In 2013, the College announced the establishment of the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative - made possible by a $100 million gift by The Grainger Foundation. In addition to funding undergraduate scholarships and facility renovations, the gift includes an endowment for attracting and retaining renowned scholars who will strongly contribute to the impact and international stature of engineering research and education at Illinois. These are the Founder Professors and Grainger Distinguished Chairs in Engineering.
Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering
A professor of bioengineering—with affiliate appointments in electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and molecular and integrated physiology—Rashid Bashir joined the Illinois faculty in 2007, serving as the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and co-director of the campus-wide Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. His research projects span the areas of bionanotechnology, BioMEMS, lab-on-a-chip, interfacing of biology and engineering from the molecular to the tissue scale (bio-bots), and applications of semiconductor fabrication to biomedical engineering—all applied to solving biomedical problems. Bashir has authored or co-authored more than 200 journal papers, over 200 conference papers and conference abstracts, over 110 invited talks, and has been granted 38 patents. He has licensed technologies to three startups and other companies.
In addition to his own research group, Bashir was the principle investigator (PI) on the NSF IGERT on Cellular and Molecular Mechanics and Bionanotechnology, and PI on an NIH Training Grant on Cancer Nanotechnology. He is also a project lead on an NSF Science and Technology Center on Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems (headquartered at MIT, with partners at Georgia Tech and Illinois). In August 2013, he was named head of the Department of Bioengineering. He is a key member of the team that developed the plans for the new engineering-based Carle Illinois College of Medicine, currently co-leads the curriculum development for the new College, and was the founding interim director of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at Illinois.
Founder Professor in Bioengineering
Rohit Bhargava is Bliss Faculty Scholar and Professor of Bioengineering, with affiliate appointments in chemical and biomolecular engineering, mechanical science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and chemistry. Following a stint at the National Institutes of Health, Bhargava came to Illinois in 2005. He was among the first faculty in the new Department of Bioengineering and has played a key role in its development.
A cutting-edge researcher, Bhargava has pioneered the development of infrared spectroscopic imaging, starting from his doctoral thesis that was the first in this field. Fundamental work in theory and numerical methods in his laboratory directly leads to new instrumentation and technologies. Instruments developed in his laboratory have been used to provide new means to characterize and define cancer using chemical imaging that are leading to the emergence of the field of digital molecular pathology. Using 3D printing and engineered tumor models, his most recent research seeks to create designer cancers in the laboratory.
Using real-world problems to inspire education and student development, among his recent educational innovations are the development of the Cancer Scholars Program—a challenge-inspired model for undergraduate education—and a NIH-funded graduate training program focusing on the tissue microenvironment. Bhargava founded and serves as the director of the Cancer Community@Illinois, a University-wide effort dedicated to advancing cancer-related research and scholarship. The effort is a unique approach to oncology across the lifespan and the first such national center combining high quality engineering with the field of oncology.
His dedication to education has been recognized by the College of Engineering and he is routinely nominated to annual “Incomplete list of teachers ranked excellent by their students.” Using real-world problems to inspire education and student development, among his recent educational innovations are the development of the Cancer Scholars Program—a challenge-inspired model for undergraduate education—and a NIH-funded graduate training program focusing on the tissue microenvironment. His research is supported by multiple awards from the NIH, Department of Defense, non-profit foundations and industry. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2015) and of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS, 2015), and he has been recognized with the SAS Meggers Award (2014), the Craver Award (Coblentz Society, 2013) and the FACSS Innovation Award (2012).
Founder Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering
A professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering, and a research professor at the Coordinated Science Laboratory, Yoram Bresler is considered a foremost pioneer and father of the current field of compressed sensing in the area of signal processing and applied mathematics. A former associate editor for the IEEE Transactions for Image Processing, Bresler served on the editorial board of Machine Vision and Applications; he currently serves on the IEEE Biomaging and Signal Processing Technical Committee, and on the editorial boards for the IEEE Journal on Selected Topics in Signal Processing, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Journal on Imaging Sciences.
In 1999, he was named a University of Illinois Scholar and appointed as an associate at the Center for Advanced Study (2001). A Fellow of the IEEE and of the AIMBE, Bresler was appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer by the IEEE Signal Processing Society (2016-17). He is a co-founder, president, and chief technology officer of InstaRecon, Inc.—a software spinoff from his academic research—that develops and markets breakthrough image reconstruction technology for CT scanners. Colleagues note that Bresler extends the unrelentingly high standard he imposes on his own work to his teaching, with his students placing him on the “Incomplete list of teachers ranked excellent by their students,” in addition to department and College-level awards.
Founder Professor in Computer Science
Timothy Chan is a world leader in computational geometry, and more broadly, in the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures. As one of the field’s most productive and influential researchers, Chan has contributed a number of seminal results of fundamental importance with nearly 200 publications to date. His evolving plans include pivoting his powerful theoretical tools into the Big Data arena, where he argues that critical tasks in high-volume streaming/sketching can be formulated as geometry problems.
Chan comes to Illinois from the Cheriton School of Computer Science at University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where he was a full professor and former University Research Chair in the Department of Computer Science. In the classroom, Chan excels at explaining difficult concepts cleanly and simply, making him a popular and respected teacher.
Founder Professor in Computer Science
Dan Roth has been at the forefront of research in natural language understanding, machine learning and reasoning. A professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Beckman Institute, he also holds faculty appointments in the Statistics, Linguistics, and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, and at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Roth has done pioneering work that has helped bridge Learning and Reasoning in AI, including developing a theory integrating Learning and Reasoning, formally showing the benefit in jointly studying these important phenomena, and a highly influential constrained optimization framework that augments the learning of statistical models with declarative constraints. Building on these theories, Roth and his team have developed tools that can analyze human language, categorize it, parse it semantically, and “wikify” it—disambiguate it and map snippets of text to the relevant Wikipedia pages. These tools are used by numerous researchers and some commercial companies to access text in more sophisticated ways than a keyword search, which is used by search engines such as Google.
He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and the Association of Computational Linguistics (ACL), for his contributions to Machine Learning and to Natural Language Processing. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, and he has published broadly in machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation and reasoning, and learning theory, and has developed advanced machine learning based tools for natural language applications that are being used widely by the research community.
Founder Professor in Physics
NCSA director Ed Seidel is a distinguished researcher in high-performance computing and relativity and astrophysics with an outstanding track record as an administrator. In addition to leading NCSA, Seidel has been appointed the interim vice president for research for the University of Illinois system. He is also a Founder Professor in the Department of Physics and a professor in the Department of Astronomy.
His previous leadership roles include serving as the senior vice president for research and innovation at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, directing the Office of Cyberinfrastructure and serving as assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the U.S. National Science Foundation, and leading the Center for Computation & Technology at Louisiana State University. He also led the numerical relativity group at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Germany, and before that he was a senior research scientist leading the numerical relativity group at NCSA.
Seidel is a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. His research has been recognized by a number of awards, including the 2006 IEEE Sidney Fernbach Award, the 2001 Gordon Bell Prize, and 1998 Heinz-Billing-Award.
Founder Professor in Bioengineering and Physics
Jun Song is a theoretical biological physicist with joint appointments in the Department of Physics and the Department of Bioengineering. His research program in computational biology and biomedicine leverages the methodologies and tools of physics and mathematics to discover how transcription factors, chromatin structure, and non-coding RNAs regulate gene expression. Song is particularly interested in the genomic study of cancer. His ongoing research has implications for prognosis and treatment of cancer, in particular of malignant melanoma and brain cancers.
Before coming to Illinois, Song was associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, where he advised students within the biomedical sciences graduate group, the biological and medical informatics graduate group, and the developmental and stem cell biology graduate group.
Prior to his appointment at UCSF in 2009, Song held a position as a Charles B. Morrey, Jr. Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley (2001–2003). He held an appointment as instructor and research fellow in medical physics and as research fellow in biostatistics and computation biology at Harvard University (2003–2007), and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study’s Simons Center for Systems Biology (2007–2009). He is the recipient of many honors, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2011) and a Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award (2011). He was also awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship (1997).
Founder Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering
As one of the leading queueing theorists in the world, Alexander Stolyar has made fundamental contributions to the analysis and control of stochastic networks. Among his deep and influential theoretical contributions, is the introduction of the fluid limit technique for establishing a fundamental property, stochastic stability of queueing networks, which became a standard tool in stochastic networks theory.
His work the MaxWeight scheduling algorithm in the heavy-traffic asymptotic regime, originated a sizable amount of literature in this direction and was awarded the prestigious INFORMS Applied Probability Society 2002-2004 Best Publication Award. Stolyar’s Google citations—more than 7,000 with an h-index 35—are rare for a queueing theorist. He also has made significant industrial impact as illustrated by more than 20 patents and actual implementations of developed solutions/algorithms. His current work is motivated primarily by the problems arising in big data processing and cloud computing.
Prior to joining the Illinois faculty, Stolyar was the Timothy J. Wilmott endowed chair professor in the department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Lehigh University. Before joining Lehigh in 2014, for 16 years he was a member, and then a distinguished member of technical staff at the Mathematical Sciences Research of Bell Labs. In his early career, Stolyar was a research scientist at the Institute of Control Sciences of USSR Academy of Science, a lead engineer, and, later, a senior staff engineer at Motorola, a senior technical staff member at AT&T Labs-Research. Stolyar earned his PhD in mathematics from the Institute of Control Sciences of USSR Academy of Science in 1989.
Founder Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering
After 15 years at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in New York, Yurii Vlasov joined the College of Engineering faculty in 2016. As one of the pioneers of silicon nanophotonics, Vlasov is highly regarded for his work at IBM, developing optical communications technology that greatly reduces the energy and cost required to transmit large amounts of data between chips. Although he was originally a fundamental scientist, he accepted the challenge of bringing the technology through to commercial release—directing research and development, leading technology qualification at the foundry, as well as business development.
Wanting to return to his scientific roots, he did something that well established professionals rarely do—he sought out a brand new field of study in the area of brain-inspired computing architectures. To learn the frontiers of brain research, he spent a year at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus soaking up everything he could learn about experimental neuroscience. At Illinois, Vlasov holds faculty appointments in electrical engineering, materials science and engineering, and bioengineering. He is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. The overarching theme of his research is applying engineering solutions to the life sciences with a bold interdisciplinary agenda holding a promise for real-world impact.
Founder Professor in Bioengineering and Computer Science
Tandy Warnow came to Illinois from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was the David Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor in Computer Science. Prior to that she had been at the University of Pennsylvania.
Warnow is an expert in the application of mathematics and computer science to developing algorithms for complex problems in the fields of phylogenomics—the study of genetic material in the environment—at the intersection of evolution and genomics, and metagenomics. She received an NSF National Young Investigator Award (1994), a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship (1996), a Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study Fellowship (2003), and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2011). She was elected as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 2016.