Columbia Engineering Adds 13 New Faculty in 2018

Sep 14 2018

Thirteen new faculty members join Columbia Engineering this year. Their areas of expertise reflect the School’s commitment to transcending disciplinary boundaries and educating the next generation of leaders prepared to thrive in a changing workforce and address the many challenges facing our world.

Columbia Engineering has hired 87 faculty members across all ranks in the past five years as the School continues to expand, to attract top talent and pursue frontier research in many foundational areas, including nanoscience, data science, biomedicine, financial engineering, advanced materials, computation, sensing and robotics. As part of the School’s strategic vision, “Columbia Engineering for Humanity,” faculty are particularly engaged in projects with the potential to have major impact in the creation of a more sustainable, healthy, secure, connected, and creative society.

Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics


Kui Ren joined the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics as a Professor of Applied Mathematics in July 2018.

Dr. Ren earned his PhD in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University in 2006, his MS from Peking University in 2001, and BS degree from Nanjing University in 1998.  Dr. Ren completed his postdoctoral research at Columbia Engineering and the L.E. Dickson Instructor in applied mathematics at University of Chicago. He joins Columbia from the University of Texas at Austin where he was a faculty member from 2008 until 2018 in the Department of Mathematics and the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences.

Dr. Ren’s research focuses on applied and computational mathematics, including inverse problems, mathematical imaging, fast aglorithms, kinetic modeling, and complex networks.

Among his awards, he has received the 2006 Robert Simon Memorial Prize for his PhD thesis in Applied Mathematics at Columbia (welcome back Kui!), the 2014 MediaV Young Researcher Award from the International Conference on Inverse Problems, the Moncrief Grand Challenge Award from the University of Texas at Austin, and the 2017 Calderón Prize from the Inverse Problems International Association.

Biomedical Engineering


Nandan Nerurkar joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering as an Assistant Professor in January 2018.

Dr. Nerurkar received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from University of Pennsylvania in 2010; his MS degree in Biomedical Engineering from  Washington University in St. Louis in 2005; and BS degree in Biological Engineering from University of Maryland–College Park in 2003. He pursued his postdoctoral studies as a Fellow in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Nerurkar investigates how tissues and organs form in the developing embryo through an integration of genetic, molecular, and biophysical cues using live in-vivo imaging, gene mis-expression, and biomechanical approaches in the developing chick embryo. Dr. Nerurkar’s work focuses on understanding how forces that shape the embryo are specified by developmental signals, how these forces in turn influence tissue growth and stem cell differentiation, and how birth defects arise when these processes go awry. The goal of his work is to establish the design principles of embryonic tissue formation and to repurpose them for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications. Amongst his recognitions, Dr. Nerurkar has been recognized by the 2008 ISSLS Prize in Biomechanics and AAAS/Science Program for Excellence in Science over 2012-2015.

Chemical Engineering


Chris Boyce joined the Department of Chemical Engineering as an Assistant Professor in January 2018.

Dr. Boyce received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from University of Cambridge, UK in 2015; and his BS degree in Chemical Engineering and in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. Among his recognitions, he was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholar (2011-2014) and recognized with the 2015 Danckwerts-Pergamon Prize for the best PhD thesis in Chemical Engineering at Cambridge. Dr. Boyce completed his postdoctoral research at Princeton University and at ETH Zürich.

Dr. Boyce examines the fundamentals of multiphase flows to spark advances in energy, health, and the environment, using magnetic resonance imaging and computational modeling to gain insights into complex systems. He plans to teach computational fluid dynamics and undergraduate fluid mechanics. 


Lauren Marbella joined the Department of Chemical Engineering as an Assistant Professor in July 2018.

Dr. Marbella received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016; and BS degree from Duquesne University in 2009. Over the course of her PhD, Dr. Marbella was awarded an Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship and a Chair’s Scholar Fellowship. She pursued her postdoctoral studies at the University of Cambridge where she was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow and a Charles and Katharine Darwin Research Fellow.

At Columbia, her research will focus on designing novel materials and in situ characterization tools for a wide variety of energy-related materials, including electrochemical energy storage and conversion. Her research draws inspiration from both chemistry and biology to create next generation batteries, catalysts, and optics.  Dr. Marbella looks forward to teaching a new elective course offered for the Fall semester on NMR spectroscopy of bio, soft, and energy materials.


Aaron Moment joined the Department of Chemical Engineering as a Professor of Practice in July 2018.

Dr. Moment received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 and his BS degree in 1994 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

Prior to joining Columbia University, Dr. Moment worked at Merck & Co. for 16 years as a chemical engineer involved in process development of a number of commercialized drugs including Januvia (diabetes) and Belsomra (sleep disorder). He brings with him industrial experience in crystallization, solid state chemistry, mixing, reaction engineering, process safety, process modeling, particle engineering, laboratory automation, process analytical technology, QbD and design of experiments, and drug development.  He was recognized with numerous awards at Merck for his contributions to pharmaceutical processing. At Columbia, Dr. Moment will be developing new classes related to pharmaceutical development and also supervising students on research projects related to biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing.

Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics


Marco Giometto joined the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics as an Assistant Professor in January 2018.

Dr. Giometto received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland in 2016; a PhD in Civil Engineering from Braunschweig TU University, Germany, and University of Florence, Italy in 2014; his MS degree from University of Padua, Italy in 2010; and his BS degree from University of Padua in 2007. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and at Stanford University in the Center for Turbulence Research.

Dr. Giometto’s research is in the fields of theoretical and computational fluid mechanics, with a focus on boundary-layer flows and on nonequilibrium effects in turbulence. Current topics of interest include thermally driven wall-bounded flows, canopy flows, and the response of turbulence to rapid straining. Amongst his recognitions, Dr. Giometto was recognized with the 2016 EDME Award for the Best PhD thesis in mechanics at EPFL and a 2014 Outstanding Student Paper award from the American Geophysical  Union General Assembly. Dr. Giometto will teach fluid mechanics this Fall and a course on turbulence next Spring 2019. 

Computer Science


Tony Dear will join the Computer Science department as a Lecturer in Discipline. 

Dr. Dear earned his PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon in 2018; his MS degree from Carnegie Mellon in 2015; and BS degree in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley in 2012.

Dr. Dear completed the Future Faculty Program at the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon and has been the recipient of a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. His research and pedagogical interests lie in bringing theory into practice. In his PhD research, this idea motivated the application of analytical tools to motion planning for "real" or physical locomoting robotic systems that violate certain ideal assumptions, but still exhibit some structure.

Dr. Dear strives to engage students with relatable examples and projects, as well as alternative ways of learning, such as an online curriculum with lecture videos. He is looking forward to teaching classes in areas relating to robotics and AI, as well as introductory CS courses.


Donald Ferguson joined the Computer Science department as a Professor of Practice in January 2018.

Dr. Ferguson earned his PhD from Columbia University in 1989; his MS degree from Columbia University in 1984; and his BA degree from Columbia University in 1982.

Dr. Ferguson is the cofounder and CTO of SparqTV, a streaming content platform using cloud/serverless technology. He held leadership roles at Microsoft, IBM, and Computer Associates (now CA, Inc.) before becoming vice president and CTO for Dell Software Group. Amongst his many technical and professional recognitions, Dr. Ferguson holds the distinction of having been recognized as a Dell Senior Fellow (2012), a Microsoft Technical Fellow (2007), and an IBM Fellow (2001). In 2013, he received the Egleston Medal from the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association.


Ronghui Gu joined the Computer Science department as an Assistant Professor in January 2018. 

Dr. Gu earned his PhD in 2016 from Yale University; his MS and MPhil from Yale University in 2014; and his BS degree from Tsinghua University, China in 2011. He was recognized with the 2016 Distinction Dissertation from Yale University.

Before joining Columbia, Dr. Gu worked at Google. His work focuses on programming languages and operating systems, specifically language-based support for safety and security, certified system software, certified programming and compilation, formal methods, and concurrency reasoning.  Dr. Gu seeks to build certified concurrent operating systems that can resist cyberattacks.


Baishakhi Ray joined the Computer Science department as an Assistant Professor in July 2018.  

Dr. Ray received her PhD from University of Texas, Austin in 2013; her MS from University of Colorado, Boulder in 2009; BTech degree from Calcutta University, 2004; and her BSc from Presidency College in 2001.

With a primary interest in software engineering research focused on improving software reliability and security, Dr. Ray devises novel program analysis techniques to analyze existing code properties and apply advanced machine learning models to learn from those properties.  Such models help to build tools that can automate program development, bug detection, and program repair for real-world large scale software.

Prior to joining Columbia, Dr. Ray previously served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia and was a postdoctoral fellow in computer science at University of California, Davis. In 2017, she received Best Paper Awards at the SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering and at the International Conference on Mining Software Repositories, as well as a 2014 Best Practical Paper award at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.


Carl Vondrick joined the Computer Science department as an Assistant Professor in July 2018.

Dr. Vondrick earned his PhD and MS degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017 and 2013, respectively; and his BS degree from University of California, Irvine in 2011.  During his doctoral studies, he was recognized with a Google PhD Fellowship and an NSF Graduate Fellowship.

His research focuses on computer vision and machine learning, using large amounts of unlabeled data to teach perception to machines. Other interests include interpretable models, high-level reasoning, and perception for robotics.

Prior to joining Columbia, Dr. Vondrick was at Google Research as a research scientist. His research has been featured on CNN, NPR, and a skit on Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert. 

Industrial Engineering and Operations Research


Yi Zhang joined the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department as a Lecturer in Discipline in July 2018.

Dr. Zhang received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2018; and a BS degree is Software Engineering from Peking University in 2010 and a BS degree in Information Systems from Dalian University of Technology in 2009.

At Columbia, Dr. Zhang will be teaching courses in data science and operations research such as Foundations of Data Science and Simulation. During his PhD study at Carnegie Mellon University, he worked as an instructor/head TA for various data analytics courses including Advanced Business Analytics and Applied Econometrics. He received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon (CMU) in 2017 and participated in the Future Faculty Program at the Eberly Center at CMU. His PhD research focused on the economics of digital products in the entertainment industry.


In 2019, we will also be welcoming a number of new faculty members:

Tim Roughgarden, Professor of Computer Science (joining Columbia from Stanford University) (January 2019)

Dan Steingart, Associate Professor (with tenure) of Earth and Environmental Engineering (joining Columbia from Princeton University) (January 2019)

Christian Kroer, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (July 2019)

Brian Smith, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (July 2019)

Shuran Song, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (July 2019)

Alexander Urban, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering (January 2019)