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BME and CEE Welcome Six New Faculty Members

Top row, l-r: Prabhani Atukorale, Siyuan Rao, Martin Hunter. Bottom row, l-r: Qianbin Wang, Mariana Lanzarini Lopes, Jessica Boakye

The Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department and the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department at UMass Amherst are adding a total of six new faculty members to the College of Engineering during the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 semesters. The BME department is adding Assistant Professor Prabhani Atukorale (January 2021) and Assistant Professor Siyuan Rao (January 2021), as well as Lecturers Martin Hunter (September 2020) and Qianbin Wang (December 2020). The CEE department is adding Assistant Professor Mariana Lanzarini Lopes (January 2021) and Lecturer Jessica Boakye (September 2020).

Atukorale comes to UMass Amherst from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, after serving as a postdoctoral scholar since 2014 in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is an immuno-engineer with research interests in modulating immunity to understand and treat disease. She is working to build nanomaterials-based tools that can drive, quantify, and interrogate immunity for the development of therapies in difficult-to-treat cancer settings such as metastasis. She earned her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), her M.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and her B.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University.

Rao is coming to UMass from MIT, where she has been working as a postdoctoral associate and, before that, a postdoctoral fellow at the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT. She received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pathway to Independence Award in 2019. She received her B.E. degree in Environmental Engineering from Beihang University, China, in 2010 and completed her Ph.D. in Material Physics and Chemistry at Beihang University in 2015. “Recently,” she says about her MIT research, “we have developed a magnetic technique that allows for pharmacological intervention to neural circuits. This technique can be described by the magnetothermal effect as a gating mechanism to release chemical payloads from lipid-based vesicles, and then the highly specific ligand-receptor interaction in targeted neural populations.”

Hunter arrives in the BME department from Tufts University, where he has served as a lecturer and other functions with extensive experience in teaching and developing college courses for biomedical engineers. He has a host of experience as a staff research scientist, senior postdoctoral research scientist, and postdoctoral research associate in several labs and departments at MIT. He was also a visiting assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at Holy Cross College, an NRC research fellow in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base, and a postdoctoral research associate at the NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry at MIT and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of Southern California.

Wang comes to UMass from the Department of Neurology at the Boston Children's Hospital Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he was a research fellow in Neurology. There he studied mechanical pressure induced glaucoma and its aqueous outflow regulation, biomechanics-related mechano-transduction and retinal ganglion cells death, gene therapy targeting retinal ganglion cells via intracameral injection, and stretch-induced axon regeneration. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral fellow in biomechanics at New York University. He received his B.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Sichuan University in China in 2010. He then completed his Ph.D. in Materials Physical Chemistry from Beihang University in China in 2015.

Lopes arrives at UMass from the University of Colorado, where she was a postdoctoral researcher. In her research she seeks to engineer platforms to enhance light transport and reactions for photon-driven water treatment. “This includes using nano-enabled technologies to enhance light-driven chemical transformations while optimizing hydraulics and optical paths of reactor designs,” she says. She works at the interface of basic science and industry to create innovative and green technologies applicable to today’s social and economic climate. She obtained her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Arizona State University.

UMass alumna Boakye comes to the CEE department from the University of Illinois, Urbana – Champaign, where she completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering. Her doctoral dissertation was on “Measuring the Societal Risk of Natural Hazards.” She had previously earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering from the UMass CEE department. While at UMass, she was awarded a highly competitive NSF-Funded REU in 2013 at the University of California, San Diego, where she studied “Post-Buckling Response of Steel Plate Girders.” As a UMass undergrad, she was also in the Commonwealth Honors College and completed a study of “Seismic Design and Response Assessment of Skewed Bridges” as her honors thesis. (November 2020)