Skip to content ↓

New engineering faculty for 2016-2017

The School of Engineering welcomes 13 new professors.
First row (left to right): Matteo Bucci, Tal Cohen, and Ali Jadbabaie. Second row (left to right): Zachary P. Smith, Stefanie Mueller, Adam Belay, David Sontag, and Virginia Vassilevska Williams. Third row (left to right): Max Shulaker, Jennifer Rupp, Ryan Williams, Carmen Guerra-Garcia, and Zachary Hartwig
First row (left to right): Matteo Bucci, Tal Cohen, and Ali Jadbabaie. Second row (left to right): Zachary P. Smith, Stefanie Mueller, Adam Belay, David Sontag, and Virginia Vassilevska Williams. Third row (left to right): Max Shulaker, Jennifer Rupp, Ryan Williams, Carmen Guerra-Garcia, and Zachary Hartwig

The School of Engineering will welcome 13 new faculty members to its departments, institutes, labs, and centers during the 2016-17 academic year. With research and teaching activities ranging from nuclear fusion to computational complexity theory, they are poised to make vast contributions to new directions across the school and to a range of labs and centers across the Institute.

“We are pleased to welcome such a talented group of faculty to engineering at MIT this year,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “Every year we broaden the scope and the scale of what we can do, and of how we think about engineering. Our new faculty are often the ones who show us the way forward.”

The new School of Engineering faculty members are:

Adam Belay will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an assistant professor in July 2017. He holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University, where he was a member of the secure computer systems group and the multiscale architecture and systems team. Previously, he worked on storage virtualization at VMware Inc. and contributed substantial power-management code to the Linux Kernel project. Belay’s research area is operating systems and networking. Much of his work has focused on restructuring computer systems so that developers can more easily reach the full performance potential of hardware. He received a Stanford graduate fellowship, a VMware graduate fellowship, and an OSDI Jay Lepreau best paper award.

Matteo Bucci will join the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) faculty as an assistant professor in the fall of 2016. He received his PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Pisa in Italy in 2009. A research scientist in NSE since 2015, Bucci was previously at Commissariat à l’énergie atomique in France, where he led several research projects in experimental and computational thermal-hydraulics for light water reactors and sodium fast reactors. His research will focus in two main areas: heat transfer nanoengineering innovations to improve the safety and economic competitiveness of nuclear reactors, and advanced diagnostics and intelligent systems to improve situational awareness, fault detection and diagnostics, and anticipated failures in nuclear power plants. Bucci is an active member of the Consortium for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, one of the MIT’s eight Low-Carbon Energy Centers.

Tal Cohen will join the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as an assistant professor in November 2016. After she received her PhD in aerospace engineering in 2013 from Technion University in Israel, she came to MIT for a two-year postdoctoral position in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She is currently a postdoc at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Cohen works in mechanics, especially the mechanics of structures subjected to extreme loading conditions and shock wave propagation. Her work on the mechanics of stretchable materials that can undergo extreme deformations up to loss of stability, and on the mechanics of growth in both biology and engineering, exploits analogies with related fields. By employing complex nonlinear material models, Cohen’s research group will focus on deriving theoretical models that can significantly affect our understanding of observed phenomena but are still simple enough to be applied in design or characterization of materials.

Zachary Hartwig will join the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering in January 2017 as an assistant professor. He will also receive a co-appointment at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC). He received his PhD from MIT in 2014 for the development of a novel accelerator-based technique that advanced the ability to study the dynamic interaction of confined plasmas and the surrounding solid materials — known as plasma-material interactions — in fusion devices. Since 2014, he has been a postdoc at the PSFC, continuing to develop diagnostic techniques for plasma-material interactions, leading the establishment of a new laboratory for accelerator-based nuclear science, and leading the design of high-magnetic field net energy gain fusion devices that leverage new superconducting magnet technology. Hartwig’s research will focus on the development and application of particle accelerators, radiation detectors, and computational radiation transport simulations to magnetic fusion energy, nuclear security, and radiation damage in nuclear materials. He presently holds a U.S. Department of Energy ORISE Fellowship in the fusion energy sciences and is the recipient of the Del Favero doctoral thesis prize.

Ali Jadbabaie joined the MIT faculty as a full professor with dual appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society in July 2016. He is currently the JR East Professor of Engineering, the director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center, and the associate director of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at MIT. He is also a principal investigator in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Jadbabaie received his BS from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, his MS in electrical and computer engineering from the University of New Mexico, and his PhD in control and dynamical systems from Caltech. After a year as a postdoc at Yale University, he joined the faculty at University of Pennsylvania in July 2002. At Penn he was named an associate professor with tenure in 2008, a full professor in 2011, and the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Network Science in 2013. He also held appointments in computer and information science and operations as well as information and decisions in the Wharton School of Business. Jadbabaie is the inaugural editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, an interdisciplinary journal sponsored by several IEEE societies. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Career Award, an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award. In 2015, he received the Vannevar Bush Fellowship (formerly known as National Security Science and an Engineering Faculty Fellowship) from the office of Secretary of Defense. Jadbabaie’s students have won and been finalists of numerous best paper awards at various ACC and CDC conferences. He is also an IEEE fellow. He has made foundational contributions to the field of collective autonomy and opinion dynamics, and his current research interests include the interplay of dynamic systems and networks with specific emphasis on multi-agent coordination and control, distributed optimization, network science, and network economics.

Carmen Guerra-Garcia will join the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics as an assistant professor in the fall of 2017. Graduating from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid with an aeronautical engineering degree in 2007, Guerra-Garcia then matriculated in the Space Propulsion Laboratory at MIT. She completed her PhD with a concentration in plasma physics and propulsion and a minor in numerical methods in 2014. Following a one-year postdoctoral position with Professor Paulo Lozano, Guerra-Garcia relocated to Boeing Madrid for a year. Her research will focus on the study of plasmas for aerospace applications, including plasma-assisted combustion, space propulsion, and lightning strikes on aircraft.

Stefanie Mueller will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an assistant professor in January 2017. She received her PhD in human-computer interaction (HCI) from the Hasso Plattner Institute in 2016, where she also received an MS in IT-systems engineering. In her research, Mueller develops novel interactive hardware and software systems that advance personal fabrication technologies. Her work has been published at the most selective HCI venues — Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Conference for Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), and User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) — and received a best paper award and two best-paper nominees. Mueller is an associate chair of the program committees at ACM, CHI, and UIST, and is a general co-chair for the ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Computational Fabrication that will take place at MIT in June 2017. She has been an invited speaker at MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Microsoft Research, Disney Research, Adobe Research, and others. In addition, her work has been covered widely in New Scientist, BBC, The Atlantic, and The Guardian. Mueller will head the HCI engineering group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which works at the intersection of human-computer interaction, computer graphics, computer vision, and robotics.

Jennifer Rupp will join the Department of Materials Science and Engineering as an assistant professor in January 2017. She studied at the University of Vienna before receiving a PhD in Materials at ETH Zurich. Rupp is a French and German native and is currently an assistant professor of electrochemical materials at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. She was a researcher at the National Institute of Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2011, and previously collaborated with MIT professors Tuller and Yildiz. Her research is primarily in solid-state information memory systems, energy storage, and energy harvesting devices. She has worked on new material architectures and ionic transport-structure relations for solid-state ionic conductor thin films, electrochemistry and system aspects for memristors, solid-state batteries, solar-to-fuel conversion, and micro-fuel cells. Rupp’s awards include “top 40 scientist speaker under the age of 40” at the World Economic Forum, Spark Award for most innovative and economic invention by ETH Zurich, and Kepler Award for New Energy Materials by the European Academy of Science.

Max Shulaker joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an assistant professor in July. He received his BS, master’s, and PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford, where he was a Fannie and John Hertz Fellow and a Stanford Graduate Fellow. Shulaker’s research focuses on the broad area of nanosystems. His Novel Electronic Systems Group aims to understand and optimize multidisciplinary interactions across the entire computing stack — from low-level synthesis of nanomaterials, to fabrication processes and circuit design for emerging nanotechnologies, up to new architectures — to enable the next generation of high performance and energy-efficient computing systems.

Zachary P. Smith will join the Department of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor in January, 2017. Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State’s Schreyer Honors College, and completed his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he worked under the guidance of Benny Freeman and Don Paul. While at UT Austin, Smith developed structure/property relationships for gas diffusion and sorption in polymer membranes. His postdoctoral training with Jeffrey Long at the UC Berkeley examined the design of coordination solid (i.e. metal-organic frameworks) for selective adsorption based separations. His research focuses on the molecular-level design, synthesis, and characterization of polymers and inorganic materials for applications in membrane and adsorption-based separations. These efforts are promising for gas-phase separations critical to the energy industry and to the environment, such as the purification of olefins and the capture of CO2 from flue stacks at coal-fired power plants. Smith has co-authored over 20 peer-reviewed papers and been recognized with several awards, including the DoE Office of Science Graduate Fellowship. He was also selected as a U.S. delegate to the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting on Chemistry in 2013.

David Sontag will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in January 2017 as an assistant professor, and he will be part of the Institute for Medical Engineering (IMES) and Science and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He has been an assistant professor in computer science and data science at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences since 2011. Previously, he was a postdoc at Microsoft Research New England. Sontag’s research interests are in machine learning and artificial intelligence with a recent focus on unsupervised learning, a problem of discovering hidden variables from data, and causal inference, which seeks to estimate the effect of interventions from observational data. As part of IMES, he will lead a research group that aims to transform health care through the use of machine learning. Sontag received the Sprowls award for his PhD thesis at MIT in 2010, best paper awards at the conferences EMNLP, UAI, and NIPS, and a National Science Foundation Early Career award in 2014. 

Ryan Williams will join MIT as an associate professor (with tenure) in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in January 2017, pending the approval of his tenure case by the Executive Committee. He received an BA in computer science and mathematics from Cornell, and a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. Following postdoctoral appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and IBM Almaden, he was an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford for five years. Williams’s research interests are in the theoretical design and analysis of efficient algorithms and in computational complexity theory, focusing mainly on new connections (and consequences) forged between algorithm design and logical circuit complexity. Along with some best paper awards, Williams has received a Sloan Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, and was an invited speaker at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians.

Virginia Vassilevska Williams will join electrical engineering and computer science as an associate professor in January 2017, pending the approval of her case by Academic Council. She received a BS in mathematics and engineering and applied science from Caltech and a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), UC Berkeley, and Stanford. Prior to joining MIT, she spent three and a half years as an assistant professor at Stanford. Her research interests are broadly in theoretical computer science, focusing on the design and analysis of algorithms and fine-grained complexity. Her work on matrix multiplication algorithms was covered by the press and is the most cited paper in algorithms and complexity in the last five years.

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News