University News

School of Engineering grows with new hires

New lab space and an interdisciplinary approach helped lure six new faculty members

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

While the School of Engineering is currently housed in Barus and Holley, the school will expand to new locations on College Hill and has hired six new faculty members this year as part of a $160 million campaign.

Six new faculty members will join the School of Engineering this year as part of an ongoing expansion.

The new hires will arrive following the University’s April announcement of a new $160 million campaign to grow the School of Engineering, which will include investments in personnel and building space. Most of the new faculty members will have lab spaces in the new Building for Environmental Research and Teaching, formerly Hunter Laboratory, when renovations on the building are complete early next year, said Dean of Engineering Lawrence Larson.

Though the expansion of the School of Engineering will also include a new building on College Hill, campaign organizers are currently focused on nurturing and mentoring the new faculty members, Larson said.

Four of the six new hires specialize in biomedical engineering, a field in which students have recently expressed interest and that administrators identified as a key growth area for the School when expansion plans began, Larson said. Biomedical engineering “gives us a great opportunity to collaborate with the division of biology and medicine and a wonderful opportunity for collaboration with local hospitals and medical schools,” Larson added.

The other two new faculty members focus on chemical engineering and solid mechanics, according to the press release.

Larson and Associate Dean for Development and Planning Robert Rome said the promise of new research space played a key role in attracting new faculty members to campus.

“One of the reasons we were so successful was we had this wonderful renovated Hunter Lab that we could show them,” Larson said.

“The potential at Brown is so great,” Rome said. “You can picture what the School will look like in the next 10 years, so a lot of young faculty think it’s the place to be.”

Administrators stressed that students will remain a top priority in the School’s expansion. One key area of focus remains the School’s corporate outreach program to help connect students with internships and employment opportunities, an initiative that students have consistently requested be further developed, Rome said. “Although we have this big research enterprise that we’re growing, the question is always, ‘How does it benefit students?’” he added.

One of the four hires in biomedical engineering studies brain science, a specialty of the University and an area administrators have targeted for further investment, Larson said.

Some of the new faculty members said they were drawn to the School because of its interdisciplinary nature, strong community and talented students.

“The undergrads as well as the grad students are exceptional, and I could feel that already as I started teaching my first class here and interacting with students,” said Assistant Professor of Engineering Anita Shukla, who joined the University this fall and is co-teaching ENGN 1490: “Biomaterials” this semester. Shukla specializes in biomedical engineering.

“I like that Brown is very small and very interdisciplinary,” said Assistant Professor of Engineering Ian Wong, who is co-teaching the course and whose research also focuses on biomedical engineering. “There are a lot of people here working on different things, but since everyone is so friendly, we end up talking about it and going in new directions that we wouldn’t have expected.”

The University’s engineering program is unique because of its significant attention to applied science, said Assistant Professor of Engineering David Henann, who focuses on mechanical engineering research. He added that his specific field — solid mechanics — is a “historical strength” of the School.