Drexel Engineering Dean Sharon Walker, PhD, presented her annual State of
the College address on Wednesday, recapping a year of progress and setting
a vision for the college for the years to come.
Central to the address was the unveiling of the college’s new strategic
Building on Tradition for Tomorrow: Engineering our Future
The plan is the result of more than a year of conversations, planning and
collaborative effort among faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of
the college and sets core values and principles that will guide the college
for the next five years.
“This is a time to reflect on the foundations we have laid, and the new
visions we are just beginning to build,” Walker said.
The plan aligns around four overarching goals: resource
stewardship and sustainability; health, wellness and medicine; renewable
energy and power; and smart cities and integration. For each goal, Walker
pointed to efforts that are already underway at the college:
In resource stewardship and sustainability,
Franco Montalto, P.E., PhD, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering
led a team of researchers and city officials
to design and build cooling structures that helped some residents of
the underresourced Hunting Park neighborhood escape from the summer
Simi Hoque, PhD, associate profess of CAEE, recently gave a presentation on
sustainable urban infrastructure at an NSF-funded workshop, “How does infrastructure shape equity and well-being across the
In the area of health, wellness and medicine,
Christopher Li, PhD, professor of material science and engineering, has made progress in
his research of crystalline materials and engineering polymer
structures for special applications, showing that it’s now possible to
control how crystals grow – including interrupting the symmetrical
growth of flat crystals and inducing them to form hollow crystal
spheres. The discovery is part of a broader design effort focused on
the encapsulation of medicine for targeted drug treatments. The new
development was recently reported in the scientific journal
Alexander Fridman, PhD, John A. Nyheim Chair Professor in the Department of Mechanical
Engineering and Mechanics and Director of the C. & J. Nyheim Plasma
Institute, has received a National Science Foundation
Industry-University Cooperative Research Program RAPID grant. Drexel
University, along with the University of Michigan and George Washington
University, will pursue a project on the fast adaptive plasma abatement
In renewable energy and power,
Maureen Tang, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is
working on a project that could greatly improve the efficiency of
manufacturing processes, such as nylon production, while providing a
method for storing intermittent renewable electricity from wind or
Fei Lu, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is
working on a Department of Energy-funded project to design a
significantly more efficient, fast, low-cost, compact, and reliable
circuit breaker for the medium-voltage direct-current power system.
Work around smart cities and integration includes a project from
Jason Baxter, PhD, profess of CBE to develop new measurement tools to identify
performance-limiting phenomena and provide critical feedback to improve
the efficiency of thin-film solar cells. Additionally,
Antonios Kontsos, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, is
developing a business-to-business software tool that allows
non-specialists to expertly analyze their drone images of buildings,
crops, bridges and storm-damaged resorts, among other things.
“It is our strengths that make this plan possible,” Walker said. “The fact
that we are already doing good work in these areas affirms that it’s where
our future lies.”
The full strategic plan
is available to review online.
Walker also used the address to recognize the rapid transitions the college
made to virtual learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. She
previewed a virtual reality learning environment, created by Drexel
Engineering faculty in collaboration with the Westphal College of Media
Arts & Design.
“Using these immersive spaces, students will be able to interact virtually
with equipment and scenarios they may not even have seen in a real lab,
while experiencing exceptional experiential, hands-on learning using
Virtual Reality,” she said. “As we prepare for a future where more
instruction is done away from the physical classroom, Drexel is once again
using a unique collaboration between world-class colleges to imagine how
best to serve our students.”
The college has worked nimbly to address issues raised by the pandemic,
Walker said. Grants were awarded through Drexel’s
COVID-19 Rapid Research & Development Fund
to develop more effective fabric face masks, design and manufacture face
shields for frontline workers, and the creation of a biocontamination
intubation unit for hospital workers to use to further protect themselves.
Walker also noted grants and research achievements from across the college,
and pointed to announcements of
faculty tenure and promotions, the
hiring of new faculty
and the retirement of
four longtime educators.
Looking forward, Walker provided information on the makeup of the incoming
first-year class. The new undergraduate class includes more than 500
students from 21 states and the District of Columbia and 19 countries,
including Nigeria, Vietnam and Kazakhstan. Approximately one quarter of the
class identify as female and 20% as first-generation students. The class
includes a two-time bronze medalist in artistic roller skating, a student
who deferred to train for Olympic luge, the top STEM student in Pakistan, a
licensed pilot and two Peace Corps volunteers.
“As competition to recruit students increases, it’s encouraging that we are
able to attract a diverse, talented group of students who will continue to
enrich our student body and the culture of Drexel Engineering,” Walker
Among other successes highlighted was the fact that the college more than
doubled its yearly fundraising commitments over the last seven years and
led all schools and colleges in fundraising in 2020. Walker also announced
the formation of a Dean’s Student Leadership Council, which is already
helping to shape the college around the goals of the strategic plan.
“If there is anything you take away from today, remember the
interconnectedness of our people, our programs and our goals,” Walker said.
“We have already made great strides during an incredibly challenging year.
I am confident we have what it takes to change our future for the better.”