P.C. Rossin College of
Engineering and Applied Science
Additions enrich expertise in robotics, machine learning, and other cutting-edge fields
Meet the new College of Engineering faculty at Lehigh University: Back Row (l-to-r): Xiu Yang, Lifang He, Wujie Wen, Cristian-Ioan Vasile, David Saldaña; Front Row (l-to-r): Dominic DiFranzo, William Phillips, Houria Oudghiri, Daniel Robinson

A recent surge in hiring—11 new faculty members across four departments—will have a widespread impact on research and teaching at the Rossin College and support the interdisciplinary mission of Lehigh’s Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems, and Computation (I-DISC).

“We have faculty coming in who are doing groundbreaking work in robotics, data science and machine learning, cybersecurity, and social media, among other fields,” says computer science and engineering professor Héctor Muñoz-Avila, who also serves as co-director of I-DISC, a hub for interdisciplinary research. “These are very current directions followed by people everywhere with natural connections to our institute’s research.”

It’s an especially exciting time for Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) with three new professors of practice, three assistant professors, and a new department chair, Jeff Trinkle, an expert in advanced robotics, coming on board.

“Jeff was in charge of the National Robotics Initiative at the National Science Foundation so anyone who does robotics research will know him,” says Muñoz-Avila. “Having a researcher like Jeff on our team really puts Lehigh in a strong position.” 

Trinkle says he looks forward to leading the department and strengthening Lehigh's robotics research activities, while “fostering interdisciplinary collaborations across campus.”

Computer Science and Engineering

Dominic DiFranzo, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Postdoctoral associate, Social Media Lab, Communication and Information Science, Cornell University

Focus: Human-computer interaction; practical design interventions that encourage social media users to stand up to cyberbullies, fact-check fake news stories, and engage in prosocial actions; new experimental tools/methods that create ecologically valid social media simulations for large-scale experiments 

PhD: Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/dominic-difranzo

Lifang He, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Postdoctoral research fellow; Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics; University of Pennsylvania

Focus: Machine learning, data mining, tensor analysis, and biomedical informatics; developing advanced computational and statistical methods to analyze multidimensional, graph-structured data, and multi-source data, with applications to medical and social sciences 

PhD: Computer Science, South China University of Technology

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/lifang-he

Corey Montella ’19, Professor of Practice

Previous role: PhD student in Computer Engineering, Lehigh University

Focus: Programming language design and implementation, computational thinking in education, dynamic systems and control, human-computer interaction, autonomous intelligent systems and robotics, and reinforcement learning 

PhD: Computer Engineering, Lehigh University

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/corey-montella

Houria Oudghiri, Professor of Practice

Previous role: Visiting assistant professor, Computer Science, SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Focus: Game development, software engineering, programming, and VLSI design automation tools

PhD: Computer Engineering, McGill University

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/houria-oudghiri

William Phillips, Professor of Practice

Previous role: Lecturer, Computer Science, Fairleigh Dickinson University

Focus: Software engineering and development, cybersecurity, and robotics; teaching critical thinking through simulated and real-life software projects 

PhD: Computer Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology 

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/william-phillips

David Saldaña, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Postdoctoral researcher, Robotics, University of Pennsylvania 

Focus: Developing geometric algorithms and control strategies for multi-robot systems with applications in environmental monitoring, disaster response, aerial manipulation, and construction 

PhD: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil)

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/david-saldana

Jeff Trinkle, P.C. Rossin Professor and Chair 

Previous role: Professor, Computer Science and Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering; director, CS Robotics Lab; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Focus: Investigating problems that arise when robots try to grasp and manipulate things in unstructured environments; applications in smart homes of the future, with robots helping elderly and infirm people live independently longer; in manufacturing tasks such as assembly, maintenance, and repair; and in environmental cleanup tasks

PhD: Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/jeff-trinkle

Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Wujie Wen, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Assistant professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Florida International University

Focus: Deep learning hardware acceleration and neuromorphic computing; VLSI design/architecture of emerging memory and storage systems; electronic design automation; security of machine learning and its application in embedded, IoT, and edge computing systems

PhD: Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/wujie-wen

Industrial and Systems Engineering

Daniel P. Robinson, Associate Professor

Previous role: Assistant professor, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Johns Hopkins University

Focus: Mathematical optimization and data science; operations research; designing, analyzing, and implementing algorithms for solving continuous optimization problems in fields such as computer vision and health care

PhD: Mathematics, University of California, San Diego

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/daniel-robinson

Xiu Yang, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Scientist; Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Focus: Uncertainty quantification and stochastic simulation; physics-informed machine learning and data-driven scientific discovery; multi-scale modeling and model order reduction; scientific and engineering computing  

PhD: Applied Mathematics, Brown University

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/xiu-yang

Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics

Cristian-Ioan Vasile, Assistant Professor

Previous role: Postdoctoral associate; Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), and Distributed Robotics Laboratory, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Focus: Enabling autonomy in robotic systems; automated synthesis and decision making, explainability, scalability, and learning, with emphasis on deployment on physical robots, leveraging methods from motion planning, formal methods, automata-theory, machine learning, and control engineering 

PhDs: Control Engineering, Politechnica University of Bucharest; Systems Engineering, Boston University

Online: engineering.lehigh.edu/cristian-ioan-vasile