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New faculty join Engineering

The School of Engineering & Applied Science will add five new faculty members for the 2016-17 academic year, bringing the total faculty number to 90. A sixth faculty member will join the following year.

"I am excited to welcome this diverse group of faculty, which will greatly enhance our education and research within the school and in the university at large," said Aaron F. Bobick, dean and the James M. McKelvey Professor. "These faculty members will bolster already-strong areas of research and add new areas of inquiry to our research portfolio. With these new hires, the school is on track to reach 100 faculty members by 2020."



Damena D. Agonafer, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Agonafer joins the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science as an assistant professor from Stanford University, where he has been a postdoctoral scholar in mechanical engineering since 2012. He received the Alfred P. Sloan PhD Program Fellowship in 2012 and the GEM PhD Engineering Fellowship from 2006-08. He will join the faculty July 1.

Education: Agonafer earned a doctorate in mechanical science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012, a master's in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006, and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2004.

Research: Agonafer's research focuses on the intersection of thermo-fluid sciences, electrokinetic and interfacial transport phenomena and renewable energy. His goal is to bring transformational changes in the areas related to electrochemical energy storage, cooling of high powered micro and power electronics, and water desalination by tuning and controlling solid‐liquid‐vapor interactions at micro/nano length scales.

Alvitta Ottley, Computer Science & Engineering

Ottley joins the Department of Computer Science & Engineering from Tufts University, where she recently completed a doctorate. Previously, she was a research intern for IBM Research and the Human-Centered Computing Lab at Clemson University. She received the Kirk and Janelle Loevner Fellowship Award from Tufts in 2014. She will join the faculty Sept. 1.

Education: Ottley earned a doctorate and a master's in computer science from Tufts University in 2016 and 2013, respectively, and a bachelor's in computer science from State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2010.

Research: Ottley's research focuses on designing personalized and adaptive visualization system, including information visualization, human-computer interaction, visual analytics, individual differences, personality, user modeling and adaptive interfaces.

Kimberly M. Parker, Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Parker joins the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, where she recently completed a doctorate and was a graduate research fellow. She received numerous awards and honors while a graduate student, including the Abel Wolman Fellowship, the Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She will join the faculty Jan. 1, 2018.

Education: Parker earned a doctorate in environmental engineering & science from Stanford University in 2016, a master's in chemical & environmental engineering from Yale University in 2013, and a bachelor's in civil & environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.

Research: Parker investigates environmental organic chemistry in natural and engineered systems. Her thesis work is focused on characterizing photochemical processes in the marine and estuarine environment. She also is exploring how hydraulic fracturing can impact downstream drinking water quality.

Vijay Ramani, Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Ramani joins the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, where he was the Hyosung S.R. Cho Endowed Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and had been a member of the faculty since 2005. In addition, he has been an extraordinary professor at North West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. He has received numerous honors and awards, including a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and the ONR Young Investigator Program Award. He will join the faculty Aug. 1 and will hold an I-CARES Endowed Professorship.

Education: Ramani earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, in 2004 and a bachelor's in chemical engineering from Annamalai University in India in 2000.

Research: Ramani's research focuses on a variety of areas, including corrosion resistance in mixed metal oxide electrocatalyst materials; anion conducting polymers in situ electrochemical diagnostics to probe electrochemical systems; microstructure property relationships in porous electrodes; hybrid polymer electrolytes; degradation mitigation through in situ radical scavenging and bifunctional electrocatalysts.

Patricia Weisensee, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Weisensee will join the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science in January 2017 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned the Siemens Energy Award in 2014, the Robert E. Miller Fellowship and a scholarship of the Dr. Jürgen und Irmgard Ulderup Foundation. She will join the faculty Jan. 1, 2017.

Education: Weisensee will earn a doctorate in mechanical science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in December 2016. She earned the equivalent of a master's degree from Technical University in Munich, Germany, in mechanical engineering, and a master's in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Research: Her research interests include solid state and phase change heat transfer, two-phase flows, droplet impact and wettability of surfaces. Her research goal is the advancement of thermal-fluid science and the improvement of renewable energy systems. She is interested in fundamentals of liquid-solid interactions, phase change phenomena for cooling and thermal storage and microfabricated materials for thermal routing. She has done internships at Siemens Solar Thermal Energy Division, Feinmechanischen Werkstätte and MAN Truck & Bus, all in Germany.

Quing Zhu, Biomedical Engineering

Zhu joins the Department of Biomedical Engineering from the University of Connecticut, where she studies near-infrared tomography using diffused waves, photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging techniques, optical coherence tomography and the clinical applications of these imaging techniques on breast and ovarian cancer detection and diagnosis. She joins the faculty July 1.

Education: Zhu earned a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's in biomedical engineering from the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and a bachelor's in applied mathematics from Northern Jiaotong University.

Research: Zhu combines ultrasound and near infrared (NIR) imaging modalities for clinical diagnosis of cancers. This combined approach overcomes the localization uncertainty of optical reconstruction and improves the ultrasound diagnosis. She and her team have explored the theory and modeling behind this novel technique and have conducted clinical studies at the UConn Health Center and Hartford Hospital. Initial results have shown great success in early diagnosis of malignant and benign breast lesions and in predicting and monitoring breast cancer treatment response using this technique. Her pioneering research has now been heralded by the imaging and radiology community as an important advance in society's ability to distinguish benign and malignant lesions in the breast.