2021 Faculty Fellows
Dean's Award for Excellence
Michael J. Bortner
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
- Michael Bortner’s research is focused on advanced manufacturing of polymer composites, with an emphasis on using rheology to fundamentally understand processing impacts on resulting part properties. His research group investigates flow behavior of polymers and polymer composites in an effort to understand relationships between the physics of polymer mobility and the formation and/or evolution of solid state properties of formed parts as a function of process physics (thermal profiles, processing speed, etc.). This research is targeted at next generation advanced manufacturing techniques such as material extrusion additive manufacturing (3D printing) and generation of aligned, discontinuous fiber reinforced structural composites. In 2019, he was honored with the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Undergraduate Research Advisor of the Year Award.
- Actively involved in outreach efforts, Michael Bortner works to educate industry scientists and engineers on the fundamentals of polymer processing, rheology, and process-structure-property relationships through workshops and short courses delivered at Virginia Tech and numerous industry sponsor locations. Since late 2016, he has been an instructor for 34 short courses offered through continuing education at Virginia Tech, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Adhesion Society, and on an ad-hoc basis at multiple Fortune 500 companies.
- The COVID-19 pandemic presented an outreach opportunity regarding availability of personal protective equipment. Michael Bortner’s research group worked on the design and production of 3D printed protective face shields that were NIH approved and disseminated broadly to the local and regional front line workers and health care community. In addition, they also facilitated test plan development and implementation to help qualify 3D printed nasopharengyl swabs for COVID testing. Serving on executive committees of multiple professional societies: Structural Division Chair (2020-2021) and Annual Meeting co-chair (2021-2-22) for the Adhesion Society, Membership Chair (2018-2020) and elected Treasurer (2021-2022) for the American Chemical Society Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division.
- Michael Bortner serves on the VT Chemical Engineering diversity committee to enhance diversity in all aspects of the department, as faculty mentor for the Society of Plastics Engineers VT student chapter, and as a faculty mentor at the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI). He also participates and leads outreach initiatives to attract underrepresented pre-college students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and to Virginia Tech, such as through the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity summer camps.
Assistant Professor and Steven O. Lane Junior Faculty Fellow, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Mona Ghassemi’s research interests include electrical insulation materials and systems, high voltage/field technology, Multiphysics modeling, plasma science, electromagnetic transients in power systems, and power system analysis and modeling. She has had 80 publications, including 33 journal papers. In addition, she has created an integrated education plan that will help to train the next generation of high electric field and electrical insulation engineers/ researchers.
- In 2020, Mona Ghassemi made history as only the second member of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to receive the NSF CAREER Award and the Department of Defense Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research Program Award in the same year. She is the fourth faculty member in the department to receive both of these awards during their career.
- Service to her profession is important to Mona Ghassemi. She is an At-Large Member of the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society (DEIS) for 2020-2023, a Corresponding Member of the IEEE Conference Publication Committee (CPC) of the IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), an active member for several CIGRE working groups and the IEEE Task Forces, and a member of the Education Committee of the IEEE DEIS and PES. She is a Senior Member of IEEE since 2016 and a Professional Engineer since 2015. Mona is Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, IET High Voltage, and the International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education; and Editor of Power Electronic Devices and Components (PEDC), Elsevier. In addition, she collaborates with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED) at Virginia Tech on K-12 outreach activities designed to attract women and ethnic minorities to the field of electrical engineering.
Associate Professor, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Qiang Li’s current research focuses on integrated power management solutions for laptop, smartphone applications, high-frequency power conversion with advanced semiconductor devices for datacenter and cloud computing applications, and high-density, high-efficiency power conversion for electric vehicles.
- Qiang Li serves as Chair for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Circuits and Electronics area, co-leader for the energy and power electronic systems major in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and as an executive board member for Center for Power Electronics Systems(CPES).
- In 2017, Qiang Li was honored with the NSF CAREER Award. He received the First Place Prize Paper Award for 2016 in the IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics.
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science
- Kurt Luther is the director of the Crowd Intelligence Lab. This lab builds and studies systems combining the complementary strengths of crowdsourced human intelligence and artificial intelligence (AI). The lab’s current projects focus on improving open source intelligence (OSINT) analysis, combating disinformation and misinformation, identifying unknown people and places in historical and modern photos, and understanding real-world crowdsourced investigations. He has been honored with an NSF CAREER Award.
- Communicating his research to the public via outreach is one of Kurt Luther’s passions. His research and expert commentary has been featured in national media such as The History Channel, NPR, PolitiFact, Slate, Smithsonian, Snopes, and TIME, and he served as a technical advisor for the CBS drama series Wisdom of the Crowd. A number of Kurt Luther’s research projects have applications to historical scholarship. One example is the creation of the Civil War Photo Sleuth, a free website that combines crowdsourcing and facial recognition technology to identify unknown soldiers in American Civil War-era photos. In 2018 the project launched at the National Archives in Washington DC attracting over 15,000 registered users who have contributed over 15,000 historical photos to the site. The website has been used to identify previously unknown Civil War photos in public collections such as the Library of Congress.
- Based in the Virginia Tech Campus in Arlington, VA, Kurt Luther serves the launch committee for the Computer Science Masters of Engineering degree for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, the stakeholder committee for a new professional master’s degree in Human-Centered Technology Design, and provides insights for Innovation Campus space planning and industry partnerships.
Associate Professor, Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
- At Virginia Tech, Divya Srinivasan’s research has been dedicated to a central purpose - spanning multiple industrial sectors including manufacturing, warehousing, agriculture, and service occupations. She is co-director of the Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics Laboraties. Her research aims to enhance our fundamental understanding of human behavioral adaptations to both internal (e.g., fatigue) and external (e.g., new interventions) constraints in the workplace. Applications of our work generally include developing performance prediction tools; formulating worker training programs; and designing and evaluating wearable robotics technology (including assistive robotics and worker augmentation technologies such as passive exoskeletons and powered robotic devices). Her research program has been supported by several grants (totaling $14 millions, with a PI share of $4.5 millions) from the U.S. National Science Foundation, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, as well as by industry sponsors such as Ford and Boeing.
- Divya Srinivasan was awarded the William C Howell Young Investigator Award, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Assistant Professor for Virginia Tech Engineering. She has also been honored as an International Research Ambassador for Occupational Health Research for the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.
- Outreach goes hand-in-hand with her work. Divya Srinivasan has been engaging with the Center for Enhancing Engineering Diversity (CEED) through hands-on teaching and lab demonstrations, participating as a mentor in the C-Tech2 summer program for high school girls interested in engineering, and organizing lab tours and hands-on lab activities for over cadets in the STEM Leadership Academy program organized by CEED. She has also organized hands-on activities in the Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics Labs for over 200 high school students as part of the National Biomechanics Day since 2017. She has presented her research group’s work to workers and stakeholders in several industrial sectors, including agriculture, construction and emergency response, to increase awareness, promote technology adoption, and for us to receive feedback on stakeholder concerns and considerations in our work.
Pablo A. Tarazaga
Associate Professor and John R Jones III Faculty Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering
- Pablo Tarazaga’s research focuses on the advancement of novel and fundamental insights that harness, measure, mitigate and analyze vibrations using complex multiphysics modeling, innovative experimental testing, and physical implementations. His research group’s goals are to leverage these advancements, with other faculty across the college, to create a center for environmental testing that serves the industry and government needs. With Virginia Tech being a land grant university, his research group strives to make sure our work has both local and global impact. For example, they host high school engineering workshops to promote and recruit future STEM students, specifically aimed at underrepresented groups. Likewise, they host international workshops with industry, government and academia to promote their research and relationships.
- At Virginia Tech, Pablo Tarazaga serves in an incredibly unique role as a residential Faculty Principal in the Honors Residential Commons. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life, one whose full impact and transformative power, both to his family, the students and faculty, is difficult to convey. In 2017, he and his family took the leap and moved into East Ambler Johnston Hall’s Honor Residential Commons. As a live-in Faculty Principal, sets the intellectual and social vision for a community of 300+ honors students.
- Pablo Tarazaga has received the Favorite Faculty Award from the Division of Student Affairs, Housing and Residence Life, at Virginia Tech. He is also the John R. Jones Faculty Fellow. In 2017 he received the ASNT Fellowship Award and in 2015 he received the AFOSR Young Investigator Award.