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A virtual faculty awards ceremony turns into a warm reunion

Dean Jelena - Faculty Awards

Dean Jelena Kovačević presides over the virtual faculty awards ceremony

On October 8, when Dean Jelena Kovačević kicked off a Zoom ceremony to greet new faculty members, announce tenure decisions and promotions, and congratulate this year’s teaching-awards winners, she exhorted the dozens of attendees to raise their glasses — whether virtual or real — in celebration.   

“As we navigate a semester unlike any we probably ever imagined, I am deeply, deeply grateful for the hard work, fortitude, and flexibility of everyone at Tandon,” she said by way of a toast. “Your dedication to your students, your research, and the School is yet another reason I am proud to be dean.”

Launching into the list of honorees, she quipped, “For me, this is just as good as the virtual Emmys last month, although the stars seemed to be wearing either tuxedos or pajamas, and I don’t think any of us have gone to either of those extremes.” The crowd may have been more conventionally dressed than those Hollywood figures, but they beamed every bit as much when their names were called.

Teaching and research honors

  • Siddharth Garg was the inaugural recipient an award established for a newly promoted associate professor with tenure, to be designated as an Institute Associate Professor, in recognition of significant accomplishments in research, teaching, and service, along with the expectation they will become a leader in their field.
  • Miguel Modestino garnered the inaugural Junior Faculty Research Award, given to a tenure track Assistant Professor who has passed their third-year review and made significant research accomplishments as demonstrated by publications in top-tier venues, funded research proposals, student mentoring, and recognition by professional societies. 
  • Shivendra Panwar was presented with the inaugural Excellence in Research Award in recognition of his significant and sustained research accomplishments in the area of  next-generation wireless  communications. 
  • David Mugglin won the annual Distinguished Teacher Award for his dedication to student success and his  passion for physics. 
  • Xiao-Kang Chen took home the new Dean’s Award for Excellence in Online Education, bestowed annually on an instructor of record for online courses who has demonstrated excellence through personal commitment to students and the development and delivery of innovative online education material. 

Institute professorships

Institute professor is a rare title that recognizes exceptional and sustained contributions to the School of Engineering through outstanding research and educational activities. It is held for a five-year period and can then be considered for renewal. 

Maurizio Porfiri was honored with the title for his research on complex dynamical systems and expertise with biomimetic robotics. “Recently, he has been tearing down silos with his development of a modeling platform to simulate the spread of COVID-19 and his investigations of the causal relationships behind gun purchases in the U.S.,” the Dean explained. “And if gun ownership doesn’t sound like a conventional area of exploration for an engineering school, I’m very proud that Tandon takes unconventional approaches to tackling unconventional problems.”

The dean also formally recognized two other Institute Professors who had earned the distinction earlier: Elza Erkip, who holds the title in honor of her seminal contributions to the theory and practical design of cooperative and MIMO communications, and Guido Gerig, who was beginning his second term and is widely celebrated for his development of image analysis techniques for some of medicine’s most challenging puzzles. 

Moving up

After announcing the happy news that Thomas Marzetta, a distinguished industry professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of NYU WIRELESS, had been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer), the Dean mentioned the faculty members who had been granted new titles and tenure this year. They included:

Already members of the Tandon family

The evening culminated with the introduction of Tandon’s newest faculty members, and if the welcomes, good wishes, and emoticons flooding the chat during the event were any indication, they should already feel right at home.