State of the College Celebrates Momentum

Dean Walker speaks at a podium

From growth in industry partnerships to new faculty cluster hires in thematic areas, a renewed focus on DEI efforts and continued commitment to student success, Drexel Engineering has made significant progress on the implementation of its strategic plan, and that momentum is expected to continue.

That was the message delivered by Sharon L. Walker, dean of Drexel Engineering, at the fourth annual State of the College event. Held Thursday, Oct. 27, Walker addressed a crowd of faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends with updates on how the college is rising to meet the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) grand challenges – and how work behind the scenes is helping that all to happen.

“Just as the NAE calls for us to push the boundaries of innovation, engineering change and respond to the call to make the world a better place for us all, there are countless other challenges, the daily interconnected tasks that make things tick,” said Walker. “As I reflect on how we managed through the pandemic and how we’re pushing through today, the last two years have taught us many valuable lessons that will ultimately have an impact on how we address the pressing challenges that lay ahead.”

These lessons, said Walker, are all about how we work as a community.

“We learned that remote work and learning are not only possible, but can add great value to our educational offerings,” said Walker. “We learned to be patient and we learned to adapt – continually. And we learned the importance of taking care of ourselves and of each other.”

With the college’s strategic plan continuing to serve as a guidepost, Walker went on to celebrate “the most extensive implementation and action on the plan to date.” She noted engagement with alumni, including the formation of an Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Alumni Advisory Board​. She also highlighted progress made by the Alumni Industry Board, which sustains and expands the college’s efforts to form relationships with for-profit, non-profit, government, community and other engineering entities to inform all aspects of our research, curriculum and practice.

“Over the past year, the college has strengthened its connection to industry, forging new partnerships and strengthening existing collaborations,” Walker said. “These relationships give us insight into what practicing engineers need to know now and in the future, and provide an incredible value to our students.”

Dean Walker went on to applaud a year of sponsored research by engineering faculty, including:

  • Gail Rosen, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering, earned a grant​ from the National Science Foundation for her project “Learning Multi-scale Sequence Features for Predicting Gene to Microbiome Function”
  • Joshua Lequieu, PhD, assistant professor, chemical and biological engineering, received a grant from the Charles E. Kauffman Foundation, which supports innovative and interdisciplinary scientific research at Pennsylvania universities, to study biomolecular condensates.
  • Jörn Venderbos, PhD , assistant professor of materials science and engineering, received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Grant (NSF-CAREER) award from the Condensed Matter and Materials Theory program in the Division of Materials Research for his project “Advancing the Many-body Band Inversion Paradigm for Correlated Quantum Materials”
  • Joshua Snyder, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, received an award from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for his project entitled “Advanced PILBCP Ionomer Composites for Durable Heavy-Duty Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)
  • Andrew Magenau, PhD, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, was been appointed a 2022 fellow in the Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program at AFRL-Materials and Manufacturing to synthesize a state-of-the-art multifunctional and multiscale MXene covalent-adaptable nanocomposite.
  • Sorin Siegler, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, and Ahmad Najafi, PhD, PC Chou assistant professor in mechanical engineering and mechanics, earned PA Manufacturing Innovation Program funding for their ankle replacement implants.

Walker also showcased academic highlights including the college’s continued partnership with the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) to reimagine aspects of its curriculum and the re-accreditation of the construction management program, among other successes.

During the event, Walker welcomed new members of the college staff, including academic advisors, recruitment specialists, as well as Terrance Harris, the college’s first director of DEI.

The address also celebrated improvements to the college’s facilities and plans for the future. Walker spotlighted the opening of the Advanced Manufacturing Lab, the establishment of the Silverman Chemical and Biological Engineering Student Lounge as a hub for collaborative study, a new welcome center for prospective students, and other updated academic and social spaces.

Finally, Walker noted the hiring of ten new tenure track and two adjunct faculty members as part of Drexel’s strategic hiring initiative. The faculty will catalyze collaborative research and teaching in the cluster themes of energy and sustainability; smart, integrated cities; and health, wellness, and medicine.

“In the span of just one year, we have achieved so much with this initiative,” said Walker. “We aimed to achieve a cohort of new hires in areas aligned closely with our strategic plan while also matching the diversity of PhDs in the disciplines, and the result has been an incredibly diverse and richly talented group. These new faculty will play an important role in enhancing the teaching and research impact of the college, continuing our commitment to answering the evolving needs of industry and the world.”

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