Founder Professors

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.

Rashid Bashir

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.

Rohit Bhargava

Founder Professor in Engineering

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).

Yoram Bresler

Founder Professor in 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.

Timothy M. Chan

Founder Professor in Engineering

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.

Joseph Irudayaraj

Founder Professor in Engineering

An expert in nanomaterials for biosensors and monitoring live cell dynamics, Joseph Irudayaraj is a prolific researcher in the biomedical imaging and nanosensor technology fields. His groundbreaking work in phenotyping cancer cells has been successfully commercialized into a globally marketed diagnostic tool by Cytoviva Inc., a leading provider of advanced optical microscopy and hyperspectral imaging technologies.

Irudayaraj spent more than a decade at Purdue University, where he made a significant breakthrough in utilizing gold nanorods and dark field plasmon imaging techniques, which made it possible to evaluate multiple different surface proteins and mRNA splicing at once in live cancer cells, with single-cell resolution. This is not possible when using conventional or other advanced methods.

At Illinois, Irudayaraj is focusing on live cell monitoring across different model organisms incorporating super-resolution lifetime imaging and spectroscopy. His research lab is located in Carle Hospital’s Stephens Family Clinical Research Institute, which allows him to directly collaborate with physicians and researchers at the U of I Micro + Nanotechnology Lab (MNTL).

Irudayaraj holds appointments in the Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and MNTL. Irudayaraj earned his PhD from Purdue and was a faculty member at Purdue, Penn State, Utah State, and University of Saskatchewan. He is an AIMBE Fellow, a recipient of the Purdue College of Engineering Research Excellence Award and University Faculty scholar award.

Sheldon H. Jacobson

Founder Professor in Engineering

Sheldon H. Jacobson joined the Department of Computer Science faculty at Illinois in 2006.  Prior to that, he was in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Illinois from 1999.  He currently serves as the director of the Simulation and Optimization Laboratory and is the founding director of the Bed Time Research Institute at Illinois.  He also holds appointments in the Departments of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana.

As a data scientist, Jacobson’s research focuses on using operations research models and advanced analytics to address public policy issues and societal problems of national interest.  His pioneering research on multi-level aviation security passenger screening at airports was the precursor to risk-based security, providing the foundational concepts that led to TSA Precheck©.  He researched the design of pediatric vaccine formularies, which introduced the use of operations research in the pediatric immunization domain.  Also, his research on bridging obesity, transportation, and fuel consumption established the impact of transportation on obesity, providing the foundation for non-medical obesity interventions based on modes of transportation.    

He has published over 260 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, conference proceedings, and professional/editorial publications, and delivered more than 470 presentations. Also, he has directed 21 Ph.D. dissertations and has been awarded research support from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Jacobson is a national leader in communicating technical research to a broad audience, with his research widely published and discussed in the press and on radio and television networks worldwide.  Government and professional organizations, including the Office of President George W. Bush, have sought his expertise. He has also served on committees for the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council.  In 2016, he led a workshop on new directions for Broader Impacts in engineering at the National Science Foundation.

Numerous organizations have recognized Jacobson’s accomplishments, including Aviation Security International and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers.  He was named a Guggenheim Fellow for his work on aviation security, and is an elected Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE).

Jacobson has a bachelor’s and a master’s of science degree in mathematics from McGill University and a Ph.D. in operations research from Cornell University. He has previously served on the faculties of Case Western Reserve University and Virginia Tech, and served as a program director for the National Science Foundation from 2012 to 2014.  

Shuming Nie

Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering

A pioneer in advancing biomedical nanotechnology, Shuming Nie came to Illinois from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he had been the Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Chair Professor in Biomedical Engineering for more than 10 years.

Nie’s academic work is primarily in the areas of nanomedicine, molecular engineering, and image-guided/minimally invasive/robotic surgery. His major academic achievements include the discovery of colloidal metal nanoparticles that are able to amplify the efficiencies of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) by 14-15 orders of magnitude, his pioneering work on water-soluble semiconductor quantum dots for biomedical applications, and his breakthrough work in developing multifunctional smart nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery and intraoperative cancer imaging.

In addition to discovering many advances in cancer treatment, Nie has collaborated with thoracic surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania, neurosurgeons at Mount Sinai in New York, and GI surgeons at Emory to develop clinically applicable nanoparticles and spectroscopic instrumentation for intraoperative cancer detection and image-guided surgery.

A Fellow of both the AAAS and IAMBE, Nie has received the MilliPub Club Award, Merck Award, Nature Publishing’s Achievement Award in Nanomedicine, and the UK’s Rank Prize in Opto-electronics. He earned his PhD from Northwestern University.

In addition to his faculty position with Bioengineering, Nie holds joint appointments in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and the Micro + Nanotechnology Lab. 

Jun Song

Founder Professor in Engineering

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).

Aleksandr Stolyar

Founder Professor in 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.

Yurii Vlasov

Founder Professor in 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.

Tandy Warnow

Founder Professor in Engineering

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.