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Campus & Community

New Faculty Keep Drexel Abreast of Disruptive Technologies

October 30, 2019

New Faculty Keep Drexel Abreast of Disruptive Technologies

As a top-tier research university, Drexel University significantly invests in its faculty to strengthen its mission: teaching its students to be change agents and citizens of their communities, advancing the production of knowledge and developing solutions to society’s most significant challenges. 

This year is no different, with the University welcoming top academic and research talent with expertise in future-oriented fields. Hires in the fields of virtual reality (VR), augmented media, machine learning and computer-human interactions ensure Drexel stays abreast of rapid technological change, while bolstering the University’s reputation for preparing students for next-generation careers.  

For the 2019–2020 academic year, the Drexel colleges with the most tenured or tenure-track faculty hires were the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI). The former successfully recruited 10 new faculty hires, and the latter hired nine. Drexel’s College of Engineering, Dornsife School of Public Health, Kline School of Law, LeBow College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems also hired tenured and tenure-track faculty this year.

Both Westphal and CCI made strategic choices that will widen their offerings in rising industries like VR and artificial intelligence (AI).

For example, in recent years, CCI has made significant investments to support the launch of new education and research programs that will grow enrollment. The college’s new hires consist of six tenured or tenure-track faculty and three teaching faculty members.

“CCI’s faculty hires in 2019 were focused on several strategic areas, such as AI and machine learning, data science, human-centered computing and digital content management, which represent rapidly growing demands from industry and economy,” said Dean and Isaac L. Auerbach Professor Yi Deng, PhD. “These areas also represent some of the key priorities that underpin CCI’s future direction and growth as articulated in our college’s new strategic plan.”

In the fall of 2018, CCI launched a new suite of graduate programs related to data science, including an MS in data science and graduate certificates in applied data science and computational data science. This fall, the college started new graduate programs through its MS in information which focus on digital content management as well as human computer interaction and user experience. And next fall, it plans to launch a new MS in AI and machine learning.

Edward Kim, PhD, a tenure-track associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Computing & Informatics, came to Drexel as an expert in AI and machine learning. He is impressed by the strides that the University is making in that field — and in its community.

“In my field of computer science, technology changes at an extremely fast pace. To stay current, it is important to embrace new ideas, be willing to change and be forward-thinking,” said Kim. “I saw that this is exactly what the College of Computing & Informatics and Department of Computer Science is doing. Drexel is on the move, constantly evolving to best meet the needs of the students, workforce and city.”

Jina Huh-Yoo, PhD, a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Information Science in the College of Computing & Informatics, is an expert in human-centered computing and health informatics. Before starting at Drexel this year, she already knew some of the faculty and research coming out of her future department, and was drawn to the University by the quality, support and respect that her future colleagues exemplified both in their studies and collegiality.  

“In my research, it is essential to engage the community or interest groups who will co-design the technology to be developed and evaluated,” said Huh-Yoo. “It was fascinating to learn about Drexel’s priority toward engaging the surrounding neighborhoods to increase outreach efforts in diverse community needs, such as health and education. Given my health informatics research interests, these efforts brought strong grounds upon which I can build unique research and teaching activities.”

One of the strategic academic choices that the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design made this year to prepare for the future was to hire three pre-tenure and seven contract faculty. Three hires were made in its Digital Media Department, which is now the college’s largest department. It features a growing research portfolio, a new Virtual Reality & Immersive Media Program and a longstanding nationally ranked program in gaming, according to Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Dean Allen Sabinson.

“While we always seek to bring on board subject experts and terrific teachers who will help to prepare students for Westphal’s many programs in design, media and the management of the cultural sector, fields which are experiencing enormous change and disruption, we’re especially excited that this year where we were able to make 10 exceptional hires,” said Sabinson.

Natalie Mathe, a tenure-track assistant professor of VR and immersive media and director of the Digital Media Master Program in Westphal, was one of the three new hires for the department, as well as Assistant Professor Emil Polyak and Assistant Teaching Professor Dan Rose.

Mathe brings a wealth of experience from the industry, from running NativeVR, a VR creative studio, to previously working as a filmmaker, VFX digital artist and NASA AI research scientist. When looking at universities, she was drawn to the welcoming and collaborative feel of the department and Westphal, as well as Drexel’s reputation in the field.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality are a new medium, and I liked that Drexel already has programs and faculty for it while other universities are starting from scratch,” said Mathe. “One thing that was really interesting to me was the ability to develop the curriculum in the future, especially at the master’s level, because this is an evolving field, and we need to be creative too in how we teach it.”