Thirteen new faculty members in seven departments are joining the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University.
Caleb Bashor, assistant professor of bioengineering (BIOE), earned his B.A. in biochemistry from Reed College in Portland, Ore., in 1999, and his Ph.D. in biophysics from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California at San Francisco in 2010. Since 2011 he has been a postdoctoral research fellow with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Institute for Medical and Engineering Science at MIT.
Bashor’s research in the field of synthetic biology has focused on the engineering of circulatory regulatory circuits and further understanding of how biological behavior arises from regulatory network structure. In the area of biochemistry, Bashor looks at how the biophysical properties of regulatory proteins relate to their function.
Ang Chen, assistant professor of computer science (CS), earned a B.Eng. in information security from Wuhan University, China, in 2009, and a Ph.D. in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania in July 2017. His research focuses on distributed systems, networking and security, with an emphasis on improved reliability and security.
Eilaf Egap, assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering (MSNE), earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Washington in 2011, when she became a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. Since 2014 she has been an assistant professor of chemistry at Emory University and in the Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Her research focuses on developing well–defined macromolecular structures and technologies that address human health and alternative energy. She works with biomaterials, targeted imaging for early diagnostics and drug delivery, molecular engineering, nanomaterials and bio-integrated electronics.
Benjamin Fregly, professor of MECH, comes from his position as the Knox T. Millsaps Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. Fregly was hired with the support of a $2 million recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).
Fregly earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford in 1986 and joined the faculty at the University of Florida in 1999.There he founded the Computational Neuromechanics Lab, where his research has focused on musculoskeletal biomechanics, multibody dynamics, design optimization and contact mechanics.
Xue “Sherry” Gao, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChBE), earned her B.S. and master’s degree in pharmaceutical engineering from Tianjin University in 2005 and 2007, respectively, and her Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles. Since 2013, she has worked as a postdoctoral research associate in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University.
Her research focuses on integrating chemistry and evolution to illuminate and program biology. She works with therapeutically relevant synthetic molecules using DNA-templated organic synthesis and Darwinian selection, engineers genome-editing proteins for next-generation human therapeutics, and facilitates the evolution and delivery in vivo of proteins that modify information flow in human cells.
Reinhard Heckel, assistant professor of ECE, earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Ulm, Germany, in 2010, and a Ph.D. in the same field from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 2014. He served as a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive computing and computational sciences at IBM Research, Zurich, and as a postdoc in electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.
Heckel’s research focuses on signal processing, machine learning, statistical learning theory, high-dimensional statistics, sparse signal recovery, compressive sensing and computational biology,
Isaac Hilton, assistant professor of bioengineering (BIOE), joins the Rice faculty in January 2018. Hilton earned his Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Since then he has worked as a postdoctoral associate in genome and epigenome engineering at Duke University.
Hilton was hired with the support of a recruitment grant from the CPRIT. As a member of the Duke lab of biomedical engineer Charles Gersbach, he was first author of a 2015 Nature Biotechnology paper that introduced a method based on the increasingly popular genome editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9. Hilton’s innovation enables editing of epigenetics, the non-DNA-sequence regulatory mechanisms in a cell that aid in controlling gene expression.
Daniel R. Kowal, assistant professor of statistics (STAT), this year earned a Ph.D. in statistical science, with a minor in finance, from Cornell University. He received a B.A. in mathematics from Washington University in 2012 and a master’s degree in statistics from Cornell in 2015.
Kowal’s research focuses on developing statistical methodologies for massive data sets with complex dependence structures, including functional, time series and spatial data. He hopes to address open questions in such fields such as economics, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, finance and astronomy.
Anastasios “Tasos” Kyrillidis, assistant professor of CS, earned his Ph.D. in computer and communication sciences from the École Polytechnique Pédérale de Lausanne in 2014. He received a master’s degree in electronic and computer engineering from the Technical University of Crete in 2008 and 2010, respectively.
Since 2014, Kyrillidis has been a Simons Foundation postdoctoral researcher with the Wireless Networking and Communication Group at the University of Texas at Austin. He will join the Rice faculty on July 1, 2018, and was hired as part of the university-wide initiative to increase data-driven knowledge. The Data Science Initiative is part of the university’s $150 million investment in research excellence.
Meng Li, Noah Harding assistant professor of STAT, earned his Ph.D. in statistics from North Carolina State University in 2015, and a B.S. in statistics from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, in 2010. Since 2015 he has been a visiting assistant professor of statistical science at Duke University.
Li was hired as part of the Data Science Initiative. His research interests include image analysis, brain network analysis, Bayesian methods, information theory, multiscale modeling, scalable algorithms, functional data analysis, biomedical applications and quantile regression.
Akane Sano, assistant professor of ECE, earned a B.S, and master’s degree in applied physics and physico-informatics from Keio University in Yokahama, Japan, in 2010 and 2015, respectively. In 2015, Sano received her Ph.D. in media arts and sciences. Since then she has worked as a research scientist in the affective computing group at the MIT Media Lab.
Sano’s work focuses on multi-modal ambulatory human sensing, data analysis/modeling and application development for affective computing, health and well-being. She focuses on developing systems to help people reduce stress and improve the mental health and sleep of student and employee populations.
Tom Senftle, assistant professor of CHBE, earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2010 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 2015. Since then he has worked as a postdoctoral research associate in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University.
His recent research has focused on the ab initio design of semiconductors for photo-electrochemical applications. His interests include the development and application of hybrid simulation techniques for modeling multi-component catalytic systems at quantum and classical scales.
Kaiyuan Yang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), earned his Ph.D. and master’s degree in ECE from the University of Michigan in 2017 and 2014, respectively. He received a B.S. in electronics engineering-microelectronics from Tsinghua University in 2012.
His research interests include digital and mixed-signal integrated circuit design, low-power and secure internet-of-things systems, hardware security and circuit/system design with emerging devices.