Martin Polz - New faculty in engineering

Twelve new faces join six academic departments in the School of Engineering.
School of Engineering
February 2, 2015

Twelve new faculty members have been invited to join the ranks of the School of Engineering at MIT. Drawn from institutions and industry around the world, and ranging from distinguished senior researchers to promising young investigators, they will contribute to the research and educational activities of six academic departments in the school and a range of other labs and centers across the Institute.

“This year we are welcoming another exceptionally strong group of new faculty to engineering,” says Ian A. Waitz, Dean of the School of Engineering. “They are remarkably accomplished, and their research spans some of the most important and pressing challenges in the world. I can’t wait to see what they do.”

The new School of Engineering faculty members are:

Mohammad Alizadeh will join the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in September 2015. He was a principal engineer at Cisco, which he joined through the acquisition of Insieme Networks in 2013. Alizadeh completed his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Sharif University of Technology and received his PhD in electrical engineering in 2013 from Stanford University, where he was advised by Balaji Prabhakar. His research interests are broadly in the areas of networked systems, data-center networking, and cloud computing. His dissertation focused on designing high-performance packet-transport mechanisms for data centers. His research has garnered significant industry interest: The Data Center TCP congestion control algorithm has been integrated into the Windows Server 2012 operating system; the QCN algorithm has been standardized as the IEEE 802.1Qau standard; and most recently, the CONGA adaptive load-balancing mechanism has been implemented in Cisco’s new flagship Application Centric Infrastructure products. Alizadeh is a recipient of a SIGCOMM best-paper award, a Stanford Electrical Engineering Departmental Fellowship, the Caroline and Fabian Pease Stanford Graduate Fellowship, and the Numerical Technologies Inc. Prize and Fellowship.

Tamara Broderick will start as an assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science in January 2015. She received a BA in mathematics from Princeton in 2007, a master of advanced study for completion of Part III of the Mathematical Tripos from the University of Cambridge in 2008, an MPhil in physics from the University of Cambridge in 2009, and an MS in computer science and a PhD in statistics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Her recent research has focused on developing and analyzing models for scalable, unsupervised learning using Bayesian nonparametrics. She has been awarded the Evelyn Fix Memorial Medal and Citation (for the PhD student on the Berkeley campus showing the greatest promise in statistical research), the Berkeley Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and a Marshall Scholarship.

Michael Carbin will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an assistant professor in January 2016. His research interests include the theory, design, and implementation of programming systems, including languages, program logics, static and dynamic program analyses, run-time systems, and mechanized verifiers. His recent research has focused on the design and implementation of programming systems that deliver improved performance and resilience by incorporating approximate computing and self-healing. Carbin’s research on verifying the reliability of programs that execute on unreliable hardware received a best-paper award at a leading programming languages conference (OOPSLA 2013). His undergraduate research at Stanford received the Wegbreit Prize for Best Computer Science Undergraduate Honors Thesis. As a graduate student at MIT, he received the MIT-Lemelson Presidential and Microsoft Research Graduate Fellowships.

James Collins joined the faculty in the Department of Biological Engineering and as a core member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. Collins received a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Oxford and was formerly the William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, university professor, professor of biomedical engineering, and director of the Center of Synthetic Biology at Boston University. He is a world leader in bringing together engineering principles and fundamental biology to make new discoveries and invent systems that can improve the human condition. Collins is among the founders of the field of synthetic biology.

Otto X. Cordero will join the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as an assistant professor. He received a BS in computer and electrical engineering from the Polytechnic University of Ecuador, and an MS in artificial intelligence and PhD in theoretical biology from Utrecht University. For his dissertation, Cordero worked with Paulien Hogeweg on the scaling laws that govern the evolution of genome size in microbes. While a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research Postdoctoral Fellow working with Martin Polz, he pursued a study of ecological and social interactions in wild populations of bacteria, and demonstrated the importance of these interactions in generating patterns of diversity and sustaining ecological function. In 2013 Cordero was awarded the European Research Council Starting Grant, the most prestigious career award in Europe, to reconstruct and model networks of ecological interactions that form between heterotrophic microbes in the ocean. Since November 2013, he has been an assistant professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The main goal of Cordero’s lab is to develop the study of natural microbial communities as dynamical systems, using a combination of experimental and computational approaches.

Areg Danagoulian joined the faculty in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) as an assistant professor in July 2014. He received a BS in physics from MIT and a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was a postdoctoral associate at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and subsequently worked as a senior scientist at Passport Systems Inc. Danagoulian’s research interests are focused in nuclear security. He works on problems in the areas of nuclear nonproliferation, technologies for arms-control treaty verification, nuclear safeguards, and nuclear-cargo security. Specific projects include the development of zero-knowledge detection concepts for weapon authentication, and research on monochromatic, tunable sources that can be applied to active interrogation of cargoes. Other areas of research include nuclear forensics and the development of new detection concepts. Danagoulian’s research and teaching will contribute to NSE’s growing program in nuclear security.

Ruonan Han joined the electrical engineering and computer science faculty in September as an assistant professor. He is also a core member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. He earned his BS from Fudan University in 2007, an MS in electrical engineering from the University of Florida in 2009, and his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell University in 2014. Han’s research group aims to explore microelectronic-circuit and system technologies to bridge the terahertz gap between microwave and infrared domains. They focus on high-power generation, sensitive detection and energy-efficient systems. Han is the recipient of the Electrical Computing and Engineering Director’s Best Thesis Research Award and Innovation Award from Cornell, the Solid-State Circuits Society Pre-Doctoral Achievement Award and Microwave Theory Techniques Society Graduate Fellowship Award from IEEE, as well as the Best Student Paper Award from IEEE Radio-Frequency Integrated Circuits Symposium.

Juejun (JJ) Hu joined the faculty in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in January 2015 as an assistant professor and as the Merton C. Flemings Career Development Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He comes to MIT from the University of Delaware, where he was a tenure-track assistant professor. Previously, he was a postdoc in MIT’s Microphotonics Center. As the Francis Alison Young Professor, Hu initiated and led research projects involving environmental monitoring, renewable energy, biological sensing, and optical communications. He received the 2013 Gerard J. Mangone Young Scholars Award, which recognizes promising and accomplished young faculty and is the University of Delaware’s highest faculty honor. His research is in three main areas: substrate-blind multifunctional photonic integration, mid-infrared integrated photonics, and 3-D photonic integrated circuits. Hu’s group has applied photonic technologies to address emerging application needs in environmental monitoring, renewable energy harvesting, communications, and biotechnology. He earned a BS in materials science and engineering from Tsinghua University, and a PhD from MIT.

Rafael Jaramillo will join the materials science and engineering faculty as an assistant professor and the Toyota Career Development Professor in Materials Science and Engineering in the summer of 2015. He has a BS summa cum laude and an MEng, both in applied and engineering physics, from Cornell University. He also holds a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago. Jaramillo is currently a senior postdoctoral fellow at MIT in the Laboratory of Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP). His interests in renewable energy and accomplishments in developing materials systems and techniques for energy applications led to him receiving the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to his appointment in LMP, Jaramillo was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His research interests lie at the intersection of solid-state physics, materials science, and renewable energy technologies.

Stefanie Jegelka joined the faculty in the electrical engineering and computer science in January 2015. Formerly a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, she received a PhD in computer science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tuebingen, Germany), and a diploma in bioinformatics with distinction from the University of Tuebingen in Germany. During her studies, she was also a research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and spent a year at the University of Texas at Austin. She conducted research visits to Georgetown University, the University of Washington, the University of Tokyo, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, and Microsoft Research. She has been a fellow of the German National Academic Foundation and its College for Life Sciences, and has received a Google Anita Borg Fellowship, a Fellowship of the Klee Foundation, and a Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Machine Learning. Jegelka organized several workshops on discrete optimization in machine learning, and has held three tutorials on submodularity in machine learning at international conferences. Her research interests lie in algorithmic machine learning. In particular, she is interested in modeling and efficiently solving machine-learning problems that involve discrete structure. She has also worked on distributed machine learning, kernel methods, clustering, and applications in computer vision.

Aleksander Madry is a former assistant professor in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) School of Computer and Communication Sciences and started as an assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science in February 2015. His research centers on tackling fundamental algorithmic problems that are motivated by real-world optimization. Most of his work is concerned with developing new ideas and tools for algorithmic graph theory, with a particular focus on approaching central questions in that area with a mix of combinatorial and linear-algebraic techniques. He is also interested in understanding uncertainty in the context of optimization — how to model it and cope with its presence. Madry received his PhD in computer science from MIT in 2011 and, prior to joining EPFL, spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England. His work was recognized with a variety of awards, including the Association for Computing Machinery Doctoral Dissertation Award Honorable Mention, the George M. Sprowls Doctoral Dissertation Award, and a number of best paper awards at Foundations of Computer Science, Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, and Symposium on Theory of Computing meetings.

Xuanhe Zhao joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty in September 2014 as an assistant professor. Before joining MIT, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. He earned his PhD at Harvard University in 2009. Zhao conducts research on the interfaces between solid mechanics, soft materials, and bio-inspired design. His current research goal is to understand and design new soft materials with unprecedented properties for impactful applications. His current research projects are centered on three bio-inspired themes: artificial muscle (dielectric polymers and electromechanics), tough cartilage (tough and bioactive hydrogels and biomechanics), and transformative skin (functional surface instabilities and thin-film mechanics). Zhao’s discovery of new failure mechanisms of dielectric polymers in 2011 and 2012 can potentially enhance electric energy densities of dielectric elastomers and gels by a factor of 10. In 2012, he designed a new synthetic biocompatible hydrogel with hybrid crosslinking, which achieved fracture toughness multiple times higher than articular cartilage — unprecedented by previous synthetic gels. With fiber reinforcements, Zhao further controlled the modulus of the tough hydrogel over a wide range from a few kilopascals to over 10 megapascals in 2013 and 2014. By harnessing surface instabilities such as wrinkles and creases in 2014, he dynamically varied both surface textures and colors of an electro-mechano-chemically responsive elastomers to achieve the dynamic-camouflage function of cephalopods. This work was highlighted by Nature News, reported by the The Washington Post, and featured on the MIT homepage: “How to hide like an octopus.” Xuanhe is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award, and the Early Career Researchers Award from AVS Biomaterial Interfaces Division.