University Convocation Recognizes Faculty and Staff Excellence

Written by: Christina Crovetto,

“NJIT is where I learned the true importance of diversity and teamwork, which I have carried with me to my career,” said keynote speaker Victoria Leybova, who graduated from NJIT in 2015 with a degree in chemical engineering and is now employed as a process designer at ExxonMobil. “The best solution to a problem can only be found with a group of people with different skill sets and backgrounds.”  

Before Leybova spoke, NJIT President Joel S. Bloom shared his thoughts and advice with members of the Class of 2021 on getting the most from their NJIT experience.

"As an NJIT student and later as an alumnus, you will be associated with those who share with you the distinction of having attended one of only 32 polytechnic universities in the nation and whose contributions to society have improved the quality of life for many around the globe," he said. "That should be a point of pride in self and in one another.”

Each year at Convocation, the university honors NJIT faculty and staff members who have excelled as teachers, scholars and researchers.

Tara Alvarez, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is this year’s recipient of the Board of Overseers Excellence in Research Prize and Medal, which recognizes sustained contributions that have enhanced the reputation of NJIT. Alvarez, who specializes in treating vision function in brain injury patients, especially children with concussion, will formally receive the prize and medal at the Board of Overseers Excellence in Research Prize and Medal ceremony Oct. 4, 2017, celebrating her career. Yehoshua Perl, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, will receive the Board of Overseers Excellence in Research Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his distinguished career in industry and academe.

The Excellence in Service Award was presented to Heidi D. Young, Assistant to the Chair for Administration in the John A. Reif, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Excellence in Research Awards for the 2016-2017 academic year were presented to Edward Dreyzin (Newark College of Engineering); Junmin Shi (Martin Tuchman School of Management); Martina Decker (College of Architecture and Design); Yehoshua Perl (Ying Wu College of Computing Sciences); and Horatio Rotstein (College of Science and Liberal Arts).

The Constance A. Murray Diversity Award was presented to Judith Sheft, associate vice president for technology and enterprise development at the New Jersey Innovation Institute. Throughout her career, Sheft has worked diligently with many different constituents on campus to foster diversity and inclusion — in particular, enhancing advancement opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in technology entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. Constance Murray, dean of student services at NJIT from 1978 until her death in 1994, was a dedicated educator and humanitarian who devoted her life to enhancing opportunities for all people, especially minorities and women.

The Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize members of the instructional staff for outstanding accomplishments in teaching. Receiving this award were: Melodi Guilbault (Martin Tuchman School of Management) for instruction by a university lecturer; Junmin Shi (Martin Tuchman School of Management) for undergraduate instruction, lower division; Ellen Thomas (Martin Tuchman School of Management) for undergraduate instruction, upper division; Ali Mili (Computer Science) for graduate instruction; Janitha Hewa Bathgoda (Civil and Environmental Engineering) for instruction by a teaching assistant; John Lyssikatos (Civil and Environmental Engineering) for instruction by an adjunct professor; Miriam Ascarelli (Humanities) for excellence in innovative teaching; Reza Curtmola (Computer Science) for outstanding professional development in teaching by tenured faculty; and Don Menke (College of Architecture and Design) for outstanding contribution to teaching at NJIT by noninstructional staff.

Denis Blackmore (Mathematical Sciences) and Edwin Hou (Electrical and Computer Engineering) were named Master Teachers.

Two recent graduates, one an undergraduate and the other a master’s student, were lauded for their high-level academic achievement and multi-faceted engagement on campus and in national organizations with the Presidential Leadership Award.

The award was presented to Michael Filippidis, who was honored at the 2014 Highlander Awards as the Outstanding Freshman of the Year, as well as the 2017 Highlander Awards as the Undergraduate Presidential Leadership Award Recipient.  He will be employed at the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL) while conducting studies at Georgia Tech, where he plans on conducting research on the design of fixed-wing aircrafts and structural considerations. The other recipient, John Vito d’Antonio-Bertagnolli, worked as a student researcher in Dr. Tara Alvarez’s Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory for three years, where he completed his master’s thesis. He was the recipient of over $30,000 in support for his Virtual Reality Vision Therapy research, including an IEEE EPICS grant and first place in NJIT’s TechQuest competition. His patented research has been presented at peer-reviewed conferences, and he and his team are currently funded by a venture capital group to form a startup company at NJIT.

Abdallah Kreishah (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Eun Jung (Alice) Lee (Biomedical Engineering) Junmin (Jim) Shih (Martin Tuchman School of Management) and Wen Zhang (Civil and Environmental Engineering) were promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure.

Sergei Adamovich (Biomedical Engineering), Zhiming Ji (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering), Shidong Jiang (Mathematical Sciences), Rongfang (Rachel) Liu (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Neil Maher (History), Victor Matveev (Mathematical Sciences), Bryan Pfister (Biomedical Engineering), Roberto Rojas-Cessa (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Yuan-Nan Young (Mathematical Sciences) were promoted to the rank of full professor.

Namas Chandra (Biomedical Engineering) and Craig Gotsman (Computer Science) were promoted to the rank of distinguished professor.

Below is a snapshot of the NJIT Class of 2021: