Faculty Promotions

We are pleased to announce the promotions of Professor Daniel Frey and Professor Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou, both from the rank of Associate Professor with Tenure to Full Professor; Professor Pierre Lermusiaux, from the rank of Associate Professor without Tenure to Associate Professor with Tenure; and Professor Tonio Buonassisi, Professor Franz Hover, Professor Rohit Karnik, and Professor Kripa Varanasi, each from the rank of Assistant Professor to Associate Professor without Tenure. Each brings a unique signature to the Department and the Institute in terms of their individual achievements and contributions to research, education, mentorship, and service.


Daniel Frey

Daniel Frey, Full Professor

Professor Dan Frey is a researcher in the fields of robust design and design pedagogy. He brings depth and precision to the design process and has made significant contributions to the sub-field of Design of Experiments. His research has rigorously shown that an adaptive one-factor-at-a-time (aOFAT) approach to robust design, when coupled with informed engineering choices and used in an ensemble manner, offers key advantages over widely used fractional factorial design approaches, enabling engineers to effectively utilize engineering knowledge to engage with the design process in contrast to experiencing a loss in intuition and disengagement in “black box” approaches. Professor Frey is also strongly engaged in design pedagogy. His classroom teaching is well recognized in both ESD and ME as being amongst the best. In particular, since 2008, Dan has taken on the lead role in 2.007, a signature undergraduate design subject in MechE. He is also widely recognized for his work in K-12 outreach, and, with Professor David Wallace, he played a role in developing the WGBH television program “Design Squad.” He worked with a team who helped to start a major International Design Center at MIT and at the new Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou

Nicolas Hadjiconstantinou, Full Professor

Professor Hadjiconstantinou is a recognized international leader in numerical simulations of micro/nanoscale transport. His interests lie in the scientific challenges that arise from the failure of the traditional macroscopic descriptions when the characteristic length scales become sufficiently small, and in exploiting the opportunities provided by the novel behavior of matter at the nanoscale to develop new concepts, devices, and systems with improved engineering performance. His group has developed a fundamentally new class of methods for simulating nanoscale transport phenomena, referred to collectively as “deviational simulations,” which significantly outperform traditional simulation methods in a wide variety of nanoscale applications without introducing any additional approximations. In addition, Professor Hadjiconstantinou is contributing to nanoscale engineering education in the ME Department and beyond. He is a strong teacher and pedagogical developer of new course materials in the micro/nano engineering areas that have rapidly been integrated into our core undergraduate and graduate curriculum. He has demonstrated leadership in the ME Department through his chairmanship of our graduate admissions committee, his leadership of graduate programs within the Computation for Design and Optimization program (CDO) and, at the Institute level, his chairmanship of an Institute-wide task force assigned to updating and streamlining our graduate admissions processes.

Pierre Lermusiaux

Pierre Lermusiaux, Associate Professor with Tenure

Over the past five years at MIT, Professor Lermusiaux has established a world-renowned research group at MIT in the broad area of regional ocean data assimilation. He is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar whose research has already profoundly influenced the fields of ocean data assimilation and real-time ocean modeling and forecasting, enabling the quantification of regional ocean dynamics on multiple length and time scales. His group creates and utilizes new models and novel methods for multiscale modeling, uncertainty quantification, data assimilation and the guidance of autonomous vehicles, applying these advances to better understand physical, acoustical, and biological interactions in a wide variety of different regional ocean domains. Many of his group’s innovations are being integrated into large-scale ocean forecasting programs and real-time naval coastal monitoring operations. Lermusiaux is recognized as an outstanding lecturer at both the graduate and undergraduate level and has been recognized with the MechE Department’s Spira Award.

Tonio Buonassisi

Tonio Buonassisi, Associate Professor without Tenure

Professor Buonassisi is an emerging leader in solar energy conversion. His goal is to increase the efficiency of energy conversion and to make solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels. He spearheads the use of “defect engineering” to achieve dramatic enhancements in efficiency in common semiconductor materials such as multicrystalline silicon, which are cost-effective but defect-laden. Using sophisticated multiscale experimental characterization, Buonassisi’s group has revealed the processing history dependence of iron distribution in PV silicon and its governing role on performance. Informed by data and modeling of the underlying diffusion and gettering mechanisms, his group has developed simulation tools that predict how process parameters vary the defect structure and device performance. These tools enable design of cost- and time-efficient processing histories needed to achieve performance and have already had industrial impact, reducing processing times for one partner by more than 75%. Professor Buonassisi is now initiating new research directions within his group and with collaborators to bring his signature defect engineering approach to hyperdoped silicon as well as thin-film Earth-abundant semiconductors.

Franz Hover

Franz Hover, Associate Professor without Tenure

Professor Hover is an established leader in the field of complex marine systems design. He is widely respected for his depth and breadth across a range of disciplines, including fluid dynamics, control theory, robotics, mechanical design, sensor systems, and data processing, as well as for his ability to synthesize this multidisciplinary background into innovative new technologies. With autonomous inspection of naval ships having become a high priority for the US Navy as a means to manage the safety and security of the fleet, Professor Hover has pursued the challenge of developing a vehicle system capable of autonomously mapping a complete ship hull. The primary technology enablers include the breakthrough idea of using Doppler velocity and image sonar sensors to locate the vehicle relative to the ship, which in turn enabled innovations in navigation, mapping, control, and motion planning. The success and impact of his work is dramatic: the underside of a 163-meter ship hull, including details of the propeller region, have recently been imaged using his technology. While continuing to push the frontiers of marine robotics, Professor Hover also initiated and developed computational tools for early-stage design of power systems for the All Electric Ship.

Rohit Karnik

Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor without Tenure

Professor Karnik’s research is in the interdisciplinary field of micro/nanofluidics, dealing with fundamental studies of fluid flows at submicron length scales, as well as the design of microscale systems that exploit such flows. Within this field, his research focuses on the discovery and elucidation of novel transport phenomena that can enable micro/nanofluidic systems with superior performance in the areas of health care, energy systems, and biochemical analysis. His group has made a number of key contributions to the advancement of micro/nanofluidic systems, including the demonstration of a new paradigm in cell separation by the steering of cells in continuous flow via cell-surface molecular interactions involving both chemical and topographic patterning strategies. They have also led the development of microfluidic systems for controlled nanoprecipitation of polymeric drug-delivery nanoparticles. This enables high-throughput and precise tuning of their properties, something that cannot be achieved by bulk mixing. Karnik’s group is also building on a core expertise in the design and fabrication of nanofluidic channels to create a new class of osmosis membranes that employ vapor-trapping nanopores to provide selective transport of water molecules. Professor Karnik is a co-recipient of the Keenan Award for Innovation in Education and is also a recent recipient of the Department of Energy Early Career Award for the study of fundamental transport properties of graphene membranes for water purification.

Kripa K. Varanasi

Kripa K. Varanasi, Associate Professor without Tenure

Professor Varanasi is recognized as an emerging leader at the crossroads of thermal sciences, nanotechnology, and manufacturing. The principal theme of his research is the discovery and development of novel nano-engineered surfaces and coating technologies that can fundamentally alter thermal-fluid-interfacial interactions for transformational efficiency enhancements in various industries, including energy, water, agriculture, transportation, electronics cooling, and buildings. His activities are embodied in an interdisciplinary research framework focused on nano-engineered interfaces, thermal science, and new materials discovery combined with scalable nanomanufacturing that will have impact on multiple industrial segments. His group’s work spans various thermal-fluid and interfacial phenomena, including phase transitions, thermal and fluid transport, separation, wetting, catalysis, flow assurance in oil and gas, nanomanufacturing, and synthesis of bulk and nanoscale materials guided via computational materials design. His group’s studies involve insightful combinations of (i) how surface morphology at multiple scales can be used to control interfacial interactions and scalable manufacturing of such structures, (ii) fundamental studies of the physical chemistry and transport processes at the interface, and (iii) atomistic- and electronic-structure-level understanding of interfacial interactions guiding the synthesis of new materials. This work has been recognized by an NSF CAREER Award as well as by a DARPA Young Investigator Award. Professor Varanasi is also respected for his teaching in the core undergraduate design, mechanics, and thermal sciences courses.