Ellen Roche

Ellen Roche will join the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty in summer 2016, following postdoctoral training at the University of Galway; she will also be a core member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. She received her BE in biomedical engineering from the National University of Ireland in Galway, and her MS in bioengineering from Trinity College in Dublin. Between these degrees, she spent five years working on medical device design for Mednova Ltd., Abbot Vascular, and Medtronic. She later received her PhD in bioengineering from Harvard University. Roche’s awards include the American Heart Association Pre-doctoral fellowship, a Fulbright international science and technology award, the Harvard Pierce fellowship for outstanding graduates, the Medtronic AVE Award, and the Ryan Hanley Award. She specializes in the design of cardiac medical devices. At Harvard, she performed research on the design, modeling, experimentation, and pre-clinical evaluation of a novel soft-robotic device that helps patients with heart failure. Her invention, the Harvard Ventricular Assist Device (HarVAD), is a soft-robotic sleeve device that goes around the heart, squeezing and twisting it to maintain the heart’s functionality. The device has no contact with blood, dramatically reducing the risks of infection or blood clotting as compared to current devices. Additionally, she worked on incorporation of biomaterials into the device to deliver regenerative therapy directly to the heart. Roche’s device, which has been validated in testing with animals, could restore normal heart function in heart failure patients.

Benedetto Marelli will join the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in November. He received a BE and an MS in biomedical engineering from Polytechnic University of Milan and pursued his doctoral studies in materials science and engineering at McGill University. His dissertation focused on the biomineralization of tissue-equivalent collagenous constructs and their use as rapidly-implantable osteogenic materials. As a postdoc at Tufts University, Marelli worked on the self-assembly and polymorphism of structural proteins, particularly silk fibroin. Marelli’s research at MIT will be in the area of structural biopolymers, biomineralization and self-assembly, mechanical and optoelectronic properties of natural polymers, biocomposites, additive manufacturing, and emerging technologies. By combining basic material principles with advanced fabrication techniques and additive manufacturing, he has developed new strategies to drive the self-assembly of structural biopolymers in advanced materials with unconventional forms and functions such as inkjet prints of silk fibroin that change in color in the presence of bacteria or flexible keratin-made photonic crystals. Using biofabrication strategies, his group will design bio-inspired materials that act at the biotic/abiotic interface to reduce or mitigate environmental impact.

Betar Gallant will join the MIT faculty in January 2016 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Gallant completed her BS, MS, and PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT. During her graduate studies with Professor Yang Shao-Horn, she was an National Science Foundation graduate research fellow, an MIT Martin Family Fellow and an MIT Energy Initiative Fellow. Gallant was a Kavli Nanoscience Institute Prize postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, where her research focused on tuning mechanical properties via surface chemistry control in Si-polymer structures for solar fuels applications. She will develop materials and devices for energy and environmental cleanup applications including greenhouse gas and pollutant capture and conversion, which will be informed by the understanding of chemical and electrochemical reaction pathways. She plans to utilize nanoscale insights into heat and mass transfer and energy conversion to bridge molecular control of processes with scalable environmental technologies.

Irmgard Bischofberger will join the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in January 2016. She received her BS, MS, and PhD in physics from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and is currently a postdoc at the University of Chicago. Bischofberger received a Kadanoff-Rice postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, as well as a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, and was a poster prize winner for the APS Gallery of Fluid Motion in 2012. She works in the areas of fluid dynamics and soft-matter physics, with a focus on the formation of patterns from instabilities in fluid and technological systems. In her graduate work, she studied the phase behavior and solvation properties of thermosensitive polymers. As a postdoc, she has discovered “proportional growth” — a new growth pattern that had not been previously observed despite its common occurrence in biological systems.

Mingda Li will join the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering as an assistant professor in January 2018. He completed his BS in engineering physics at Tsinghua University in 2009 and his PhD in nuclear science and engineering at MIT in 2015. After that, he carried out research as a postdoc at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. His Energy Nano Group aims to utilize defects to improve material performance through defect engineering, including experimental and theoretical studies on functional extended defects, controllable defective single crystal growth, AI-aided spectroscopy for defect resolution, and nanoscale energy transport and conversion processes with the presence of defects. 

Tim Kraska will join the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an associate professor in January 2018. Currently an assistant professor of computer science at Brown University, Kraska received a PhD from ETH Zurich, then spent three years as a postdoc in the AMPLab at the University of California at Berkeley, where he worked on hybrid human-machine database systems and cloud-scale data management systems. He focuses on building systems for interactive data exploration, machine learning, and transactional systems for modern hardware, especially the next generation of networks. Kraska was recently selected as a 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in computer science. He has also received an NSF CAREER Award, an Air Force young investigator award, two Very Large Data Bases conference best-demo awards, and a best-paper award from the IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering.

Julian Shun joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an assistant professor in September. He received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley, and a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Before coming to MIT, he was a postdoctoral Miller Research Fellow at UC Berkeley. Shun’s research focuses on the theory and practice of parallel algorithms and programming. He is particularly interested in designing algorithms and frameworks for large-scale graph analytics. He is also interested in parallel algorithms for text analytics, concurrent data structures, and methods for deterministic parallelism. Shun received the ACM doctoral dissertation award, the CMU School of Computer Science doctoral dissertation award, a Facebook graduate fellowship, and a best-student-paper award at the Data Compression Conference.

Wim van Rees joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering as an assistant professor this fall. He received a BS in marine technology in 2006 and an MS with honors in ship hydrodynamics in 2008 from the Delft University of Technology. In 2014, he earned a PhD in computational science and engineering. He joined Harvard as a postdoc in 2014. Van Rees’ work couples the most advanced computational fluid dynamics and structural mechanics available with modern machine learning to design ocean propulsion and energy harvesting systems by evolutionary optimization. His combined background in naval architecture, including design of an America’s Cup vessel, and advanced computational fluid dynamics is unique. The systems that van Rees develops are inspired by nature, but outperform similar biological systems through simulated evolutionary processes that are able to mitigate some disadvantageous constraints of biological evolution. His work has the possibility of transforming ocean utilization around the world through unconventional approaches to transportation and offshore structure design, including extraction of energy from wind, wave, and turbulence, and marine robotics. The advanced computational tools that van Rees has developed, along with the directions of his research, may also enable him to one day unravel the mysteries of turbulence by developing reliable predictive tools.  



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