Nine new tenured/tenure-track faculty members and three lecturers will join the McKelvey School of Engineering in the 2022-23 academic year, broadening the scope of the school’s robust teaching and further strengthening its research. 

Computer Science & Engineering


Nathan Jacobs, professor 

  • PhD, computer science, Washington University in St. Louis
  • BS, computer science, University of Missouri

Nathan Jacobs joins McKelvey School of Engineering from the University of Kentucky, where he has been on the faculty since 2010, most recently as professor of computer science and director of graduate studies (data science).  He joined the faculty July 1.

Jacobs’ research focus is developing learning-based algorithms and systems for processing large-scale image collections. He is developing techniques for mining information about people and the natural world from geotagged imagery, including images from social networks, publicly available outdoor webcams and satellites. He is a Taylor Institute Fellow of the St. Louis-based Taylor Geospatial Institute, which brings together eight leading research institutions to collaborate on research into geospatial technology. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and Google, among others. He holds two U.S. patents and has received numerous awards and honors, including the College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research at the University of Kentucky in 2018.



Cynthia Ma, lecturer

  • PhD, computer science, Washington University in St. Louis
  • BA, computer science and biology, Swarthmore College

Cynthia Ma, who was a doctoral student in the lab of Michael Brent, professor of computer science & engineering, began teaching data mining in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering in fall 2021. She will join the department Sept. 1. 

Her research interest lies in the study of gene regulatory systems, specifically on using mathematical modeling to infer the activity of transcription factors in cell signaling pathways from large datasets of gene expression measurements.



Hussein Sibai, assistant professor

  • PhD, MS, electrical and computer engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • BE, computer and communication engineering, American University of Beirut

Hussein Sibai will join the McKelvey School of Engineering faculty Jan. 1, 2023, from the University of California, Berkeley, where he is a postdoctoral scholar in the electrical engineering and computer sciences department. Sibai has won the best poster award in HSCC 2018 and best paper nominations at HSCC 2017 and ATVA 2019. His work has been recognized by the Rambus fellowship, the Ernest A. Reid fellowship, the MAVIS Future Faculty fellowship and the ACM SIGBED gold medal for the graduate category in the student research competition in CPS Week 21.

His research is on trustworthy autonomy, spanning the areas of cyber-physical systems (CPS), formal methods, control theory and machine learning. He develops theory and builds tools to efficiently design, evaluate and deploy assured autonomous systems. His results were published in leading control and formal verification venues such as HSCC, ATVA, TACAS, and CAV.  He designed symmetry-exploiting algorithms that enabled orders of magnitude speedup in formally verifying the safety of complex CPS with machine-learned components, found optimal bit rates for state estimation and control, and evaluated the robustness of perception modules of autonomous systems.



Chenguang Wang, assistant professor

  • PhD, computer science, Peking University
  • BS, computer science, Beijing Institute of Technology

Chenguang Wang will join the faculty this fall from the University of California, Berkeley, where he had a postdoctoral appointment with the BAIR and security labs. Previously, he was a research scientist at Amazon AI and a research staff member at IBM Research-Almaden.

In his research, Chenguang focuses on techniques and systems for making natural language processing (NLP) trustworthy in real-world settings ranging from science to industry. His recent work focuses especially on the performance, interpretability, robustness and ethics of deep learning models. He has created several impactful open-source deep learning systems, including GluonNLP, one of the most popular deep learning for NLP systems, and AutoGluon, which has 4,600 GitHub stars. His research has influenced real-world scenarios and is deployed in a wide range of applications including voice assistants, biomedicine, math, finance, cognitive science, search engines and e-commerce platforms.


Division of Engineering Education 


Peizhen Zhu, senior lecturer

  • PhD, MS, applied mathematics, University of Colorado Denver 

Peizhen Zhu is an associate teaching professor in the computer science department at Missouri University of Science & Technology. She joined the faculty of Missouri S&T as an assistant teaching professor in 2014 and was promoted to associate teaching professor of computer science in September 2021. She received the Outstanding Teaching Award in the department of computer science in 2021 and holds one US Patent.  She joins the McKelvey Engineering faculty Sept. 1.  

Zhu’s research interests span a range of areas related to matrix computations, including numerical linear algebra, numerical analysis, optimization, graph algorithms, data mining, eigenvalue and model predictive control. Her teaching interests include Applied Engineering Statistics, Introduction to MATLAB Programming, Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, Introduction to Numerical Methods and Algorithms. She also has worked as a consultant or member of the research staff for Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories. 


Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering


Jenna Ditto, assistant professor

  • PhD, MS, chemical and environmental engineering, Yale University
  • ScB, chemical engineering, Brown University

Jenna Ditto will join the faculty Jan. 1, 2023, from the University of Toronto, where she is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry. As a doctoral student at Yale, her research focused on developing new tools to study the chemical makeup of particulate matter in the atmosphere using high-resolution mass spectrometry techniques. Throughout her degree, she collaborated on several field measurement campaigns in the U.S. and Canada.  

Her postdoctoral research uses laboratory chamber experiments and field measurements to investigate the formation, emissions and transformations of air pollution from major indoor sources, with a focus on cooking. During her doctoral and postdoctoral work, she earned the Wagner Award for Women in Atmospheric Sciences in 2019 and participated in 16th Atmospheric Chemistry Colloquium for Emerging Senior Scientists (ACCESS) in 2021.

Her research interests lie at the interface between indoor and outdoor air quality. She seeks to answer questions such as the impacts of poor outdoor air quality and variable building quality on indoor chemical exposures the ultimate health impacts of our indoor activities and exposures.



Xinhua Liang, professor

  • PhD, chemical engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • BS, MS, chemical engineering, Tianjin University, China

Xinhua Liang joins McKelvey Engineering in August from Missouri University of Science & Technology, where he is the Linda and Bipin Doshi Associate Professor of chemical and biochemical engineering and has been a member of the faculty since 2012. Previously, he was a research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of the R&D Department at Neo-Dankong Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in China.

Liang’s research interests are in the synthesis, functionalization and applications of nanoparticles. Liang is internationally recognized for gas-phase atomic/molecular layer deposition in scalable fluidized bed reactors to synthesize or functionalize nanomaterials for various applications, such as catalysis and energy storage. He has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers. He has received numerous awards and honors while at Missouri S&T, including the Faculty Research Award in 2015, 2019 and 2021; Faculty Excellence Award, 2018; and Dean's Scholar, College of Engineering and Computing, 2016-2018.



Kristen Wyckoff, lecturer

  • PhD, civil engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • BSE, MSE, environmental engineering, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia

Wyckoff joined the McKelvey Engineering faculty Jan. 1, 2022, as a lecturer after working as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for four years. They have experience teaching graduate and undergraduate lecture and lab-based courses in environmental engineering, water resources engineering and engineering communication.

Their research interests relate to the integration of active learning and outreach into classroom and laboratory settings. In addition to engineering topics, they also have a history of and interest in improving diversity and inclusion in university settings, with a special interest in the LGBTQIA+ community. Wyckoff has completed Safe Zone training, STRIDE training, and is also an ASCE ExCEEd Teaching Fellow (2018, Florida Gulf Coast). They are a member of AEESP, ASEE and ASCE and is a registered professional engineer (P.E.) (environmental) in Tennessee.


Lu Xu, assistant professor

  • PhD, chemical engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • BEng, chemical engineering, Zhejiang University

Lu Xu will join McKelvey Engineering in August 2023 from University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is a research scientist in the Chemical Science Laboratory for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Previously, he was a postdoctoral scholar, then staff scientist for the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at California Institute of Technology. 

Xu’s research interests are in air quality and climate change. He has investigated the atmospheric chemistry of organic compounds from diverse sources (wildfires, vegetation, power plants, etc.) and the subsequent impacts on air quality, human health and climate. He also developed analytical methods based on mass spectrometry to characterize the complex atmospheric composition. His research involves laboratory studies, field measurements and instrument development.



Joshua Yuan, professor and chair

  • PhD, University of Tennessee
  • MS, University of Arizona
  • BS, Fudan University

Joshua Yuan joined the McKelvey School of Engineering faculty in May as professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University, where he was professor and chair for synthetic biology and renewable products. Since 2018, Yuan has been a professor in the departments of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and of Chemical Engineering as well as in the Program of BioEnvironmental Sciences at Texas A&M University. In addition, he was director of the Synthetic and Systems Biology Innovation Hub since 2015. To date, he has been awarded more than $22 million in funding as a principal investigator or as co-investigator from the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and others.

His research encompasses four major directions: renewable biomaterials, carbon capture and utilization, integrated biorefining and systems and synthetic biology. It addresses broader challenges in energy and environmental sustainability. He also focuses on designing biorefinery and biomaterial from biomass as well as innovative technologies for environmental remediation, carbon capture and utilization. In addition to his academic research, Yuan also is an entrepreneur, serving as chief scientific adviser and co-founder of SynShark LLC, which produces and supplies high-quality terpene oils, such as tobacco-derived squalene, to be used as an adjuvant for vaccines or an emollient for cosmetics.


Electrical & Systems Engineering


Andrew Clark, associate professor

  • PhD, electrical engineering, University of Washington
  • MS, mathematics, University of Michigan
  • BSE, electrical engineering, University of Michigan

Andrew Clark will join the McKelvey Engineering faculty Sept. 1 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. He joined its faculty in 2015. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award; a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation; and numerous awards for best paper from conferences.

Clark’s research is in the areas of control and security of autonomous cyber-physical systems (CPS); complex networks; resilience; control- and game-theoretic security modeling; combinatorial optimization; and network security. One research project seeks to prevent power system blackouts and malware/epidemic propagation in cyber, social and biological networks through a framework for adaptive, agile and resource-efficient controlled islanding and reconnection with minimal service disruption. Another project is developing design methodologies to synthesize of cyber-physical systems that verifiably satisfy given safety and performance requirements when an unknown set of system components is compromised.


Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science


Xianglin Li, associate professor

  • PhD, mechanical engineering, University of Connecticut
  • BS, MS, mechanical engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China

Xianglin Li joins McKelvey Engineering Aug. 1 from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Kansas, where he is an associate professor. Previously, he was a senior scientific engineering associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2020, he received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He also has received numerous awards from the University of Kansas for his scholarship.

Li’s research interests are in batteries and fuel cells, including lithium-oxygen batteries and battery thermal management; greenhouse gas emissions and full fuel cycle analysis of fossil fuels; and life cycle assessment and economic analysis of advanced energy techniques, among others. Li has co-written more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, multiple conference papers and three U.S. Department of Energy and National Laboratory reports.


The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

Click on the topics below for more stories in those areas