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Cockrell School Welcomes New Faculty, 2013-14

new faculty 2013

From research in nanotechnology, coding theory and neurotherapy, to work in molecular cell biology and energy systems, this year’s incoming group of new faculty members exhibit a wide range of engineering expertise. Learn more about these impressive assistant professors below:

headshot of Vaibhav Bahadur

Vaibhav Bahadur

Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Vaibhav Bahadur joined the Cockrell School after four years of working in industry, most recently for GE Global Research. While at GE, Bahadur worked in the areas of flow assurance and efficiency/life enhancement of power plant components.

His research is focused in the fields of thermal and other energy systems, oil and gas flow assurance, materials and micro- and nanofabrication. He is interested in fundamental research that will eventually result in transformational changes in the global energy and water landscape.

Bahadur received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and completed postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
UT Austin is one of the preeminent public universities in the United States with excellent opportunities for high-impact research and teaching. UT Austin enables me to leverage Austin’s dominant presence in the technology and oil and gas sectors.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I love engineering but other than that I would love to take up a management consultancy role.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
I am very interested in tennis, soccer and swimming. I also love travel, books and discussions on business and politics.

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headshot of Tan Bui-Thanh

Tan Bui-Thanh

Assistant Professor
Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

Tan Bui-Thanh joined the Cockrell School from UT Austin’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES), where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow, a research associate and a research scientist. He will continue to be a member at ICES.

Bui-Thanh’s research focus is on two emerging areas: developing scalable methods for large-scale uncertainty quantification and numerical methods for exascale supercomputers. Bui-Thanh’s work will provide computer simulation algorithms for the next generation exascale supercomputers.

He received his doctorate in computational fluid dynamics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he also worked as a postdoctoral fellow until 2008. He received his master’s degree in high performance computation for engineered systems from the Singapore-MIT Alliance, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering aeronautics from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Vietnam.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
The ASE/EM department is consistently ranked among the top 10 in the United States. Its research in computational science and engineering is internationally recognized. I would like to be part of this tradition and strengthen it further with my interdisciplinary research in computational engineering.

What do you find most satisfying about your work?
I enjoy successfully developing new methods that solve large-scale practical problems that have not been done before.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Reading mathematics.

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headshot of Tricia Clayton

Tricia Clayton

(Future) Assistant Professor
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Tricia Clayton will join the Cockrell School after receiving her Ph.D. in 2013 in civil engineering from the University of Washington.

Clayton’s area of expertise is in structural engineering, and her research focuses on enhancing the seismic performance of steel buildings through innovative lateral-force resisting systems, such as the self-centering steel plate shear wall. This research aims to reduce building damage and repair costs following earthquakes.

In addition to her doctorate, Clayton’s master’s and bachelor’s degrees are both in civil engineering. She received her master’s from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s from North Carolina State.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
The friendliness and sense of community amongst the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering students, faculty, staff and alumni. UT Austin also has a great reputation for high-calibur students and world-class research facilities.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would be a high school teacher or work in some sort of program getting kids outdoors.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Hiking, camping, walking my dog and eating good food.

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headshot of Michael Cullinan

Michael Cullinan

Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Michael Cullinan joined the Cockrell School from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., where he was a National Research Council postdoctoral associate.

His research interests include the design and development of nanomanufacturing processes and equipment, the application of nanoscale science in engineering, the engineering of thin films, nanotubes and nanowires, the manufacturing and assembly of nanostructured materials, and the design of micro- and nanoscale machine elements for mechanical sensors and energy systems.

Cullinan received both his master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Swarthmore College.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
I was attracted to UT Austin because of the strength of the school of engineering in the area of nanomanufacturing. In addition, the school has a reputation for having some of the best students in the country, which means that I should be able to find great success in establishing my research program within the school of engineering.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I don’t know what I would be doing if I was not an engineer, but I would probably be an economist since I come from a long line of economists.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
My hobby outside of work is golf. I played for my college team.

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headshot of Alexandros Dimakis

Alexandros Dimakis

Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Alexandros Dimakis joined the Cockrell School in January 2013 from the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California.

Dimakis is interested in information theory, coding theory and large-scale information processing. In particular, he is focused on network coding for distributed storage, message-passing algorithms and distributed inference, sparse graph codes and optimization.

He received his master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. He also has a degree from the National Technical University of Athens.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
The amazing and active research environment attracted me to UT Austin. Plus, I loved the city.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would be a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur or a professional Baglama player.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
My favorite hobbies are music, dancing and eating, in reverse order.

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headshot of David Nicolas Espinoza

David Nicolás Espinoza

Assistant Professor
Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

D. Nicolás Espinoza joined the Cockrell School from the Laboratoire Navier, a research unit within the École des Ponts ParisTech, where he served as a postdoctoral researcher.

His primary research interests include mechanics and physics of natural porous solids, methane recovery from microporous organic rocks, methane hydrate-bearing sediments, and geological carbon sequestration.

Espinoza received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina, and his master’s degree and doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
It's like gravity. UT Austin has such an enormous density of knowledge, expertise and talent that I felt naturally attracted to it.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would be an astronomer.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
My hobbies are biking, rock-climbing and dancing tango.

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headshot of Trevor Hrynyk

Trevor Hrynyk

(Future) Assistant Professor
Department of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering

Trevor Hrynyk will join the Cockrell School from the University of Toronto, where he served as a postdoctoral researcher.

His current research activities are focused on the development of analytical procedures for reinforced concrete shell and slab structures, the application of emerging concrete construction technologies such as fiber-reinforced concretes and modular steel-concrete composites, and the development of modeling procedures for reinforced concrete structures subjected to extreme loading conditions.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo, his master's degree at the University of Missouri-Rolla, and doctoral studies at the University of Toronto.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
Great students, state-of-the-art facilities and the reputation as a leading research institution initially attracted me to UT Austin. Additionally, after visiting campus and meeting with my department’s staff and faculty I was overwhelmed with the open and friendly working atmosphere.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I’m not sure. I would likely do something within the physical sciences, but I really can't imagine doing anything else.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Spending time with family and friends, travelling to and learning about new places, exercising and having fun in the sun.

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headshot of Evdokia Nikolova

Evdokia Nikolova

(Future) Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Evdokia Nikolova will join the Cockrell School from Texas A&M University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Previously, she was a postdoctoral associate in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.

Nikolova's research aims to improve the design and efficiency of complex systems, such as networks and electronic markets. She is interested in how the abundance of data and information can enhance the interaction of people, markets and technology in order to improve human lives.

She received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics with economics from Harvard University, master’s degree in mathematics from Cambridge University, U.K. and doctorate in computer science from MIT.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
I look forward to working with my outstanding colleagues in the ECE department.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would be a mathematician or a dancer.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
My favorite hobby is dancing, especially the Argentine tango (which I used to teach while in college), Salsa and other Latin and folk dancing. I’m also hoping to get back to painting one day.

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headshot of Navid Saleh

Navid Saleh

(Future) Assistant Professor
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Navid Saleh will join the Cockrell School from the University of South Carolina, where he served as a civil and environmental engineering assistant professor since 2009. Before University of South Carolina, he was a postdoctoral scholar in environmental engineering at Yale University’s chemical engineering department.

Saleh’s research interests center around application and implications of nanomaterials. His recent work has focused on fundamental aggregation and deposition behavior of nanomaterials in complex environmental and biological systems. Use of nanomaterials for water treatment and environmental remediation has also been a focus of his research.

Saleh received both his master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His bachelor’s degree is in civil engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
In my opinion, UT Austin’s Cockrell School has one of the best, if not the best, engineering college in the world. The research accomplishments and scholarly contribution of the Cockrell School’s environmental and water resources faculties have inspired me since my undergraduate years in civil engineering. The Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering’s collegiality and support toward young faculty members also attracted me to the program. The most attractive attribute of the CAEE department is its dedication to teaching. During most of my interviews (and, in fact, during my entire academic experience), I have never sensed such dedication to teaching. Most schools have an imbalance between research and teaching, but I think UT doesn’t. CAEE at UT Austin is a dream program to join as a faculty member.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would have joined academia anyway. That is the only job I know how to do well. An educator, teaching engineering to solve real-life problems, is probably the best job one can have.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Spending time with my wife and six-year-old, music, movies and reading.

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headshot of James Sulzer

James Sulzer

Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

James Sulzer joined the Cockrell School from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, where he spent four years as a postdoctoral researcher, investigating novel modes of neurotherapy using real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Sulzer is motivated by the large gaps of knowledge that are preventing full recovery of patients following stroke. His current research focuses on determining efficient ways to restore healthy gait in people after stroke, and the development of novel, neurally-based rehabilitation strategies.

Sulzer received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
The breadth and quality of research not only in my department, which is in the top 10 in the nation, but also the world-class expertise in neuroscience and kinesiology, both fields are integrated into my research of rehabilitation robotics. Equally as important, since my research is patient-based, having the new medical school here was critical, and I'm excited to have the chance to get in on the ground floor and help make it into something unique in the world.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I always wanted to make sculptures that used their environment in interesting ways, like a water-powered sculpture in Seattle. That counts as art, right? But it's probably good that I'm an engineer, because I'm a terrible artist.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
I can't say my hobbies are too exciting, but I like to travel, cook international food, read history and philosophy, and exercise regularly.

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headshot of Mohit Tiwari

Mohit Tiwari

Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Mohit Tiwari joined the Cockrell School from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a postdoctoral National Science Foundation Computing Innovation Fellow.

Tiwari’s research interests include cybersecurity, with a focus on computing systems. His work spans hardware design, processor architecture, embedded systems and cloud computing. He wants to design computer architectures and systems with strong formal foundations.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in computer science.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
I was attracted to the university’s combination of faculty with complementary research skills, excellent students and the opportunity to live in Austin. Students from my undergrad institution in India who are now graduate students here had very good things to say about the department and the town, so that really sealed the deal.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
A forest officer, maybe.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Climbing and hiking.

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headshot of Yaguo Wang

Yaguo Wang

Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Yaguo Wang joined the Cockrell School in January 2013 after a year of postdoctoral work at Purdue University.

Wang's research covers a broad spectrum of topics in renewable energy, including ultrafast optical spectroscopy, nano- and micro-scale heat transfer, thermoelectrics for waste heat recovery and microchip cooling and photovoltaics. She is also interested in atomic simulations of energy-conversion materials and thermal management in nanoelectronics.

Wang received her bachelor's degree in safety science and engineering at the University of Science and Technology of China and her doctorate in mechanical engineering from Purdue.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
Reputation and location.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
Teacher.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Gardening.

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headshot of Yuebing Zheng

Yuebing Zheng

Assistant Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Yuebing Zheng joined the Cockrell School after three years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to serving as an assistant professor, he is also associated with the UT Austin Materials Science and Engineering program and Texas Materials Institute.

Zheng's research group explores and exploits nanoscale optical phenomena through multidisciplinary integrative research at the interface of engineering, materials science, physics, chemistry and biology to light the path to a brighter world. His research focus areas include molecular plasmonics, plasmofluidics, light-driven molecular motors and manufacturing and metrology.

Zheng received his doctorate in engineering science and mechanics from Pennsylvania State University.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
Outstanding faculty with the great potential of interactions and collaborations, talented students, high-caliber interdisciplinary research centers/institutes for nanoscience and nanotechnology, and world-class facilities.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
Scientist.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Basketball, swimming, running and music.

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headshot of Janeta Zoldan

Janeta Zoldan

Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Janeta Zoldan joined the Cockrell School from MIT, where she served as a research associate and postdoctoral researcher. Prior to MIT, Zoldan was a postdoctoral researcher for the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Zoldan’s research is focused on a central problem in molecular cell biology and tissue engineering —the understanding of tissue formation processes. Understanding this process and controlling it is critical for treating a broad spectrum of pathological conditions including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hepatic failure and heart failure, as well as alleviating the current shortage of donor tissue necessary for tissue repair and transplant.

Zoldan received her master’s degree and doctorate in materials engineering from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hebrew University.

What attracted you to The University of Texas at Austin?
I was attracted by the high research quality, the highly collegial and collaborative environment at the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the medical school.

What job would you have if you weren't an engineer?
I would work in a technology licensing office or patent law office.

What are you favorite hobbies outside of work?
Hiking and biking.

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