of Zheng's research is to advance the next generation of additive manufacturing processes and design tools to enable the design, analysis, and fabrication of multi-scale, three-dimensional materials and systems that possess extraordinary and unique capabilities for structural, energy, biological and environmental applications.

Mining and Minerals Engineering

  • Cheng Chen spent the past three years as a reservoir engineer and project leader of geomechanics in the production enhancement group for Halliburton of Houston, Texas. His work included: leading the development of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) -Accelerated Lattice Boltzmann Simulator (GALBS) for Halliburton's Digital Rock Laboratory, which runs on single personal computers at a significantly accelerated speed based on GPU parallel computing using OpenCL and CUDA; leading the development of a core library to collect the geomechanical and petrophysical properties of core samples extracted from both conventional and unconventional reservoirs; and developing the modified ANNIE model to study the anisotropic elastic moduli of reservoir rocks using static and dynamic geomechanical data. In general, his research interests are: rock characterization using computed tomography and scanning electron microscope imaging; use of the Lattice Boltzmann method; multi-scale simulation of flow and transport in porous media; and shale oil and gas. Prior to his employment at Halliburton, Chen was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

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