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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2014 / 11 

College of Engineering announces 27 new faculty hires

November 12, 2014

Goodwin Hall
Twenty-seven new faculty joined Virginia Tech's College of Engineering for the 2014-15 academic year, the same time Goodwin Hall opened.

Virginia Tech's College of Engineering attracted 27 new faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions for the 2014-15 academic year.

The number 27 represents a net gain of five faculty members as 22 professors left the college in 2014 for new employment or to retire.

The College of Engineering currently enrolls the largest number of students at the university. It is the home to more than 7,000 undergraduates, as well as close to 2,000 graduate students. Degrees are offered in 14 engineering disciplines as well as computer science.

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

Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

  • Colin S. Adams is finishing his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, researching laboratory astrophysical plasmas at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, before joining Virginia Tech for spring semester of 2015. His research focuses on interactions between colliding supersonic plasma jets in the presence of a background magnetic field.
  • Jonathan T. Black served as a faculty member in the aeronautics and astronautics department at the Air Force Institute of Technology since 2007. At the institute, Black was a founding member and director of the Center for Space Research and Assurance. At the Air Force Institute, Black secured $8.1 million in joint research funding, including nationally competitive awards through the Air Force, NASA, and DARPA.
  • Bhuvana Srinivasan worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Theoretical Division for approximately four years, first as a postdoctoral researcher and then as a staff scientist. Among her duties at the laboratory, Srinivasan primarily focused on studying plasma physics effects in fusion that can mitigate turbulent mix of hot and cold fuel and consequently, help achieve fusion conditions. This work is relevant to experiments at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester.

Department of Biological Systems Engineering

  • Xueyang Feng received his bachelor's degree in environmental engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, as well as a bachelor's degree in biology from Wuhan University, both located in Wuhan, China. Both degrees were awarded in 2008. Four years later, he earned a Ph.D. in energy, environmental, and chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. Since 2012 he has worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Energy Biosciences Institute of the University of Illinois, focusing on metabolic engineering of yeast for efficient C5/C6 sugar utilization and advanced biofuel production.

Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Jonathan B. Boreyko received a bachelor's degree in physics and in mechanical engineering from Trinity College in 2007. He went on to Duke University where he obtained his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and materials science in 2012. Since receiving his doctorate, he has held two positions. Since 2012 he had worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. The center awarded him its 2013 postdoc achievement award. Since 2013 he was also been employed as a research scientist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville's Bredesen Center.
  • Steven Rowson has played an integral role in the injury biomechanics program at Virginia Tech since his arrival as a graduate student in 2006. Now, Rowson is joining the program as a tenure track assistant professor. Rowson earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Rowan University in 2006. In 2008 he received his master's degree in biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech, focusing his thesis on the impact biomechanics of the head and neck in football. Three years later he earned his doctorate with a thesis titled, "Head acceleration experienced by man: exposure, tolerance, and applications," which developed the theoretical foundation of the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings™. The Brain Trauma Foundation recognized this work with its Science and Prevention award in 2011. Since 2011 Rowson's position with Virginia Tech was as an assistant research professor.

Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Kevin P. Heaslip is returning to Virginia Tech where he earned his undergraduate and master's degrees in civil engineering in 2002 and in 2003, respectively. He attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for his doctoral studies in civil engineering, graduating in 2007. In 2008 Heaslip joined the civil and environmental engineering faculty as an assistant professor at Utah State University, and since July of 2011 he also served as the associate director of the Utah Transportation Center. He was recently promoted to associate professor and granted tenure as well. At Utah State, Heaslip participated in almost $16 million in funded research with more than $5 million as his personal share.He will be located in the National Capital Region.
  • Kyle Strom obtained his bachelor's degree and master's degrees from Washington State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 2006. From 2007 to 2013, he served as an assistant professor at the University of Houston's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In September of 2013 he was promoted to associate professor. Strom's research group focuses on improving understanding of fluid and sediment interactions in natural environments such as rivers, estuaries, and deltas.
  • Katerina Ziotopoulou  earned her doctorate in geotechnical engineering with a minor in structural engineering from the University of California, Davis in the summer of 2014. She obtained her master's degree in geotechnical engineering in June of 2010 at the same university. Ziotopoulou earned her undergraduate degree summa cum laude in civil engineering in December of 2007 from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. Her doctoral work was focused on geotechnical earthquake engineering and more specifically on the numerical modeling of liquefaction effects.

Department of Chemical Engineering

  • Ayman M. Karim has worked as a senior research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one among 10 U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories managed by its Office of Science, since 2008. Its work is dedicated towards finding innovative solutions for the DOE, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration, other government agencies, universities, and industry. During his time at the national lab, Karim managed several projects and a multidisciplinary team of scientists.
  • Hongliang Xin spent the past year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, one of ten U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories. It is known for building the world's longest particle accelerator, the discovery of some of the fundamental building blocks of matter, and the creation of the first website in North America. SLAC was originally named the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center when it was founded in 1962 but the DOE changed its name to only reflect the acronym of SLAC in 2008. At SLAC, Xin had been working on the surface reactivity of transition-metal alloys and oxides and on the understanding dynamics of surface bond breaking and formation.

Department of Computer Science

  • Bert Huang, who received his doctorate in computer science from Columbia University in 2011, already has his name on six patents, ranging from machine learning for power grids to ways to analyze spatiotemporally ambiguous events to combinatorial optimization methods and systems. He also earned two master's degrees from Columbia University: a master of science in computer science and a master of philosophy in computer science, obtained in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He received his undergraduate degree in computer science from Brandeis University in 2004. Since fall of 2011, Huang has worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science.
  • Kurt Luther earned his bachelor's degree in computer graphics technology with a minor in art and design from Purdue University in 2006. Next, he enrolled at Georgia Tech where he received a doctorate in human-centered computing with a focus on social computing in 2012. Shortly after he completed his graduate studies, he moved to Carnegie Mellon University where he worked as a post-doctoral fellow in its Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Luther's main research interests are in human-computer interaction, social computing, creativity, design, and digital humanities.
  • Sharath Raghvendra's research interest focuses on the design of algorithms for geometric problems. He is particularly interested in the creation of algorithmic tools and methodologies that are applicable to large-scale, unstructured, and potentially very high dimensional geometric data. He obtained his Ph.D. from Duke University in 2012. For the last two years, he continued his research as a postdoctoral scholar in the departments of computer science and management sciences at Stanford University. Some of his most recent work is applicable to the areas of logistics, big data, data analysis, and liquidity in credit networks.

Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Harpreet S. Dhillon worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Southern California for the past year where he was a member of the Communication Sciences Institute. He held a Viterbi Postdoctoral Fellowship. In this capacity, he was working on multi-antenna wireless backhaul networks, where the goal is to understand the minimum antenna requirement per base station to implement a throughput scalable wireless backhaul network. Dhillon received his bachelor's degree in electronics and communication engineering in 2008 from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, a master's degree in electrical engineering in 2010 from Virginia Tech, and his Ph.D in 2013 from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Walid Saad worked as an assistant professor at the University of Miami's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since 2011. During his tenure at Miami, he has received two grants from the National Science Foundation that include a  $443,154 CAREER Award for developing self-organizing wireless small cell networks and a $149,965 NeTs JUNO award for optimizing hyper-dense networks with trillions of devices. This latter is a collaborative effort with Florida International University and Tohuku University, Japan. His previous employment includes an eight-month position with Princeton University's Department of Electrical Engineering as a postdoctoral research associate. He was also a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois from 2008 until 2009.
  • Haibo Zeng took his first job with General Motors Research and Development at Palo Alto, California, after receiving his doctorate in 2008,. He started as a researcher in August of 2008 and was promoted to senior researcher in February of 2010. He left GM to join McGill University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as an assistant professor in November of 2011. Zeng's research interests are in embedded systems, cyber-physical systems, real-time systems, and electronic design automation. Among his honors, Zeng has received three best paper awards. He is the co-author of two textbooks. His doctorate in electrical engineering and computer sciences was awarded in 2008 from the University of California at Berkeley.

Department of Engineering Education

  • Kenneth J. Reid worked on the faculty at Ohio Northern University since 2008, starting as the director of its first-year engineering program and as a member of its electrical and computer engineering and computer science departments. In 2011 his responsibilities broadened to program director of the new engineering education degree program. Prior to his tenure at Ohio Northern, Reid started in 1996 as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering technology at Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. In 2002 he was promoted to associate professor. Reid earned his bachelor's degree in computer and electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1988, his master's in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 1994, and his doctorate in engineering education from Purdue University in 2009.
  • Donna Riley joined Virginia Tech after serving this past academic year as the National Science Foundation Program Director for Engineering Education. Riley served at NSF while on leave from her position as associate professor at Smith College's Picker Engineering Program. The Picker program combines the study of engineering with the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. From 2000 until 2001 she held a science and technology policy fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. From 1998 until 2000 she was the Clayton postdoctoral fellow in industrial ecology at Princeton University. Riley earned her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1993 from Princeton University, and her master's and doctoral degrees in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 and in 1998, respectively.

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

  • Xi Chen earned her bachelor's degree in automation from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China in 2006. She obtained her master's degree in industrial and systems engineering from North Carolina State University in 2008. Her doctoral degree in industrial engineering and management science was awarded by Northwestern University in 2012. Chen's research interests are in stochastic modeling and simulation, applied probability and statistics, computer experimental design and analysis, and simulation optimization. Since obtaining her doctorate she had worked as an assistant professor in the department of statistical sciences and operations research at Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • Nathan Ka Ching Lau spent the past two years as a senior scientist at the University of Virginia. Previously Lau was a post doctoral fellow for a year at the University of Toronto, Canada's Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering's Human Factors and Applied Statistical Laboratory. He led a research project to investigate auditory displays for tele-operating the lunar rover. He also co-authored a grant of $850,000 (Canadian money) for a three-year driving research project. He earned his bachelor's and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering from the University of Toronto in 2004 and in 2012, respectively.
  • Diego Moran earned his doctorate in operations research in 2014 from Georgia Tech. Previously he attended the Universidad de Chile, earning a bachelor's degree in engineering sciences in 2008, a mathematical engineer degree (equivalent to a master's degree in the U.S.) in 2009, and a master of science degree in operations management in 2009. Moran was a summer intern at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 2012. Working with Sanjeeb Dash and Oktay Gunluk, they studied some theoretical properties of cutting planes for mixed integer programming. He already has four peer-reviewed journal articles and two peer reviewed conference proceeding articles.

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

  • Johan Foster served as the head of the Advanced Materials Group at the University of Fribourg's Adolphe MerkleIinstitute in Switzerland for the past four years. His general research expertise is in advanced functional and soft (nano) materials. Prior to his AMI position, Foster was a postdoctoral research fellow with Bert Meijer at the Eindhoven University of Technology's Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry in The Netherlands. Foster attended Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada, where he received his undergraduate degree in chemistry in 2002 and his doctorate, also in chemistry, in 2006. During his academic career, Foster currently has 45 publications including 33 peer-reviewed articles, three filed patents, three co-authorships of book chapters, and six conference proceedings.

Department of Mechanical Engineering 

  • Reza Mirzaeifar enjoyed the past year as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics. Previously, he received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2013. He earned his master's degree from Tehran Polytechnic Institute, Iran, in 2006, and his undergraduate degree from Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran, in 2004. His honors include the top 25 most cited articles of Mechanics of Materials since 2009. He made Science Direct Top 25 Hottest Articles in 2010 and in 2011. In 2008, Smart Materials and Structures ranked his work as among the most downloaded papers. That same year the Journal of Composite Materials cited him for the most frequently read articles.
  • Rui Qiao received his doctorate in mechanical engineering in 2004 from the University of Illinois and remained with the university as a postdoctoral research associate for another year. In 2005, Clemson University recruited him to its mechanical engineering faculty as an assistant professor. In 2011 he was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Since 2009 he also spent each summer as a faculty visitor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He also spent April of 2013 as a faculty visitor at Imperial College of London's Department of Chemistry. At Clemson, Qiao directed the Laboratory of Transport Phenomena for Advanced Technologies. The lab's research focused on challenges emerging at the frontiers of advanced technologies such as electrical energy storage, thermal management, biomanufacturing, and lab-on-a-chip.
  • Zhiting Tian joined the Virginia Tech faculty immediately after receiving her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Advised by Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and the department head, she defended her dissertation, "Exploring heat transfer at the atomistic level for thermal energy conversion and management" in May 2014. Tian holds a bachelor's degree in engineering physics from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, graduating in the top five percent of her class in 2007. She attended the State University of New York at Binghamton for her master's degree, received in 2009. Among her honors, she was the recipient of the 2014 Wunsch Foundation Silent Hoist and Crane Award for academic excellence. She was named an MIT Graduate Woman of Excellence in 2013 for her leadership and outstanding accomplishments.
  • Lei Zuo is a three-time graduate of MIT, earning two master's degrees in 2002. They were in mechanical engineering and in electrical engineering. He received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT in 2005. His undergraduate degree was in automotive engineering, received from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in 1997. In November of 2004 Zuo became a senior research scientist at Abbott Laboratories. In January of 2008 he was promoted to associate research investigator. In September of 2008 the State University of New York at Stony Brook hired him as an assistant professor in its mechanical engineering department. He was awarded an early tenure and promotion to associate professor in October of 2013. At Stony Brook, Zuo founded and directed the Energy Harvesting and Mechatronics Research Laboratory.