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2020 Dean's Award Recipients

Certificate of Teaching Excellence

Matthew James
Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Engineering Education

  • Matthew James serves on the Engineering Education Undergraduate Committee.
  • In designing his courses, James strives to create an active learning environment that facilitates strong teamwork through design projects utilizing strategies to find meaning in class, from any background of engineering.
  • He restructured and revamped two foundational engineering courses as part of a team to develop course materials for instructors teaching across multiple sections. They aimed to provide students with more consistency and teachers with more autonomy to tailor instruction to their strengths

James Lord
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • James Lord received the Virginia Tech Favorite Faculty Award, an annual award given by students.
  • He served as Undergraduate Program Director for Engineering Science and Mechanics.
  • Lord developed online versions of several popular classes, allowing hundreds of students to complete important requirements and free up time in their schedule while on and off campus to pursue internship opportunities. His model has been used to develop a number of online classes.

Mark Paul
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Mark Paul created a Distinguished Speaker Seminar Series for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-created the annual Fall Fluid Mechanics Symposium, bringing together researchers and students from across campus.
  • He developed two new graduate courses covering diverse multidisciplinary topics attracting students from College of Science and College of Engineering.
  • Paul strives to give students an opportunity to develop their own research interests and explore creative solutions to difficult and open-ended problems.

Paolo Scardina
Assistant Professor of Practice, Charles Edward Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Paolo Scardina is Managing Director of the CEE Hydraulics Teaching Lab, which provides about 180 students weekly direct access and experience with fundamental systems and contemporary instrumentation.
  • He created a technical writing curriculum and program for the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as part of VT Pathways requirements.
  • Scardina says “it is a privilege to help build the next generation of civil engineers who will lead the building, and rebuilding, of this country and across the globe.”


Excellence in Outreach

John Gordon Casali
John Grado Chaired Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Director of the Auditory Systems Laboratory, Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

  • John Gordon Casali is the founder of the ISE Faculty Mentoring Program and currently serves as the Chair. He is also the Corporate Foundation and Alumni Relations Coordinator for ISE CFAR, and the UPS liaison for the department. He has helped secure $1.1 million over 23 years to support more than 25 Ph.D. students through the UPS Ph.D. Fellowship.
  • His outreach activities for applied problems in industry and government have provided him with practical examples to bring to his students in his development of coursework and projects. For instance, serving as expert witness in over 60 cases in premises and products liability litigation, as well as patent infringement and criminal cases, in addition to drafting noise ordinance legal code for municipalities and participating in their associated public hearings, has helped Casali develop a unique course called "Forensics and Litigation for Engineers."  
  • Casali has applied lessons learned in the Auditory Systems Laboratory at VT in solving real-world problems. For example, laboratory capabilities for measuring impulsive noise and our understanding of the hearing hazard risks therefrom have inspired Casali to take measurements of the Virginia Tech cannon that is shot near Lane Stadium at football games, and recommending limits on the powder charge and cannon position.

Excellence in Research

Rolando Burgos
Professor, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Rolando Burgos has received eight IEEE best paper awards and the SAFRAN Group Industrial Prize for industrial collaboration.
  • His work has helped advance the suppression, containment, and mitigation of electromagnetic interference emissions in wide-bandgap, semiconductor-based power converters, considered by many to be the main technical barrier hindering the widespread adoption of these devices by industry, especially in medium-voltage applications.
  • In working with his Ph.D. students, Burgos primarily seeks to pose the right questions to help them unveil the fundamental problem at hand, striving to provide guidance throughout the research process and staying as involved as possible.

Harpreet S. Dhillon
Associate Professor and Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. ‘56 Faculty Fellow, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Harpreet Dhillon was previously named a Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher in 2017 and 2018, joining a highly-selective global list of researchers across all disciplines who have distinguished themselves by publishing a high number of papers that rank in the top 1 percent most-cited in their respective fields over a recent 11-year period.
  • The goal of his research is to develop smarter wireless communication solutions that are capable of providing seamless connectivity to an ever-increasing number of wireless devices. His group specifically focuses on understanding the performance and design tradeoffs in large-scale wireless systems using ideas from communication theory, signal processing, and stochastic geometry.
  • Dhillon is the recipient of seven awards from the National Science Foundation and one from the National Spectrum Consortium during the past five years, and he is the Principal Investigator for seven of these awards, which total $6.65 million, with VT’s share being $4.38 million and his share being $2.28 million.

Kirk Cameron
Professor and Associate Department Head for Research and Engagement, Department of Computer Science

  • Kirk Cameron is honored as a World Leading Research Fellow and with Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowships in the United Kingdom.
  • Cameron leads two education projects (iLORE and Ada) to broaden community participation in parallel and distributed systems. iLore includes a large, diverse team of undergraduates attempting to record, classify, and share the lineage of computer systems since the 1970's. In Ada, he works with an artist to create an interactive, kinetic sculpture that introduces the general public to the beauty and importance of parallel and distributed computing.
  • His research demonstrated conclusively the need for energy-efficient computer systems that elevate energy efficiency in high-performance parallel and distributed computer systems as a design constraint, which resulted in benchmarks he created still in use today and led to the green computing movement. His group’s recent research on energy efficiency has demonstrated that future resource management in large-scale systems will require new ways of thinking, proposing a change from linear to non-linear solutions.

Binoy Ravindran
Professor, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Binoy Ravindran is an ACM Distinguished Scientist and a U.S. Office of Naval Research Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren.
  • Ravindran received Best Paper Awards at The 15th ACM SIGPLAN/SIGOPS International Conference on Virtual Execution Environments (VEE’19), and the 11th ACM International Systems and Storage Conference (SYSTOR’18).
  • An important theme of his research is to advance new insights into the field by publicly releasing infrastructure software systems as open-source software, enabling other researchers to extend their work relatively easily and develop new ideas.

Scott S. Verbridge
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Scott Verbridge’s research is focused on developing new and effective ways to target the tumor microenvironment for therapy, as he believes both the physical and the microbial hallmarks of cancer are ripe targets for novel therapies that could have fewer negative side effects compared with the traditional paradigms of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
  • His recent NIH grant on tumor-microbe interactions in cancer is in a new research area for him and marks an incredible collaborative effort between his lab and the lab of Professor Daniel Slade in the Department of Biochemistry.
  • Verbridge gives his Ph.D. students the freedom to follow their projects wherever the data leads them, and provides them opportunities to collaborate with labs that provide additional, complementary training, to create more well-rounded researchers.


Excellence in Service

Michael Philen
Associate Professor, Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

  • Being a part of a vibrant community and educating the next generation of engineers is what is what Michael Philen most enjoys about being at Virginia Tech.  His commitment to students begins with his volunteer roles with summer camps through CEED and other pre-college STEM programs, and continues into his guest lectures in the Freshman Engineering Research Seminar about how ‘Biologists and Engineers Make Great Friends,’ highlighting how beneficial collaboration across disciplines is and that biology has provided inspiration to engineers since flight itself.
  • He chaired the AOE Undergraduate Curriculum Revision Committee, leading the most significant revision of its curriculum in 30 years. Growing out of strategic direction from the AOE Undergraduate Committee on which he also serves, the net result is an updated curriculum that requires fewer credits for degree completion while adding more laboratories, better coordination of courses with the capstone senior design course sequence, more elective choices, and new topics such as aerospace and ocean vehicle electronics.
  • Philen’s research program incorporates diversity at all levels. He has received grants totaling more than $200,000 from the National Science Foundation to provide research and mentoring experience to underrepresented students. These grants have provided housing, stipend, meals, travel to professional conferences, and travel to visit with collaborators. Philen has advised more than 30 students from underrepresented groups, and many of those students earned prestigious scholarships and internships and continued their education in graduate school.

Corina Sandu
Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Beyond her role as professor and as the mechanical engineering associate department head for graduate studies for the last five years, Corina Sandu directs a lab, serves as a member of 10 committees across the university, co-advises a student club, and chairs two other committees.
  • “The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is the place I consider ideal to fulfill my scientific curiosity, conduct my research, and make an impact in the education and mentoring of future generations of leaders in academia and industry,” says Sandu. “The College fully supports my dedication to serving our institution and professional societies.”

Pamela VandeVord
N. Waldo Harrison Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Pamela VandeVord served as interim department head for BEAM for three years, during which she designed and implemented the biomedical engineering undergraduate degree, following her development of the minor program that grew to 202 students from almost every major within the College of Engineering over seven years.
  • During her tenure as interim department head, VandeVord was able to maintain her international standing as a leader in traumatic brain injury research to reduce the impact of blast waves on soldiers, and she was awarded four new federal awards in the past three years summing just above $2 million in total. She has also continued to mentor six Ph.D. students, two post-doctoral researchers, and a group of undergraduate researchers.
  • In addition to VandeVord's service to BEAM, she has also contributed to the university and her field through her work in faculty search committees, university committees, three external advisory boards, and the Virginia DOE review of high school bioengineering curriculums.


Excellence in Teaching

Margaret Ellis
Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Computer Science

  • In the past two years, Margaret Ellis has innovatively redeveloped her CS2104 Problem Solving in Computer Science course to apply problem-solving skills across multiple fields of computer science, using current technologies and emphasizing practical skills, including cooperative work both in and outside the classroom, as well as significant hands-on experiences in an earlier stage of the overall curriculum for the major.  
  • She has also contributed to the development of a new Intermediate Python course that provides Advanced Computational Thinking Pathways credit for general education.  This course has the potential to be a gateway to continued study of computer science and provides a bridge between CS1064 Intro to Python for non-majors to CS2114 Introduction to Data Structures and Software Design ,which is in Java and is for CS majors/minors.
  • In a consistent effort to be approachable to her students, Ellis coaches students to keep trying when they feel discouraged or intimidated, reminding them they are not alone in their frustration. Students have access to her extensive office hours as well as an online forum for academic support.

Scott England
Associate Professor, Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

  • Scott England’s Astromechanics course, with over 150 students, is heavily based on mathematical principles, many of which date back hundreds of years. These core buildingblocks of the subject are essential, but some undergraduates can struggle to find this material relatable. England’s research has led him to bring current examples into the classroom. With the launch of two spaceflight missions England participated in, he has been able to link the in-class material on satellite ground-tracks to an actual spacecraft that launched during the semester, and led discussions of how the ground-track plays into the operations and remote sensing of the spacecraft.
  • In his larger classes, England has worked extensively to make use of intelligent online tools for homework submission and grading, which has enabled him to maximize time in office hours. He maximizes his use of graduate teaching assistants’ support to provide student interaction.
  • England is working as part of a committee to reimagine the department's Ph.D. curriculum. He and his fellow committee members are working to allow for more flexibility and to enable students to gain the necessary specialist skills for a new landscape of interdisciplinary research, while still maintaining academic rigor in the fundamentals of aerospace engineering.

Jake Grohs
Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Education

  • With an award from the Virginia Tech Engage Faculty Fellows program, Jake Grohs infused community-engaged learning into seven foundations of engineering II sections to design and build museum-ready interactive exhibits for children ages 0-6 in partnership with the Children’s Museum of Blacksburg.
  • Based on feedback from Ph.D. students and alumni, he taught a course in applied statistics for educational research using R — an open source language and software — to build a foundation that can easily be expanded for advanced analyses, rather than  software that is not free and has analysis limits.
  • Grohs collaborated with colleagues in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering to develop a special topics course, Systems Thinking in Complex Collaborative Environments. A primary goal of the course was to explore these varying definitions by investigating the building blocks of "systems thinking" and similar-seeming constructs from a variety of literature bases (e.g., systems engineering, engineering education, public policy, higher education) with the aim of characterizing intersections and unique nuances from the different perspectives.

Mark Pierson
Associate Professor of Practice, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Mark Pierson enjoys working with the outstanding students that are part of the College of Engineering. “It is always a pleasure to teach them, mentor them and do research with them,” he says. “They are always very dedicated and are able to come up with innovative solutions when needed.” He goes above and beyond to provide avenues to access him, using the Canvas discussion board, office hours in person and on Zoom, and direct contact by phone or text.
  • Incorporating technology into his courses, Pierson uses a tablet for every lecture’s notes and examples, infuses in-class quizzes utilizing students’ mobile devices to check concept understanding and problem solving, and provides access to an online learning community for students to engage in real-life, advanced applications of course material outside the classroom.
  • Pierson has redesigned four of his distance learning courses for graduate students in nuclear engineering to be delivered fully online in an asynchronous format, passing the “Quality Matters” certification through TLOS. The effort has helped enable the mechanical engineering department to offer the Master of Engineering in Nuclear Engineering program fully online.


Faculty Fellows

Alan Asbeck
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Alan Asbeck is grateful for how supportive, kind, and encouraging COE faculty and staff are in their interactions broadly, but especially when it comes to assistant professors. They say "it takes a village to raise a child," but Alan feels the same thing is true for new faculty members. “At Virginia Tech, I have been supported not only by my official mentor and department chair, but also by numerous other people in my department and in other departments,” he says. “This spirit of helping and wanting others to succeed is invaluable.”
  • His research is focused on helping people to regain capabilities they have lost, or enable people to perform feats that were not previously possible. His current research includes the design and evaluation of new exoskeletons for the back, upper body, and lower body.
  • Asbeck’s lab has included a large number of undergraduates in research, including many individuals from under-represented groups. In the last five years, more than 60 undergraduates have participated in research, with many staying for multiple years or becoming graduate students with the lab.

Jonathan Boreyko
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Jonathan Boreyko is the principal investigator of the Nature-Inspired Fluids & Interfaces Lab. Inspired by animals, plants, and the weather, the group's research involves characterizing unexplored phenomena and designing innovative materials and systems.
  • He appreciates how engaged and friendly students are. “Without even having to advertise, every year, I have multiple undergrads walk into my office asking if they can join my research group,” he says. “Further, the grad students always step up to help train and mentor these undergrads, which enables them to take on their own research projects.”  As a result, Jonathan has already had 17 papers featuring undergrad authors, in some cases even as the first author.  “To see both undergrads and grads, who span a huge variety of ages and countries of origin, unite together to have fun and do impactful research makes my job feel worthwhile,” he says.
  • Boreyko extends his expertise to the general public through his dissemination of research through major media outlets such as the New York Times, participation in large public showcases, and participation in various summer programs for middle and high school students.

Walter C. Lee
Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education, Engineering Education

  • Walter Lee’s research broadly focuses on identifying areas of opportunity within engineering education to advance inclusion and diversity, and he leads the GUIDE Research Group: Growing in our Understanding of Inclusive Diversity in Engineering, which is a unique and collaborative effort between engineering education researchers and student-support practitioners. Inspired by changing demographics in the United States and the globalization of engineering, his research team is committed to enriching the experiences of students from underrepresented groups and advancing understanding of the role diversity plays in engineering education and practice.
  • His favorite part about working for the College of Engineering is the opportunity to explore so many different topics with undergraduate and graduate students from around the world.
  • Lee has collaborated with Drs. David Knight and Jeremi London to develop a college-wide seminar course entitled Graduate Student Success in Multicultural Environments. Walter also led the engineering education department's effort to restructure the curriculum for the engineering education Ph.D. program.

Robin Marie Queen
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics and Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Robin Queen’s research is explicitly empirical and offers not only applied solutions to sports and orthopaedic injuries, but also a broader understanding of biomechanical principles and how the human system works. At its broadest, her research investigates movement quality and load asymmetry to prevent injuries and restore joint function. Ultimately, her goal is to understand movement dysfunction in patient populations and explore how to retrain movement and improve movement quality to prevent the injuries that lead to joint degeneration and pain.
  • Outreach and engagement are central to her work and the work of her lab. She has been actively engaged with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity since her arrival at Virginia Tech. In addition to her work with CEED, she has coordinated and hosted National Biomechanics Day at Virginia Tech annually since 2015.
  • As a scientist, engineer, teacher, and member of various national and international scholarly and professional communities, Queen values opportunities to contribute actively to promoting inclusive work and learning environments. One of her priorities is to contribute actively to advancing diversity and modeling inclusion within and beyond the university community, incorporating her doctoral students and postdocs to foster their passion for outreach and service. Several advanced students have taken important roles in chairing sessions and participating in outreach and diversity efforts as well as taking responsibility for mentoring the undergraduate students who have an active role on the lab team.

Tripp Shealy
Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Tripp Shealy enjoys the opportunity to advise and mentor Virginia Tech’s amazing and diverse students. “Every day, I get to work with undergraduate and graduate students who are driven to create positive change in their communities through research and teaching,” says Shealy.
  • His research has helped improve a leading engineering rating system for sustainable infrastructure that is used by more than 6,000 professional engineers across the country, having been featured in Nature Sustainability.
  • Shealy was awarded a new research grant from the National Science Foundation to study systems thinking in engineering students, which is the ability to recognize interactions and optimize connections between components in a system. The project utilizes his unique neuro-imaging lab in Patton Hall used to study engineering cognition. For this project, he uses a neuro-imaging instrument to measure how changes occur in students’ brains when concept mapping, and the effect this has on their problem-solving ability and design choices.

Guoqiang Yu
Associate Professor, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

  • Guoqiang Yu enjoys interacting with and mentoring students. He says it is “a great honor seeing students mature.” He also enjoys conducting research in the encouraging environment of Virginia Tech: “The university supports us to pursue our passion and fulfill our potential.”
  • His research interests include machine learning, signal and image analysis, statistical modeling, optimization techniques and their applications, to develop computational tools to analyze and understand big data in the biomedical field, particularly related to brain research.
  • Yu has provided internship opportunities for local high-school students and undergraduate students to take part in research. He has also served as a judge for high-school science fairs.


Outstanding New Assistant Professors

Xianming (David) Bai
Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering

  • David Bai’s research goal is to use computer modeling to understand the underlying physical mechanisms of various materials science phenomena that are otherwise difficult to explore experimentally.
  • His previous awards include: 2020 ICTAS Junior Faculty Award; 2019 NSF CAREER Award; 2018 ORAU Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award; 2015 TMS Young Leader Professional Development Award.
  • Bai developed a course called Advanced Molecular Dynamics Simulation, in which students learn the theory of molecular dynamics simulation method first, then use LAMMPS software to conduct hands-on molecular dynamics simulations to connect theory and simulation.

Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz
Assistant Professor, Charles Edward Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • As of July 2019, Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz has brought in just over $3 million in external awards, including $1.535 million as his personal share. His funding sources include the National Science Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, US Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • His studies atmospheric chemistry, with a focus on understanding the sources and transformations of organic compounds in indoor and outdoor air. For example, in his paper published in Science, he and his co-authors identified volatile chemical products (pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products) constituted half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities. Since its publication less than 2 years ago, the paper has been cited 111 times and is listed as a “Hot Paper” on the Web of Science database, indicating a position in the top 0.1% of papers in the academic field of geosciences.
  • Isaacnab-VanWertz's approach to teaching centers on experiential learning opportunities, such as a hands-on, small group project in which students work to develop and test a prototype instrument based on microcontrollers, sensors, and basic electronics, culminating in a final report and presentation.  Another course includes field trips tolocal laboratories, including the Blacksburg National Weather Service station, and the VT Mass Spectrometry Incubator, where students engage with researchers using state-of-the-art tools to gain insight into the “behind-the-scenes” of collecting atmospheric measurements.

Zheng Li
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

  • Zheng Li’s research group focuses on the design, manufacturing, and recycling of energy storage materials and systems. His goal is to design innovative energy storage systems and manufacturing processes to meet the need for electric transportation and electrical grids.
  • In his new course, “Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),” Li leads students through hands-on lab sessions connecting the sensors and controllers to the IIoT platform and performing data transfer and analysis, aggregating their background knowledge in programming language, mechanical design, control, and electrical engineering.
  • Li enjoys research, teaching new courses, and advising electric vehicle and robotics-related senior design teams.

Tanushree Mitra
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

  • Tanushree Mitra is one of the founding members of the Credibility Coalition group, an international organization of interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners dedicated to developing standards for news credibility and tackling the problem of online misinformation.
  • She has been invited to speak at numerous venues beyond academia, such as panels at the NATO Strategic Communications Center, the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, D.C., and the Google Disinformation convening in Mountain View, CA.
  • Mitra is most proud to have received the NSF CRII Award, the ICTAS JFA Award, and the Foley Scholarship for excellence in research contribution.
  • Along with her Ph.D. and master’s advisees, Mitra is a strong advocate of undergraduate research. She has previously advised over 10 undergraduate students, many of them computer science majors, but also journalism, communications, sociology, and industrial and systems engineering majors. Work done by two of these students have led to research papers at top tier ACM conferences.

Eli Vlaisavljevich
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

  • Eli Vlaisavljevich finds that the best part about working at Virginia Tech is the opportunity to work with so many great students and collaborators across campus. The interdisciplinary environment at Virginia Tech has allowed his research group to establish many collaborative research projects with other faculty members in BEAM, across the College of Engineering, and in other colleges and institutions. His research group’s collaborations have included undergraduate, graduate, and medical students working together with faculty from many disciplines in a team science environment.
  • Vlaisavljevich’s group is primarily developing histotripsy and other therapeutic ultrasound strategies for non-invasive cancer ablation and diagnosis. Outside of their work in the context of cancer, they have projects developing novel focused ultrasound extraction (FUSE) technology for the rapid extraction of DNA from timber and other complex tissues. They also have smaller projects developing focused ultrasound strategies for non-invasive neuromodulation, tissue regeneration, and biomaterial-associated infections.


W.S. "Pete" White Award for Innovation in Engineering Education

Diana Bairaktarova
Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Education

  • Diana Bairaktarova’s blended, multi-modal “Introduction to Spatial Visualization” course integrates the following elements of instruction: video lectures, free-hand sketching techniques, outdoor sketching, CAD instruction, and 3D-printed object manipulation. A culminating activity for the fall semester includes visiting a local senior living facility and an Appalachian middle and high school to decorate holiday trees with 3D ornaments the students design and print themselves.
  • She utilizes the Spartan AR app, designed to help users further develop their mental rotation abilities in support of a holistic understanding of three-dimensional objects. Research has shown that in combination with a traditional curriculum, the app increases students’ learning gains, abilities, and persistence, especially those starting with poor spatial visualization skills.
  • Bairaktarova says she feels “privileged to be working in a place where students come first,” and where colleagues highly respect values of empathy, compassion, and service to the community.