Samueli School Celebrates End of Year, Presents Faculty Awards

2019 faculty award winners

June 24, 2019 - Samueli School faculty and staff gathered in early June for an end-of-the-year meeting, faculty award presentations and Dean Gregory Washington’s state-of-the-school address.

Washington noted several major accomplishments for the school. The hiring of 15 new faculty, a gift of $9 million to establish the Horiba Institute for Mobility and Connectivity, and the reorganization of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science into two new departments: Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Materials Science & Engineering are just a few.

Washington said that the school has been changing -- rapidly in some ways and slowly in others. “We have changed in bold and innovative ways, and we will continue to see increases in students, faculty and staff,” said the dean. “We must remain flexible and vigilant as we go through these growing pains. I can confidently say the state of the school is strong.”

He recognized two department chairs who are stepping down, Abe Lee and Kumar Wickramasinghe. Lee, the William J. Link Professor & Chair of the BME department from 2010-19, is the school’s longest serving senior administrator. Wickramasinghe, the Nicolaos G. and Sue Curtis Alexopoulos Presidential Chair of the EECS department from 2014-19, oversaw the largest department in the school. Washington thanked them both for their service and announced the incoming chairs: Zoran Nenadic will take the reins as chair of BME, while Athina Markopoulou will become chair of EECS.

Faryar Jabbari, associate dean of academic affairs, presented the following faculty awards:

Faculty Excellence in Research

Early Career: Iryna Zenyuk, assistant professor, CBE

Zenyuk joined the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in July 2018. Her research focuses on developing, characterizing and analyzing energy conversion and storage systems, with emphasis on fuel cell systems and their individual components. Zenyuk’s impressive research momentum, which began at Tufts University with two NSF and two DOE grants, has accelerated in her year at UCI. She quickly built her research group and participated in publishing 18 peer-reviewed journal papers, serving as lead or corresponding author on 10 of them. She delivered seven invited presentations and serves as a co-chair of the 2022 Fuel Cells Gordon Research Conference. As associate director for the National Fuel Cell Research Center, she has hosted prominent visitors from academia and industry. She has received funding from Robert Bosch and Toyota Research Institute of North America and a fellowship from the Electrochemical Society and Toyota. Additionally, she is one of 18 young scientists selected to the 2019 Early Career Advisory Board of the American Chemical Society Catalysis.

Mid-career: Mohammad Al Faruque, associate professor, EECS

Al Faruque is an active investigator with a strong research program in cyberphysical systems. He has amassed many achievements, including several campus and external awards, a large number of journal and conference publications and an impressive number of funded research grants, including several early career awards. Al Faruque has published 11 journal/transaction papers, nine conference papers and two book chapters during the review period, and his research results have been recognized with several best paper nominations. He received research funding of $1.8 million from sources such as the NSF, ONR and UCOP, as well as industry. Two IEEE cohorts recognized Al Faruque with early career awards, citing his outstanding contributions in the fields of cyberphysical systems and electronic design automation.

Senior Career: Zhongping Chen, professor, BME

A pioneer in the field of biophotonics, Chen has made groundbreaking contributions to the development of optical coherence tomography technologies. His work includes lab-based innovation and translation of these approaches for biological and clinical integration, with applications in dermatology, ophthalmology, neurobiology, cardiology, pediatrics and more. His recent work focuses on integrating OCT with acoustic-based methods to create new technologies that maximize the individual strengths of optics and acoustics while overcoming the limitations of each. He is a prolific author and fundraiser, with an h-index of 73 and over 20,000 citations. This year, he already has 12-peer-reviewed journal articles. He is a PI on four NIH R-1 grants and a co-investigator on DoD and NIH center grants with total new grant funding of $5 million since 2015. Since 2016, Chen has filed five nonprovisional patent applications on OCT technologies.

Faculty Innovation in Teaching

Early Career: Natascha Trellinger Buswell, assistant professor of teaching, MAE

Since joining the faculty in January 2018, Buswell has formed collaborations with the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation as well as the School of Education.  Buswell uses advanced techniques, such as evidence-based and engaged teaching practices, influencing the teaching climate of the whole department. Through her graduate-level course, Developing Teaching Excellence, she is training the next generation of faculty members, and her students have given her positive evaluations. She leads the Engineering Faculty Learning Community, meeting monthly with other faculty to address teaching-related issues, including managing large classes and incorporating active learning techniques. She also serves as co-director of the UCI Education Research Institute, which supports research in postsecondary education as well as underrepresented minorities and women.

Mid-career: Amir AghaKouchak, associate professor, CEE

AghaKouchak is a classroom innovator, who has created educational software for teaching hydrological sciences and engineering, and consistently receives high marks from students. His approach provides students with an application-oriented learning environment that helps them understand challenging theoretical concepts. His hands-on toolboxes are freely available and now widely used by other instructors. AghaKouchak also is a well-regarded graduate mentor. He maintains one of the largest groups in the department, actively engaging mentees in the coauthoring of research papers and offering opportunities for participation in workshops and conferences. Over the past three years, AghaKouchak has published 65 journal papers, 37 of which were led by his students and postdocs.

Senior Career: Michael McNally, professor, CEE

McNally, a faculty member for 32 years, has demonstrated innovation, excellence and extraordinary commitment to teaching, curriculum design and management. He has overseen changes to the requirements for civil engineering bachelor’s degrees; conducted annual group advising sessions for all CEE freshmen, sophomores and juniors; and addressed all program-related petitions. He has evaluated potential impacts of all proposed curriculum and course changes in order to improve students’ experience. For over a decade, McNally has led the senior capstone design course, which he helped create. He has organized student teams, found projects in coordination with industry, maintained industry contacts, and coordinated presentations and grading. He also has served as chair of the school’s Undergraduate Student Affairs Committee and twice as a member of the UCI Senate’s Council for Educational Policy.

Innovator of the Year Award

Andrei Shkel, professor, MAE

At UCI since 2000, Shkel has developed a highly innovative research program and established UCI’s state-of-the-art Microsystems Laboratory, which conducts cutting-edge research and provides rigorous multidisciplinary academic training in MEMS. Shkel’s lab is developing microchip-scaled designs and fabrication methods for inertial sensors, making them orders-of-magnitude smaller and less expensive. His goal is to replace the large, expensive gyroscopes and accelerometers used today, and his group is the first in the world to demonstrate experimentally that microchip-scale inertial sensors are capable of approaching navigation-level performance. He has over 40 issued U.S. patents, including six inventions that have been licensed exclusively by Northrop Grumman. Shkel’s UCI technology is a primary candidate to replace the fiber optic gyroscopes and eventually, the ring laser gyroscopes currently used in all commercial and military planes, military guidance systems, satellites and high-end robotic systems.

Faculty Service Award

Lorenzo Valdevit, associate professor, MSE

Valdevit has served since 2015 as the inaugural director of UCI’s Institute for Design and Manufacturing Innovation, which is working to establish the university as a national leader in advanced manufacturing through research, education and outreach. The IDMI has raised over $2.5 million in research funds, $5 million-plus in educational funds and has initiated several high-profile outreach activities in partnership with local organizations and the Irvine Unified School District. In addition, Valdevit has engaged in important service roles with the department, school and campus, including serving on the Samueli School Executive Committee, the Faculty Advisory Board for the Irvine Materials Research Institute and 10 years as chief faculty adviser for the UCI chapter of engineering honors society Tau Beta Pi. On campus, his service includes membership in the UCI Academic Senate Council on Faculty Welfare; the Academic Senate Council for Research, Computing and Libraries; and two years as chair of the Academic Senate Board on Undergraduate Scholarships, Honors and Financial Aid.

– Lori Brandt