Engineering Departments

Computer Science

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 24, 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.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 6,000 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Virginia Tech’s RockSat-X team includes (left to right) Seth Austin, Sebastian Welsh, and John Mulvaney, all of the College of Engineering. The team, comprised of 20 students, will launch a self-designed and built 3-D printer into suborbital space on August 11 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Blacksburg, VA , August 10, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

How would a 3-D printer work in the microgravity of suborbital space after surviving a jarring ride 100 miles above the earth? A group of Virginia Tech College of Engineering students hope to have an answer next week after a launch at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Ever the Hokies, the student designed, built and tested machine will 3-D print a plastic Virginia Tech “VT” logo. In space.

The experiment will fly aboard a 900-pound NASA two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket, as part of the national RockSat-X program that puts university-led experiments into suborbital space. Virginia Tech is one of seven universities to participate in the launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, set for 6 a.m. Tuesday, August 11. Backup launch dates are scheduled August 12 to 14.

The space agency will live sstream the launch at its UStream webpage.

The use of a 3-D printer in space is not new. A 3-D printer is on the International Space Station. But this will be the first time such a printer will be used on an unmanned rocket during flight, said Virginia Tech RockSat-X team leader Sebastian Welsh of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and senior in the department of computer science.

“We wanted to be the pioneers of that and get to be the first to tackle the problem,” said Welsh, adding that the “massive challenge” motivated the team, which includes 20 students from across the College of Engineering, all working with Virginia Tech’s Center for Space Science and Engineering Research, or Space@VT. Co-leading the team is John Mulvaney of Versailles, Kentucky, and a senior in the department of aerospace and ocean engineering.

“There’s a lot of practicality behind it,” said Welsh of the field of 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. “In the future as 3-D printing develops, we see a lot of benefits to it such as parts replication and repairs in space, so for example if a part in space breaks on a mission to Mars or the ISS, it takes a lot of time and money to get new parts up to the astronauts, if it’s even possible at all, but if there’s a means to manufacture the part on board the spacecraft it would make repairs a lot easier and potentially help save missions.”

The student-led project started one year ago under the direction of Kevin Shinpaugh, an adjunct faculty member with aerospace and ocean engineering.

Shinpaugh, who has worked on several RockSat projects in the past, said this is the first experiment for launch at Wallops that has come from students rather than faculty. He added that the project falls in line with an initiative set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, for short), to have astronauts in space build “new” satellites using “junk” parts from disused satellites, retrofitting the parts together with 3-D printed parts, versus creating entirely new spacecraft.

“In some ways, it’s a crazy idea, but in many ways, it’s groundbreaking,” said Shinpaugh.

The project comes with many challenges, said Welsh. The custom-built, mostly aluminum printer had to be less than 30 pounds, be compact, and take quite a beating – 20 to 40 g’s, that’s 20 to 40 times the normal force of gravity while reaching speeds of 3,800 miles per hour – of acceleration during the launch roughly 100 miles above the Earth.

The rocket will spend three minutes in microgravity, in which time the printer created by the students will use hot-melted plastic at 400 degrees to print its Hokie “VT” logo.

The printer already has been tested by NASA for durability, said Shinpaugh. NASA has what amounts to a massive version of a paint can shaker that you’d find at any home repair store for mixing paints. The device can mimic the violent shaking of a rocket launch.

In addition to printing, an onboard computer will record temperature, pressure, and acceleration data. Also, a HackHD camera will record the printer in action. Welsh and his team should be able to retrieve the printer and all data within seven hours of the launch and splashdown landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

“We plan to compare the object that was printed in microgravity to one that was printed here on Earth,” added Welsh. Microscopic analysis of the printed logo may show slight differences. After that, the group hopes to improve the printer and send it on a second flight, potentially with the ability to print multiple materials.

The team paid $24,000 to be manifested on the NASA mission, and the printer cost approximately $2,000 to build, using student-manufactured parts and off the shelf components such as belts and springs. Sponsoring the team were engineering company a.i. solutions, the Virginia Tech Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, and the Student Engineers’ Council of Virginia Tech.

Additional experiments on the Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket come from the University of Colorado, Boulder; Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho; the University of Puerto Rico; the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Capitol Technology University of Maryland; and the University of Hawaii Community Colleges. Students from all of the universities are expected to attend the launch.

How to watch the launch

Want to watch the launch of the NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket in person at Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia? The launch is planned for 6 a.m. Eastern, Tuesday, August 11. Backup launch dates are August 12. The facility opens at 5 a.m. on launch day for viewing the flight, according to the agency’s website.

Can’t make the trip?  Set your worries aside. NASA will broadcast the event live on its UStream webpage. Regular updates from NASA Wallops also will appear at the facility’s website, and its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Updates, photos and more from Virginia Tech students at Wallops will be posted at the team’s Facebook page, as well as the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Barbara Ryder
Blacksburg, VA , April 23, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Barbara G. Ryder, the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering and head of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, will be honored with The Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (SIGSOFT) Influential Educator Award on May 22.

Ryder achieved the annual award for her significant contributions in software engineering education, graduate student and faculty mentoring and efforts to improve the representation of women.

For more than 33 years, Ryder’s profession has been rooted in education and mentoring. As a result of her leadership, 15 doctoral candidates and three masters students successfully completed their programs. She also supervised four post-doctoral students.

Prior to joining the Virginia Tech community, while a faculty member at Rutgers, Ryder received the Graduate School Teaching Award in 2007, the Leader in Diversity Award in 2006, and the Professor of the Year Award in computer science in 2003.

Ryder is a founding member of the National Center for Women and Information Technology Pacesetters program that strives to increase the number of women in computer science. She continues working with Pacesetters, holding the position of Virginia Tech's executive champion for the program.

She has worked to increase the number of women graduating from college with technical degrees by targeting outreach efforts to high schools. She has organized visits to numerous high schools, providing the teenagers with interactions with mentors and with currently enrolled women in computer science. 

Ryder is a Fellow of the ACM since 1998, received the ACM President's Award in 2008, and its SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award in 2001. She is an active leader in ACM, serving in multiple leadership capacities. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Computer Research Association from 1998 until 2001.

She received her bachelor's degree in applied mathematics from Brown University, a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in computer science from Rutgers University in 1982.

ACM, (, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and practitioners to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges. The society strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. And supportive of the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

Ali Butt
Blacksburg, VA , March 04, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

With the advent of cloud computing, users worldwide are provided huge data storage that can be accessed and shared from anywhere using mobile devices such laptops, smart phones and tablets. An analogy might be having a library that everyone had access to, whether the person lived in Fairbanks, Alaska or Bombay, India.

Such global data access and sharing allows greatly accelerated progress in scientific and technological achievements, not to mention innovative social media uses.

However, with the data available worldwide, challenges remain in the ability to handle the volume of users attempting to access information simultaneously, as well as in the capability of a data center to respond  to the varying request times that might limit performance.

To help manage this storage of data in an efficient manner, Ali R. Butt, associate professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, has received a NetApp Faculty Fellowship.

NetApp, a Fortune 500 company, develops software, systems, and services to manage and store data.

The storage of shared data via cloud computing is relatively new, although the original concept dates back to the 1950s when large-scale mainframe computers became more available. In the past few years, major companies such as Microsoft, Rackspace Hosting, IBM, and Amazon have announced their versions of initiatives in cloud computing.

However, distortions may still affect the retrieval of information. Butt’s plan to address this difficulty that often comes with a high volume of requests as well as performance problems from varying request patterns is to further develop Mizan, a high-performance and load balanced in-memory object caching storage system. In computing, a cache is a component that stores data in memory so that future requests for that data can be served faster from the memory instead of retrieving it from a slower device such as a disk.

“The goal is to make the load-balancer track hotspots and apply appropriate strategies,” Butt explained. This tracking might reveal key repetitious inquiries or provide a better idea of where data is migrating. With this information, “we may be able to dynamically mitigate imbalances, while supporting high-performance and efficient use of resources,” he added.

Butt already knows that Mizan can quickly detect hotspots in workloads, and is able to lessen any load imbalance that is critical in cloud computing.

The computer scientist plans to use the Amazon EC2 based cloud cluster to conduct his experiments.

“The choice of this design will allow Mizan to scale-up to a large number of cache nodes and scale up its performance by fully exploiting the parallelism offered by emerging massively multi-core computer architectures,” Butt said.

Butt is a previous recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award for his research in high performance computing power.

The NetApp Faculty Fellowship program was established to encourage leading-edge research in storage and data management and to foster relationships between academic researchers and engineers and researchers at NetApp. NetApp selects recipients of its awards who have demonstrated they are working on research that is likely to make significant and relevant contributions to the greater body of work and to the storage and data management industry.

Professor Wu Feng of the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science during a moment of filming at Burress Hall for a Microsoft-sponsored commercial that will air in North America and Europe.
Blacksburg, VA , February 03, 2015
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Microsoft is debuting this week a new television commercial featuring Wu Feng, a professor with the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. Filmed on campus late last fall, the commercial is expected to air across North American and Europe.

Microsoft’s highlighting of Feng’s computing collaboration with medical researchers at Virginia Tech and other research centers with such programs as Computing in the Cloud – an effort to spur research discoveries within medicine – is part of the company’s global advertising campaign.

The commercial is part of a combined print and television advertising campaign by Microsoft that focuses on individuals and organizations the company calls “leaders in harnessing supercomputer powers to deliver lifesaving treatments.” Among those leaders featured in the ads are Feng, a professor with the Department of Computer Science.

“This campaign celebrates people and organizations and the amazing things they do with our technology,” said Kathleen Hall, corporate vice president of global advertising and media at Microsoft. “What could be more amazing than using the cloud to speed up analysis that could potentially help find a cure for cancer?

There are two versions of the commercial featuring Feng. The first is a 30-second spot airing on cable channels such as ESPN, MSNBC, and Fox News, and programs such as “The Daily Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman.” A longer, 100-second version is available online and features more dialogue from Feng.

Microsoft along with a film crew visited campus twice this past fall to shoot the commercial with Feng, once in October for exterior shots and later in November for interior shots. Interior filming took place at Torgersen Bridge, a lecture hall and the third-flood Visionarium lab  – also part of computer science -- at Torgersen Hall, Goodwin Hall, Burruss Hall and a “wet” laboratory with post-doctorate research fellow Zalman Vaksman at Virginia Bioinfomatics Institute.

Dozens of students appear as extras in a classroom and the Torgersen Bridge study area.

“I’m just one person in the grand scheme of things and I hope this can inspire people to reach out and find ways to work together to solve a very important problem and be of benefit to society,” said Feng.

The TV spot hits on theme that research that once took weeks now happens in hours. Using Microsoft hardware products Azure and HDInsight, scientists at Virginia Tech and elsewhere can harness supercomputing power to analyze vast amounts of DNA sequencing data. Much of the works takes place inside the Microsoft-operated cloud, where data limits are no longer an issue.

As part of the print campaign, Microsoft has run full-page ads featuring Virginia Tech and Feng in the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business Week, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, Time, Popular Mechanics, and Wired, among others. 

“We are thrilled that our department’s cutting-edge research in parallel computing and use of Azure, the Microsoft cloud framework, is being featured in a national advertising campaign,” said Barbara Ryder, department head of computer science. “Wu is a creative faculty member whose many contributions include leading large research collaborations, supervising award-winning undergraduate and graduate students, and contributing to efforts to diversify computing.”

In 2011, Feng and another Virginia Tech researcher were the first to win the worldwide award from the NVIDIA Foundation’s “Compute the Cure” program. The award is designed to spur faster genome analysis to make it easier for researchers to identify mutations relevant to cancer.

Left to right, Benjamin Scott Pruett, Nick Sharp, and Miraziz Yusupov are the Traveling Salesmen, a Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science student team that will travel to Morocco in 2015 for the World Finals of the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition.
Blacksburg, VA , December 23, 2014
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Three Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science students and their faculty adviser will head to Morocco next year for the World Finals of the Association of Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Competition.

Students comprising the team The Traveling Salesmen placed third in the recent 2014 Mid-Atlantic U.S. regional competition finals, held at seven sites across the region, including one at nearby Radford University. Approximately 190 teams competed, from dozens of universities including Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., southern New Jersey, North Carolina, eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Multiple regional competitions are held throughout the United States and Canada, according to organizers of the competition, known as ACM-ICPC.

The Traveling Salesmen team includes junior Benjamin Scott Pruett of Mechanicsville, Virginia, senior Nick Sharp of Sterling, Virginia, and junior Miraziz Yusupov of Chantilly, Virginia, who also is co-majoring in business economics with the Pamplin College of Business.

The trio will travel to Marrakech, Morocco, for the May 16-21, 2015, ICPC Word Finals, which the association says encourages “creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure.” Traveling with the team will be coach and faculty advisor Godmar Back, an associate professor of computer science, part of the College of Engineering.

In all, Virginia Tech fielded eight teams, each comprised of three students, for the regional competition. Three teams, in addition to the Traveling Salesmen, finished in the Top 20, placing 11th, 15th, and 16th, respectively. North America will send 22 teams in all to Morocco in 2015.

During competition, student teams are assigned eight algorithmic problems for which they must develop and code efficient solutions. Teams do not know beforehand which input will be given to their programs. The input is chosen by judges to test correctness and efficiency of the submitted programs and often includes corner cases or large inputs that must be processed correctly and within the allotted time limit. Teams are ranked by how many problems they are able to solve, with ties broken based on the number of minutes elapsed for each solved problem.

Last year, Back coached a computer science team that placed second in regionals and traveled to Ekaterinburg, Russia. Before that, Virginia Tech’s last participation in finals came in 2007.

“The skills learned in these competitions are skills students need to have if they want to be successful in their job hunts,” Back said, adding that timed algorithmic-problem tests are regular parts of job and internship interviews with technology firms such as Google and Microsoft. “The students who are successful in these types of competitions often do well in job interviews.”

Participating in his second Word Finals, Sharp said, “Your ability to solve these problems is much more important than your grade point average, background, or really anything else.”

Yusupov said the day after his team was selected for the World Finals, he received an email from a major software producer asking him to apply for its upcoming summer internship program.

Back’s student teams train regularly for competition, including 5-hour practices held on Saturdays. There, students complete problem sets used in prior competitions. “We can compare our performance to how well we would have done in those past competitions,” said Back. Additionally teams practice on their own, learning speed and efficiency of problem solving.

Last year, more than 32,000 students from 2,300 universities representing 100 countries competed in regional competitions for a slot at the 2014 World Finals. The roster of teams for the 2015 World Finals is still being finalized as of press time, said Back.

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