The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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College of Engineering Welcomes Four New Highly Accomplished Faculty Members

Emily Kumpel

Emily Kumpel

Amir Arbabi

Amir Arbabi

The College of Engineering At UMass Amherst is pleased to welcome four new faculty members, beginning in the spring semester of 2017. All four have impeccable credentials and a track record of eye-catching accomplishments. The new arrivals are Emily Kumpel of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, Amir Arbabi of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, Lauren Woodruff of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, and Jay Taneja of the ECE Department.

Kumpel, whose research uses interdisciplinary approaches to understand complex engineered, environmental, and human systems to enable the provision of safe, reliable, and sustainable drinking water and sanitation services, has already worked and researched around the world in such places as Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, Madagascar, India, Canada, and the United States. Dr. Kumpel earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in CEE at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2013 Kumpel has served as a senior research scientist and research associate at Aquaya Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, where, among many other duties, she developed research projects on the use of water quality monitoring, data, mapping information flows, mobile phones for  collecting water data, and improving sampling strategies. From 2007 until 2013, while working on her Ph.D. research at Cal Berkeley, she collected and tested 2,500 water quality samples and over 100 hours of sensor data through fieldwork in Hubli-Dharwad, India, including selecting indicators, methods, and equipment, as well as training a research team.

Kumpel has also worked as a consultant for Health Canada, as a project director in Mumbai, India, for Engineers for a Sustainable World, and on a water and  sanitation project for Catholic Relief Services of Baltimore. In addition, she was the co-creator and co-founder of NextDrop, a for-profit social enterprise that uses mobile phones to provide information about water delivery to households and water utilities. For her efforts with NextDrop, Kumpel won First Place in both the Global Social Venture and the Knight News Foundation Challenge. She was also an intern for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Kumpel has given key presentations, seminars, and invited talks for such organizations as the World Bank and such events as the World Water Week in Sweden, the African Water Congress in the Ivory Coast, Singapore Water Week, and many others.

Arbabi already has 33 peer-reviewed publications, 37 conference presentations, 14 invited talks and seminars, and 17 patents to his credit. His research deals with nanophotonics, flat optics, silicon photonics, III-V photonic devices and circuits, and applied electromagnetics. Since 2013 Dr. Arbabi has served as a postdoctoral scholar and senior research scientist at the California Institute of Technology’s T.J. Watson Laboratories of Applied Physics. There, among other successes, he developed a technology for achieving complete control of phase and polarization of light using a sub-micron-thick planar platform based on high-contrast metasurfaces. The platform allows the realization of the majority of passive optical components with high efficiency in a thin planar profile and enables novel optical elements with unprecedented functionalities.

While studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Arbabi earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, his thesis dealt with “Selective  mode coupling in micro ring resonators for single-mode semiconductor lasers.” He received his M.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and his thesis was on terahertz surface wave sensors. At the University of Tehran as an undergraduate, Arbabi ranked number one in a graduating class of 750 seniors. Among other honors and distinctions, he has received the K.C. Yeh Endowed Fellowship, the Nick and Katherine Holoyak, Jr. Graduate Student Fellowship and Outstanding Research Award, and the E.A. Reid Award while at Illinois, along with Ontario Graduate Scholarship and a President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Woodruff studies how precisely to reprogram bacterial cells to sense and respond to their surroundings for applications in microbiome engineering, health, and biotechnology. Since 2013 Woodruff has been serving as a postdoctoral associate at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in Cambridge, as well as at the MIT Department of Biological Engineering. Her project there developed new approaches for rapid multi-part DNA construction and systematic engineering of synthetic pathways and genetic circuits. Before that, while a graduate research assistant and GAANN fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Woodruff studied biological routes to biofuel production and completed her Ph.D. thesis on "Genomic engineering of Escherichia coli for improved ethanol tolerance and ethanol production."

Woodruff earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 2006, and she has performed a number of other research projects related to bioengineering of living cells. In 2004 she was at Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Chemical Engineering as an undergraduate researcher, studying protein production in plant tissues and plant cell suspensions. In 2005 Woodruff was an undergraduate researcher at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Department of Medicine testing the immunogenicity of ovarian cancer vaccine clinical trials and studying the recombinant production of cancer antigens at Cornell. In 2006 and 2007 she worked at GreenFuel Technologies in Cambridge, studying bioreactor design and separations engineering for large-scale production of biofuels from algae at an Arizona power plant. Throughout this body of work and education, Woodruff has managed to accumulate 21 conference presentations, two patents, and nine peer-reviewed journal publications, including those in Nature Biotechnology, Nucleic Acids Research, and Metabolic Engineering.

Taneja of the ECE Department develops and studies applications of sensing and communications technology on the delivery of reliable, sustainable, and plentiful electricity in the developed and developing world. From 2013 until now, Taneja was a research scientist at IBM Research in Nairobi, where he led the lab's research team studying energy and transportation in the developing world, including formulating a research strategy, building an ecosystem of partners and collaborators, conducting research projects, and publishing results on improving electricity reliability, access, and quality in sub-Saharan Africa. At the University of California, Berkeley, from 2005 to 2013, Taneja was a Ph.D. researcher who constructed a networked system for sculpting electricity loads to match the availability of renewable supplies. He also designed and built a networked system for demand-controlled ventilation in an office building, designed a solar-powered microweather station which deployed 50 units in a forest environment, and managed and demonstrated a 600-node outdoor wireless target tracking network to DARPA.

Taneja also spent part of 2008 at Microsoft Research in Bangalore, India, as a graduate research intern, where, among other duties, he designed a platform to enable a wide range of applications  that use the sensors present  on mobile  phones. In 2004 he worked at Intel Corporation, Hudson, MA, as an intern on the Global Electrical Performance Verification Team, and in 2003 and 2004 he was at Eaton Corporation, Milwaukee, WI, as a research intern. Taneja has presented nearly 30 conference presentations and workshops on his research specialties. (January 2017)