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2021 Outstanding New Assistant Professors

Dean's Award for Excellence

Pinar Acar

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Pinar Acar
  • Pinar Acar works in the fields of multi-scale modeling of materials, design optimization, uncertainty quantification, and machine learning.  She has currently authored/co-authored more than 75 journal and conference papers, and 2 book chapters for the NATO Science and Technology Organization.  Currently she is developing a new graduate course, Optimization Techniques in Engineering.

  • An awardee of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) 2021 and a recipient of the prominent International Amelia Earhart Fellowship, which is annually awarded to 30 female researchers in aerospace sciences, Pinar Acar has been recognized for her work.  In addition, she is listed as a top scientist in the “Standardized Citation Metrics Author Database” in Aerospace Engineering field and Materials sub-field by Mendeley (Baas, J.; Boyack, K. and Ioannidis, J. P. A. 2020), and was invited to write review article by the prestigious Progress in Materials Science journal.

  • Pinar Acar is currently serving in many technical committees and groups in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), and The U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM).

Oumar Rafiou Barry

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Omar Rafiou Barry
  • Oumar Rafiou Barry’s research interests lie at the intersection of nonlinear vibrations and robotics, focusing on vibration control, structural health monitoring, and energy harvesting. The goal is to create novel analysis, design, and control techniques for the discovery of emerging technologies with applications in smart grid, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and autonomous systems. His research is divided into four thrust areas as follows: (1) mobile robots for vibration control and inspection of civil infrastructure, (2) human vibrations and assistive robotics, (3) adaptable metamaterials and metastructures, and (4) accuracy and precision in advanced manufacturing.

  • Students in Oumar Rafious Barry’s classes gain greatly from his seven years of industry experience as he provides them with enough industrial and practical examples to reinforce theory in the classroom. In addition, he uses state-of-art engineering software to solve engineering problems.  For instance, in his mechanical vibration course, he has dedicated time in the class for his students to learn how to use Matlab to solve vibration problems, encouraging them to use it as part of class projects.

  • In collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority groups, Oumar Rafiou Barry is working to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities towards pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers.  His work with NSBE is designed to involve NSBE undergraduate students in his research group by providing them opportunity to conduct original research and inspiring these NSBE students to pursue graduate school in engineering. His collaboration with AKA is designed to organize an annual STEM summer workshop at Virginia Tech to draw middle and high school students towards STEM fields by exposing them to engineering activities and experiences.  In addition, he is working in collaboration with the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity to continuously recruit and provide undergraduate research opportunities to community college students via the NSF funded Virginia Tech Network for Engineering Transfer Students (VTNETS) program.

Matthew Hicks

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Matthew Hicks
  • Matthew Hicks’ research focus is securing hardware from attacks during its design and fabrication, including side channels. He has a special interest in the analog-domain aspects of circuits that operate in the digital domain, including how they fail and how they retain data.  His work includes building tools to better test hardware designs, the discovery of new vulnerabilities, and the development of new defenses to protect hardware from attack.  He also focuses his research on performing long-running computation on harvested energy, called intermittent computation. As the chips that software runs on get smaller, it becomes increasingly untenable to power them with large, expensive, and sometimes explosive batteries. He replaces batteries with energy harvested from the myriad of energy sources that continually bombard us.

  • A team of students from computer science and computer engineering make up the capture the flag team led by Matthew Hicks. The team competes with students at other universities in a semester-long competition, put on by MITRE, to attack and defend embedded systems. Students gain experience working as a team to tackle real-world security problems.

  • In 2021 Matthew Hicks received an NSF CAREER Award.  He received the R&D 100 award in 2020 and the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2019.

Jeremi London

Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Education

Jeremi London
  • Jeremi London recently was honored with an NSF CAREER Award, entitled “Disrupting the Status Quo Regarding Who Gets to be an Engineering,” will study the change strategies of five engineering colleges that have consistently been among the top 10 producers of Black and brown engineers over the last 5 years to understand their "secret sauce" and then share it with others. Her research moves her closer to her career aspiration of being a nationally-recognized thought leader and a university administrator that positively impacts individuals, organizations, and systems that influence who gets to be an engineer.

  • In 2021, Jeremi London received the Virginia Tech Principles of Community Group award with fellow Virginia Tech Engineering faculty members David Knight and Walter Lee.  Together, they developed a seminar course that is offered to nearly all new Virginia Tech Engineering graduate students with a blended focus on mentoring and honoring our differences. The course is called Graduate Student Success in Multicultural Environments (GSSME) and were honored with this award for creating this innovative and impactful class.

  • As an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), she’ll lead the ASEE Year of Impact on Racial Equity (2021-2022) during her term as Chair of Commission on DEI, which is a three-prong initiative that engages engineering student organizations, colleges of engineering, and parents of K-12 children in the quest for a more equitable and inclusive engineering.

Yuhao Zhang

Assistant Professor, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Yuhao Zhang
  • Yuhao Zhang’s current research is at the intersection of power electronics, microelectronic devices, and advanced semiconductor materials. In addition, he explores the application of machine learning into microelectronics and power electronics. His overarching research goal is to revolutionarily innovate the electrical energy processing in electric vehicles, power grids, data centers, and renewable energy generations through new semiconductor devices and microelectronic systems.

  • In 2021, Yuhao Zhang received the NSF Career Award.  In 2019 he was awarded the IEEE George E. Smith Award. He has received over $2 million in research funding with his share over $1.8 million. He has authored and co-authored over 70 publications and holds 4 granted U. S. patents. His work has recently been covered by over 10 media globally and highlighted by Nature Electronics.

  • For the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Yuhao Zhang is the curriculum lead for the micro/nano-systems major. In working closely with the IEEE Electron Device Society and IEEE Power Electronics Society, Yuhao Zhang has delivered over five webinars and tutorials for students.