The University of Arizona College of Engineering is welcoming an especially large class of new faculty this semester. Their expertise ranges from quantum computing to smart cities to mine ventilation to energy storage. This class also includes some of the first hires for the college’s new software engineering degree program.
“We welcome an exciting class of 16 new tenured, tenure track and career track faculty,” said Kathleen Melde, associate dean of faculty affairs and inclusion and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Three serve in leadership roles as the department heads for AME, ECE, and MGE. Each one of these new faculty has post-PhD experience, bringing in our most collectively experienced cohort of new faculty.”
Mohammad Abu Matar - Electrical and Computer Engineering / Software Engineering
Abu Matar holds a PhD in software engineering from George Mason University and has worked in industry for many years. Previous companies include LexisNexis, IBM Global Services and NobleProg. He has also worked as a senior researcher at Khalifa University, a consulting dean at the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair School of Advanced Computing, and as an associate professor and director of the MS in Software Engineering Program at Regis University.
His specialties include applied IT research, software engineering, cloud computing architecture, computing education and software architectural design.
Tejo Bheemasetti - Civil and Architectural Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Bheemasetti completed his PhD in civil engineering and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has also worked as an assistant professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He now joins CAEM as an assistant professor.
In his research, he investigates the way changing climate affects geomaterial behavior and works to develop sustainable solutions to infrastructure problems such as slope failure, soil erosion, settlement due to swell-shrink, and thawing-induced landslides.
“I grew up reading the textbooks written by Professor Desai and Professor Budhu, renowned geotechnical faculty here at the University of Arizona,” he said. “It’s exciting to work in a place where world-class textbooks are written. I am looking forward to being part of the dynamic CAEM team in solving complex infrastructure problems with changing climate.”
Wooyoung Jung - Civil and Architectural Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Jung earned his PhD in civil engineering from Virginia Tech, then worked as a postdoctoral research associate and a research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His research is focused on cognitive and adaptive buildings designed to provide benefit and comfort to occupants. More generally, he aims to realize sustainable build environments with high energy efficiency using Internet of Things and data-driven modeling approaches. He is excited to live in Tucson and be part of the College of Engineering’s forward-looking team as an assistant professor in CAEM.
“I was very much impressed by the vision of the leadership team: looking for a significant expansion of the College of Engineering, which will naturally foster interdisciplinary research initiatives,” he said. “Also, I find Tucson very attractive.”
Kray Luxbacher - Gregory H. and Lisa S. Boyce Leadership Chair of Mining and Geological Engineering
Luxbacher earned her PhD in mining engineering from Virginia Tech and went on to serve as a faculty member and head of the Department of Mining and Minerals at the same university. Her research is focused on atmospheric monitoring, ventilation system characterization, mine fire simulation and prevention and mine risk analysis. At Virginia Tech, she served as the faculty advisor for the Bevlee Watford Society for Diversity and Inclusion in Mining. She looks forward to supporting diversity in the department and working with the new School of Mining and Mineral Resources.
“Everything is really coming together at the University of Arizona for mining,” she said. “The university enjoys substantial external support for mining, domestic production of minerals for low carbon energy transitions is now a key federal initiative, and the school allows us to bring considerable multi-disciplinary expertise to solving the challenges of modern mineral production. It's a really exciting time to be here.”
Abhijit Mahalanobis - Electrical and Computer Engineering
After completing his PhD at Carnegie Mellon, Mahalanobis spent three years as an assistant professor here at the UA. He went on to work in both industry and academia, including at the University of Maryland, Martin Marietta, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and the University of Central Florida.
He looks forward to advancing his research in image and signal processing, with an emphasis on imaging systems and algorithms for machine learning. His interests are in developing portable, low-cost machine vision systems to advance areas like airborne surveillance and reconnaissance and night vision for autonomous vehicles.
“Coming back to the University of Arizona and to be a faculty member again in the ECE department gives me a sense of returning home to pick up where I left off years ago,” said Mahalanobis, now an associate professor in ECE. “I am looking forward to building a strong research program, to collaborating with faculty members in the College of Engineering and in other institutions, and to teaching and mentoring students.”
Farzad Mashayek – Head of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Mashayek earned his PhD in mechanical engineering at State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been the head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago for over a decade. There, he doubled the size of the faculty, increased undergraduate enrollment by 85% and grew graduate enrollment by 120%. He looks forward to fostering similar growth levels in AME.
His research focuses on two-phase turbulent reactive flow, and his research group has been working toward developing a software for numerical simulation of supersonic combustion in advanced engines. He also has ongoing research activities in energy storage and batteries, as well as electrostatic atomization.
“When I came for my interviews, I liked the vision of the dean and of the university as a whole,” he said. “I think there is a good opportunity to make an impact and build in some very niche areas.”
Zafer Mutlu – Materials Science and Engineering
Mutlu completed his PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of California, Riverside, then stayed at the university as a postdoc. He went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and a research affiliate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Now, he’s joining MSE as an assistant professor.
His research focuses on the design, synthesis, characterization, electronic device development, and large-scale integration of nanoscale and quantum materials.
“What brought me to the University of Arizona is the people and the vision,” he said. “The college has excellent leadership, a strong faculty, and dedicated staff, and they all have a clear and exciting vision for the future. I look forward to the journey ahead with colleagues and collaborators to push frontiers and train new generations of the workforce.”
Narayanan Rengaswamy - Electrical and Computer Engineering
After earning his PhD in electrical engineering from Duke University in 2020, Rengaswamy became a postdoctoral researcher in ECE. Now, he’s continuing his time in the department as an assistant professor.
His research focuses on using classical and quantum error correction techniques to reduce noise in quantum computing and networking. He has valued working with mentors Bane Vasic in ECE and Saikat Guha, an optical sciences professor and director of the National Science Foundation Center for Quantum Networks. Large-scale problems like climate change, digital security and even human health generate computational problems that could take thousands of years to solve. Quantum techniques could solve these problems much faster, but quantum states are fragile and difficult to maintain.
“The error correction techniques that I develop will help make these quantum systems more and more reliable, so that large enough quantum computers and networks can be built and used to solve these hard problems that we deeply care about,” he said.
Diana Saldana Jimenez - Systems and Industrial Engineering / Software Engineering
Saldana Jimenez earned her PhD in computer science from the University of Tijuana, then went on to serve as a program director for computer engineering at the Autonomous University of Baja California.
She has also worked as a professor at Arizona Western College and as a faculty member and researcher in the UA College of Applied Science and Technology. While she has conducted research into virtual reality and augmented reality, her role as a professor of practice for the college’s newest major is focused on fostering student success.
“I applied for the software engineering position because I like the program and it is related to my area of study,” said Saldana Jimenez, who co-advises the Western Engineering, Science and Technology Club. “I am looking forward to helping students find their career goals.”
Soheil Salehi - Electrical and Computer Engineering
Salehi earned his PhD in computer engineering from the University of Central Florida, then worked as a postdoctoral researcher and NSF-sponsored Computing Innovation Fellow at the University of California, Davis.
The ECE assistant professor researches the use of AI to secure Internet of Things sensing and computing hardware. He uses ground-up methods to ensure reliability, security and energy-efficiency of hardware, and works to bridge deep learning research with hardware design methods
“The College of Engineering at the University of Arizona is very respected as one of the leading engineering colleges in the nation as well as globally. I have been following the cutting-edge research being performed by ECE faculty, especially in the area of cybersecurity,” he said. “Additionally, the University of Arizona's strategic plan as well as strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion make me excited to join the College of Engineering.”
Pratik Satam - Systems and Industrial Engineering/Software Engineering
Satam received his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Arizona and has worked as a research assistant professor in the department for the last three years. He first came to the UA to work with Salim Hariri, a leading researcher in autonomic computing and security research. His research is centered on computers and computer networks, the Internet of Things and cyberphysical systems. Now, he looks forward to forming his own research group and working with students to address modern problems.
“In today’s day and age of smart devices, we are connected to the internet all the time. From our Google Homes, to self-driving cars, to connected Industrial Control Systems, technology is evolving at very fast pace, a trend that will continue in the 5G and beyond era (in the near future),” he said. “The critical component powering this evolution is software. Thus, I see software engineering playing an important role in the future.”
Monica Titus - Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Titus joins the university as an associate professor of practice after earning a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and working in industry for several years. She completed her undergraduate degrees at the UA, where she worked as a student researcher in CHEE And was part of the NASA Space Grant program. She’s looking forward to returning to her hometown, and to academia.
In her position as a professor of practice for CHEE, she’s eager to provide students with information about current industry needs and work environments. Over the past few years, she’s been working more often with new college graduates at her company.
“I found myself enjoying the process of introducing the new engineers to the various challenges we were facing and then collaborating to seek novel solutions,” she said. “I am looking forward to using my years of experience in the industry to guide students toward the tools and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed.”
Michael Wu - Head of Electrical and Computer Engineering
When Old Dominion University recruited Wu as the Batten Chair of Cybersecurity and the director of the School of Cybersecurity, the program’s first cohort had 11 students. In the last six years, Wu expanded the program to nearly 1,000 students – 60% of whom are from underrepresented minority backgrounds. Now, he’s coming to the UA to help grow degree programs, expand research portfolios, and develop new industry partnerships.
Wu has a PhD in computer science from SUNY Buffalo, and researches security and privacy in intelligent computing and communication systems. Wu enjoys the broad applications of ECE, including quantum computing, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, medical technology, drones, and autonomous vehicles.
“I really see that ECE is going to play a critical role in transforming a lot of those technologies,” Wu said. “We are already a very strong department, but we want to place ourselves among the top programs in the nation and in the world.”
Vitaliy Yurkiv - Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Yurkiv completed his PhD in scientific computing and material science at Heidelberg University, then went on to work for the German Aerospace Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He researches multi-physics modeling and machine learning calculation of energy storage and conversion technologies. His work in thermodynamics, computational solid mechanics, fluid mechanics and electrochemistry has applications in energy storage and conversion technologies. He also researches neural networks.
Yurkiv is excited to expand his multiscale modeling of complex energy storage systems.
“I will continue working in the area of multi-scale and multi-physics energy storage (secondary and flow batteries) modeling and simulation, as well as its system integration (e.g. electric vehicles), to further benefit the overall mission of the University of Arizona and society as a whole.”
Yurkiv also looks forward to his teaching responsibilities and plans to introduce students to new areas related to secondary batteries and electric vehicles. He plans to employ technologies like augmented reality in the classroom.
Liang Zhang - Civil and Architectural Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Zhang joins the university as an assistant professor in CAEM after earning a PhD in architectural engineering from Drexel University and working as a research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. His research interests center on energy efficiency and sustainability, particularly on using artificial intelligence, large-scale energy modeling and high-performance computing to create intelligent buildings and urban environments.
“The synergies of my research with CAEM and its faculty brought me here,” he said. “My research in the past 10 years explores how building can adapt to climate change and grid transformation, and my major research work on Urban Building Energy Modeling and grid-interactive efficient building perfectly aligns with the expanding focus of the department on increasing the sustainability and resiliency of the built environment.”
Danella Zhao - Electrical and Computer Engineering
Zhao completed her PhD in computer science and engineering at the University of Buffalo. She has worked as a Lockheed Martin Corporation/BORSF Endowed Associate Professor at the Center for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Most recently, she served as the graduate program director and associate professor of computer science at Old Dominion University. Now she is joining ECE as an associate professor.
Her research areas focus on high-performance secure and intelligent nanocomputing, including multicore/many-core computing, on-chip networking and Internet of Things applications.