The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Board of Trustees Promotes Three College of Engineering Faculty to Associate Professor with Tenure

Left to right: Chaitra Gopalappa, Jae-Hwang Lee, Sarah Perry

The UMass Board of Trustees has approved three additional tenure appointments in the College of engineering for Chaitra Gopalappa and Jae-Hwang Lee of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, along with Sarah Perry of the Chemical Engineering Department. 

Gopalappa heads the Disease Prediction and Prevention Modeling research group, which develops mathematical and computational models for disease prediction, prevention, and control analysis. “The novelty of our work is developing the mathematical methods to capture the interactions between multiple interrelated diseases and interventions that influence the social determinants of health, which are common risk factors for diseases,” as Gopalappa explains. “Our work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the World Health Organization and is in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and multiple academic institutes.”

Gopalappa’s research is in areas of systems simulation and network modeling, simulation-based parametric and control optimization, and stochastic processes. The objective is to develop the math necessary for constructing decision analytic models for combined analyses of prevention strategies of interrelated diseases, and subsequently, to enlighten public health decisions. Her lab’s work has thus far informed national and global strategic plans and guidelines in HIV and cancers. She has a B.E. in Industrial Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida. She did her post-doctoral study at the CDC.

Lee is the head of the MIE Nano-Engineering Laboratory. “Our group has a unique experimental method for investigating the high-strain rate and high-strain characteristics of nano-materials,” explains Lee about his method, known as Laser Induced Projectile Impact Test (LIPIT). “In the LIPIT, a micrometer-scale projectile is accelerated up to approximately three kilometers per second by the use of laser ablation and impacts a very localized area of a nano-material to induce a high-strain-rate deformation. In several U.S. Army and NSF projects using the LIPIT, we are quantitatively studying the dynamic responses of various materials and attempting to extend the use of LIPIT to soft materials, including biological tissues for a U.S. Navy project.”

Lee has been an assistant professor in the MIE department at UMass since September of 2014. He received a Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University in Condensed Matter Physics for 3D photonic crystals and their energy applications. For his postdoctoral study, Dr. Lee worked at the Ames Laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then he served as a research scientist in the Richard Smalley Institute at Rice University.

Research in the Perry Group is highly interdisciplinary and utilizes self-assembly, molecular design, and microfluidic technologies to understand the fundamental principles behind materials design to inform solutions to real-world challenges. The majority of research in Perry’s lab looks to establish a physics-informed understanding of a polymer phase separation phenomenon known as complex coacervation. “While coacervation has been used for a range of applications, including shampoo, underwater adhesive, and nutraceuticals, we are working to understand how specific molecular interactions drive these materials to self-assemble,” Perry says. “This work becomes even more important as coacervation and phase separation have been increasingly linked to biological phenomena associated with neurodegenerative diseases.” Perry’s group also develops microfluidic technologies to facilitate the study of proteins and other biomolecules.

Perry received B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry from the University of Arizona before earning her M.S. in Chemical Engineering there while working on gas-phase methods for chemically passivating silicon surfaces for semiconductor manufacturing. She then received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while working on microfluidic platforms for the crystallization and study of membrane protein crystallization. She began working as a postdoc for UMass alumnus Professor Matthew Tirrell in the Bioengineering Department at the University of California at Berkeley and moved with his lab to the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. (August 2020)