Illinois Tech Welcomes New Faculty

By Marcia Faye
New Faculty

New faculty joining Illinois Tech in 2017–18 include researchers and scholars in Armour College of Engineering, Chicago-Kent College of Law, the College of Architecture, the College of Science, the Institute of Design, Lewis College of Human Sciences, the School of Applied Technology, and Stuart School of Business.

Mohammad Asadi joins the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering as an assistant professor. Previously he was a research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Asadi completed a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at UIC and received a M.S. in chemical engineering from Sharif University of Technology. He spent seven years working in the oil and gas industry before joining UIC. His research interests are in the experimental studies of surface chemistry in catalytic and electro-catalytic reactions; electrochemical energy storage (e.g., metal-ion and metal-air batteries) and energy conversion (e.g., CO2 reduction reaction) systems; and the design, synthesis, and characterization of advanced materials for energy-related applications.

Rahman Azari joins the College of Architecture as an assistant professor. He is an architect and a building scientist with a specialty in environmental modeling and building performance (energy, daylighting, life cycle assessment). He was an assistant professor in building technology at the University of Texas at San Antonio from 2013–17. With a background in architecture, Azari earned a Ph.D. in the built environment from the University of Washington in 2013. His research has been published in Energy and Buildings, Building and Environment, the Journal of Management in Engineering, and the Journal of Civil Engineering and Management. Azari has also participated in research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the Construction Industry Institute, the General Services Administration, and Skanska USA Building.

Somdev Banerjee joins the Department of Chemistry as a lecturer. He taught general chemistry and organic chemistry at Linn-Benton Community College. Banerjee obtained a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Oregon State University (2017), where he studied synthetic organic chemistry. He also completed a Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching.

Maria Debije Counts joins the College of Architecture as an assistant professor. She is a partner of Counts Studio, an international award-winning practice, where she directs urban landscape research and has lead a variety of international projects ranging from installations to gardens and parks. Her work has been included in the Rosa Barba International Biennial in Barcelona, Spain, and the Jardins de Métis in Québec, Canada. Debije Counts’s professional experience includes working with Reed Hilderbrand and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. A past visiting artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome and a Rudy J. Favretti Fellow of the Garden Club of America, Debije Counts is also a published author. She has a B.S. in landscape architecture from Cornell University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design.

Steve DuBois joins the Clinical Psychology Program as an assistant professor. For the past year he has been a faculty member at Adler University. DuBois also has been participating in a grant awarded to the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies focused on telephone-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. His research interest is broadly focused on health and relationships, including gay male couples, HIV prevention, and most recently, on health in long-distance relationships. DuBois received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed his clinical internship at the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital.

Yousef M. Elmehdwi joins the Department of Computer Science as a senior lecturer. In 2015 he was selected by the National Science Foundation to serve as entrepreneurial lead for the I-Corps program. Elmehdwi was a postdoctoral fellow in data privacy and health informatics at Emory University; his research interests lie at the crossroads of privacy, security, and data mining. He received a Ph.D. in computer science from Missouri University of Science and Technology, an M.Sc. in information technology from Mannheim University of Applied Sciences, and a B.S. in computer science from the University of Benghazi.

Michael Gentithes teaches legal writing at Chicago-Kent College of Law as a visiting assistant professor. He was an assistant appellate defender with the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender, where he briefed and argued appeals in courts throughout the state. Gentithes also worked in municipal government as a trial and appellate litigator in the City of Chicago Department of Law and in private practice at Kraus & Zuchlewski in New York. He obtained an LL.M. in legal theory from New York University School of Law after graduating summa cum laude from DePaul University College of Law and magna cum laude from Colgate University.

Bruce C. Gockerman joins Stuart School of Business as an industry assistant professor of public administration. He specializes in the use of cross-disciplinary analytics to understand and address complex issues, organizations, and environments; at Stuart, he applies the disciplines of policy, economics, and law. Gockerman earned a Ph.D. in management from Case Western Reserve University, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, a J.D. from Wayne State University, and a B.A. in economics from Eastern Michigan University.

Baisravan HomChaudhuri joins the Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering as an assistant professor. HomChaudhuri served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of New Mexico prior to joining the MMAE department. He received a Ph.D. (2013) and an M.S. (2010) in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a B.E. (2007) in electrical engineering from Jadavpur University in India. HomChaudhuri previously held a postdoctoral position at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. His research interests include distributed optimization and control, optimal control, model predictive control, estimation methods, motion planning, reachability analysis, robotics, and connected vehicle systems.

Yuan Hong joins the Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor. He was an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Albany. His research interests primarily lie at the intersection of privacy, security, and data analytics; his research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. Hong received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

Cody Jacobs teaches legal writing at Chicago-Kent College of Law as a visiting assistant professor. He was a Freedman Fellow at Temple University Beasley School of Law, where he taught Legal Research and Writing. He also was a clinical teaching fellow and founder of the Veterans' Economic Security Clinic at SUNY Buffalo Law School. Jacobs obtained a J.D. (magna cum laude, Order of the Coif) from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. (cum laude) from the University of South Florida. His scholarly interests include civil procedure, constitutional rights, firearms policy, and immigration law.

Mark Jones has been appointed as a visiting industry professor at the Institute of Design, where he taught for more than a decade as an adjunct faculty member. An award-winning service designer, Jones was vice president of design at United Healthcare and managing director of IDEO Chicago, where he worked on projects such as reinventing retail banking for State Farm, designing a new service strategy
for Walgreens, and developing a health care toolkit called Gutcheck that helps patients achieve better cancer-screening outcomes. His diverse design background includes clothing and jewelry design in New York, and five years as a technology futurist at Accenture.

Andrew “Andy” Kumiega joins Stuart School of Business as an assistant professor. His research interests are in information technology, data analytics, and industrial engineering techniques to create unique systems/algorithms for the financial industry. Kumiega obtained a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he also obtained an M.S. in industrial engineering and a B.S. in engineering management. Additionally, he earned an M.S. in finance from Stuart School of Business.

Trevor Lee joins the College of Architecture as a visiting assistant professor. His urban design experience in academia includes serving as the design fellow at UPSTATE, an urban design think tank that is an extension of the Syracuse University School of Architecture. Lee taught for more than a decade at the University of Pennsylvania, leading several national and international studios in urban design. While an associate at James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), he led the design for section 3 of the High Line. Lee also led JCFO’s winning entry for Chicago’s Navy Pier and most recently, OLIN Studio’s design for Pier 26 in Manhattan. Lee’s research office, Suprafutures, has been awarded, in association with the Land Art Generator Initiative, several grants to design and construct WindNest, the first energy-generating art installation in a public park in Pittsburgh.

Katie Leight joins the Department of Chemistry as a lecturer and will also be managing the organic chemistry laboratories in the fall semester. She obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Arizona (2017), where she studied organic photovoltaic materials. Leight was named a Distinguished Teaching Assistant for her work in organic chemistry and obtained a Certificate in College Teaching.

Chun Liu is the new Department of Applied Mathematics chair and professor. He was a professor in the Department of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, where he served since 1998. Liu also served for one term as associate director of the National Science Foundation-funded Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota, and has held positions at the University of Würzburg, the University of Tokyo, the University of Georgia, and Carnegie Mellon University. He has developed sophisticated techniques in nonlinear partial differential equations and applied them in novel ways to enrich the understanding of liquid crystal growth, polymers, and ion channels in cell membranes. Liu received a Ph.D. from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University in 1995.

Mohamed El Marzouki joins the Department of Humanities as an assistant professor. His research interests include youth citizenship, participatory media and politics, and digital youth cultures in North Africa and the Middle East. In his dissertation he explored the role social media platforms play in political dissent by youth in North Africa, focusing on the use of YouTube videos created by amateur users and how these videos shaped the political identities of young Moroccans. He was the recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation graduate student fellowship that helped to fund his research and allowed for his participation in seminars on the role of documentary media in informing sociopolitical change. El Marzouki received his Ph.D. in mass communications from Indiana University.

Tracey McGee has been appointed senior lecturer in the School of Applied Technology. While this is her first year as a full-time faculty member, McGee has worked at Illinois Tech since 2006, starting in the Center for Professional Development. She was instrumental in creating the English Language Services programs for the university and now serves as the director. Her background is based in English as a Second Language education, and she has significant experience in instruction, program development, and curriculum design.

Kiah Wah Ong joins the Department of Applied Mathematics as a lecturer. His specialty is in mathematical modeling and analysis with randomness. Before joining Illinois Tech, Ong spent several years teaching a variety of classes at the tertiary level. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Indiana earlier this year.

Zach Pino has been appointed as a studio instructor at the Institute of Design. He has served as an adjunct faculty member and a staff member at Illinois Tech since 2015. He focuses on digital product design and leads courses that investigate how both product and interaction design productively collide with computer science, animation, digital fabrication, and data visualization. Pino strives to design objects that exhibit an intelligence and awareness of their users and environment through parametric modeling technologies, sensor-enabled electronics, and reactive materials. His work has been displayed at museums and galleries globally.

Rajkumar P. V. joins the Department of Computer Science as a senior lecturer. He works in cybersecurity, abstract security models, and safety analysis. His teaching interests are in information security, data structures, and programming introduction. Rajkumar obtained his Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 2012 and also holds bachelor of engineering and master of engineering degrees in computer science.

Jenifer M. Robbins joins Chicago-Kent College of Law as director of experiential learning and lecturer. She is the former general counsel, chief operating officer, and senior managing director of FPL Advisory Group, a global professional services firm specializing in executive recruitment, compensation consulting, and organizational, financial, and strategic consulting. Previously Robbins was with Katten Muchin Rosenman, where she counseled public and private clients on a variety of general corporate and commercial matter. She has taught various courses at Chicago-Kent as an adjunct since 2013. Robbins received a J.D. from Harvard Law School (cum laude), and served as director of the Harvard Legislative Research Bureau and as a supervising editor for the Harvard Journal on Legislation. She received a B.A. in finance and political science (magna cum laude) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Jason Romano has been appointed senior lecturer in the School of Applied Technology. He began as a program manager in the Office of Professional Development in 2014. Integral to the accreditation process for Illinois Tech’s English as a Second Language programs, he now serves as the assistant director of the English Language Services programs. Romano’s background includes 10 years of ESL education as both an instructor and an administrator.

Amandeep Sandhu has been appointed assistant professor of food chemistry. She has been working at the Institute for Food Safety and Health as a senior research associate since 2014 and conducts important research in the areas of food chemistry, food safety, and nutrition. Sandhu obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, where she also performed postdoctoral research.

Ruth Schmidt (M.Des. ’09) has been named director of strategic initiatives and visiting industry professor at the Institute of Design. She most recently was an innovation program leader at Doblin, where she led teams and senior clients in applying design methodology to frame and solve complex challenges. Schmidt also served as Doblin’s design capability lead, shepherding design initiatives and the growth of the design practice. Prior to her work in innovation, she spent 12 years in the e-learning industry as design director on digital learning projects for corporate, educational, and civic institutions. Schmidt was an adjunct faculty member at ID for many years, teaching behavioral economics, semiotics, and communication theory + design. In addition to her master’s degree from ID, she received a B.A. in semiotics from Brown University.

Despina Stasi (AMAT, CS ’03) has been appointed senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Mathematics. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012, she was a postdoctoral researcher in computational algebraic geometry and algebraic statistics. She is a co-principal investigator on a project related to this area funded by the National Science Foundation.

J. D. Trout will join Lewis College of Human Sciences as the John and Mae Calamos Endowed Chair in Philosophy in January 2018. Trout was a professor of philosophy and psychology at Loyola University Chicago. His research interests include the philosophy of science, epistemology, and cognitive science. Trout’s most recent book, Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science, uses evidence from psychology and the history of science to make new arguments about scientific realism. He has published four other books and has a forthcoming volume based on a series of lectures he delivered through the Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professorship in Philosophy. Trout has held visiting positions at a variety of institutions including the University of Chicago, the University of Helsinki, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Innsbruck. He received a Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science from Cornell University.

Alla Vronskaya joins the College of Architecture as an assistant professor. She is an architectural historian whose work examines the relationship between architecture, science, and the techniques of social engineering in the modern period. She has taught at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Vronskaya received a Ph.D. in the history, theory, and criticism of architecture from MIT in 2014, and has been a recipient of fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, and the Swiss government.

Heng Wang joins the Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering as an assistant professor. An experimental material scientist with a longtime interest in the transport properties of semiconductors, Wang is the recipient of the 2014 Goldsmid Award from the International Thermoelectric Society and a recipient of a Chinese government award in 2012 for outstanding students who are studying abroad. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and completed a Ph.D. at California Institute of Technology in 2014, a joint master’s degree at Tsinghua University and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) in 2008, and a bachelor’s degree at Tsinghua University (China) in 2005. At Armour College of Engineering, Wang will develop a research program to characterize, understand, and engineer charge and heat transport in semiconductors.