Incoming Faculty Bring New Areas of Research to Rensselaer

September 9, 2016


From strategic marketing decisions, to material fabrication, to bio-imaging for musculoskeletal research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is welcoming new experts in research as 13 professors join the faculty in the 2016-17 academic year.

Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson greeted returning and incoming faculty members during the annual Faculty Welcome Back reception, held this year at the President’s Residence on September 1. In her remarks to faculty, Jackson spoke about the founding vision of Rensselaer as a school that would instruct students “in the application of science to the common purposes of life.” That founding vision has served to define Rensselaer as a place where practical experience and hands-on learning are integral to education.

“We not only pioneered education in science and engineering, we pioneer true interactive and engaged learning— through, for example, the studio classroom and the flipped classroom,” Jackson said. “We still encourage, in every way possible, our students to be active participants in their own learning, and partners with our faculty in research.” 

Jackson discussed how that historical fabric is a fitting basis for The New Polytechnic, a modern construct that is reshaping Rensselaer as a crossroads for collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions to address complex global challenges. The New Polytechnic is an emerging paradigm for higher education which recognizes that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.

“We have great traditions here at Rensselaer, and an even more remarkable future ahead of us—thanks to the remarkable quality of our faculty, and your inventive instruction and research,” Jackson told the faculty. “We are very proud of the work all of you do, in collaborating with each other, in solving the hard problems, and in teaching the next generation of discovers and innovators to be equally nuanced, and equally bold.”

Faculty who will join Rensselaer during the 2016-2017 academic year are:

Deva Chan, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and an expert in bio-imaging for musculoskeletal research. Chan earned a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from the University of California at Berkeley, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of California Davis, and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Purdue University.  At Rensselaer, she will develop noninvasive imaging methods and computational models to assess soft tissue biochemistry and biomechanics in longitudinal studies of injury and repair, and elucidate the wound-healing mechanisms and cellular responses after traumatic joint injury.

Mamadou Diagne, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical, and Nuclear Engineering and an expert on dynamical modeling and control of screw extrusion for additive manufacturing technologies. Diagne earned a bachelor’s degree in control and electrical engineering from the University Blaise Pascal, and a master’s and doctorate in control engineering from the Université Claude Bernard Lyon. At Rensselaer, Diagne will focus on the advanced controls of manufacturing processes.

Scott Forth, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, with a research focus on the molecular mechanisms that power and control the physical motion of genetic material within cells as they undergo division and replication. Forth earned bachelor of physics and bachelor of music degrees from Oberlin College, and a doctorate in physics from Cornell University.

Vivek Ghosal, professor and head of the Department of Economics and an expert in antitrust and regulatory matters. Ghosal earned a master’s degree in economics from the Delhi School of Economics and a doctorate in economics from the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

Alex Gittens, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, with a research focus on the intersection of large-scale machine learning, high-dimensional probability and statistics, and numerical linear algebra, to develop statistical and computational theory and tools to extract value from massive datasets. Gittens earned a bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics from the University of Houston and a doctorate in computational mathematics from California Institute of Technology..

Mert Hakan Hekimoglu, assistant professor at the Lally School of Management and an expert on the intersection of analytics and supply chain management. Hekimoglu earned a bachelor’s degree industrial engineering and a master’s degree in finance from Bilkent University in Turkey, and a master’s degree in economics and a doctorate in supply chain management from Syracuse University. Hekimoglu focuses on combining analytical modeling with data analysis to explore how operational decisions can be used to address supply chain disruptions and market uncertainties.

Hyun Gook Kang, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and an expert on risk analysis for nuclear power systems. Kang earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate in nuclear engineering from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. At Rensselaer, Kang will focus on the development of innovative methodologies that can drastically enhance the safety of next-generation nuclear power plants, with special focus on on-line integrity monitoring of standby safety components, human error in a computerized environment, and driving force uncertainty analysis. 

Rhett Russo, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and an educator and researcher in the area of computational design and material fabrication. Rhett earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University.

Jacob Shelley, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, with a research focus on developing, building, and applying atmospheric pressure plasma-based mass spectroscopy instrumentation to provide rapid and in-depth characterizations of samples in situ. Shelley earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Northern Arizona University, and a doctorate in analytical chemistry from Indiana University. 

George Slota, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, with a research focus on efficient solution of large-scale graph-theoretic problems on many-core architectures such as GPUs and Xeon Phis. Slota earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a doctorate in computer science and engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

Ravishankar Sundararaman, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and an expert on advanced theoretical and computational methods based on electronic structure theory to predict material properties and phenomena in nanoscale systems. Sundararaman earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a doctorate in physics from Cornell University. At Rensselaer, Sundararaman will develop “ab initio multi-physics” methods to quantitatively predict the properties of nanoscale systems starting from quantum simulations of electrons in materials, and use these methods to design nanoscale materials with properties inaccessible in conventional materials for applications including electronic devices, sensing, energy conversion, and storage.

Nina C. Young, assistant professor in the Department of the Arts. Young completed her undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in ocean engineering and music, and earned a master’s degree in music composition from McGill University, and a doctorate in musical arts from Columbia University. 

Shan Yu, assistant professor at the Lally School of Management, with a research focus in strategic marketing decisions such as money-back guarantees, pricing, and technology-licensing contract design in the domains of health-care service, high technology, and B2B marketing. Yu earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Shandong University, a master’s degree from Jinan University, and a doctorate from the University of Arizona.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.” For more information, please visit

Written By Mary L. Martialay
Press Contact Mary L. Martialay
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