Named Professorship Amplifies Early Career Success

Ahmad Najafi, PhD, is the new PC Chou Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, the College of Engineering announced this month.

Headshot of PC Chou
Pei Chi Chou

The named professorship honors the late Pei Chi Chou, PhD, who taught engineering at Drexel from 1953 until 1995. His work is still used to educate students today, and his book Elasticity: Tensor, Dyadic, and Engineering Approaches is commonly used in beginning mechanical engineering classes.

Chou was also a key figure in the establishment of Drexel’s doctoral program in the 1960s. He was a mentor for the first students to earn a PhD from the College of Engineering.

“When my dad came here from China in the 40s, there wasn’t a huge immigrant community, so he looked to build community among graduate students, which is what most immigrants were coming here for at the time,” said Arthur Chou, MS materials science and engineering ’87, one of Chou’s four sons. “And he and my mom Rosalind found a family in Drexel at around the same time they were starting our actual family, and that was really important to both my parents.”

Chou and Rosalind established the professorship in 1995. The goal at the time, which remains an important part of the endowment, was to support faculty near the beginning of their career.

“My parents felt that Drexel had really helped them start their careers and start the family, and it set the foundation for everything that came after,” Arthur said “So they really wanted it to be a starting point, or a launching pad, or helping to launch the career of a younger professor.”

Ahmad Najafi
Ahmad Najafi

Najafi is director of the Multiscale Computational Mechanics and Biomechanics Lab. He holds doctoral degrees from Amirkabir University of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on using computational methods to optimize the creation of multi-functional structures and materials. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Grant (NSF CAREER) award for his project “CAREER: A Holistic Framework for Designing Multifunctional Materials and Structures Using Computational Optimization Methods.”

“I am humbled and delighted to earn the PC Chou Assistant Professorship,” Najafi said. “Dr. Chou is a foundational figure for both Drexel and mechanical engineering in general, and the honor of carrying on his legacy is one that I take great pride in.”