Campus & Community

New Stevens Chair Seeks to Bring Smart Systems to Traditional Engineering

"We aim to future-proof the department, and do what we do best."

Those are the words of Muhammad Hajj, professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering (CEOE) at Stevens Institute of Technology. He is also the director of the renowned Davison Laboratory, a transdisciplinary facility spanning the fields of naval architecture, coastal and ocean engineering, physical oceanography, marine hydrodynamics and maritime systems that addresses issues facing natural systems and human-made maritime activities.

Hajj joined Stevens on July 1, 2018. As an internationally renowned scholar in the fields of fluid mechanics, structural dynamics and fluid-structure interactions, Hajj is making it his mission to expand on what’s working well in the department while also bringing it into the future.

Hajj says he's beginning his tenure as chair from a position of strength.

"Great things are already happening in CEOE," he points out. "We have excellent undergraduate programs with an impressive percentage of students landing jobs before they graduate. We offer master’s programs that have given hundreds of professionals around the globe opportunities to advance their careers."

"We also offer unmatchable research programs and facilities, including a wave tank with the fastest towing speed in the world for its size. We host computational facilities and have unique modeling capabilities for real-time prediction of flood levels during extreme weather events and storm surges over broad coastal areas. We develop novel solutions for sustainable utilization of environmental resources and net-zero technologies. We will continue to grow our capabilities in urban/interconnected infrastructure systems, sustainable development, resilient coastal communities, smart maritime systems and design, and optimization of ships and ocean systems."

"Looking towards the future," he notes, "we must ensure that our CEOE degree programs have the rigor and flexibility that enables graduates to lead in new areas including the development of cyber-physical systems in civil, environmental and ocean engineering applications, and the use of data analytics to extract information that can be leveraged to control or adapt the use of these systems."

Hajj’s vision will not only ensure the longevity of the department, but also reinforce key research pillars for the school and the university. The commitment aligns with four of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science’s foundational pillars—artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, data science and information systems, and resilience and sustainability. It also aligns with four of the Stevens foundational pillars—artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity, data science and information systems, complex systems and networks, and resilience and sustainability.

This vision is not only special in terms of its breadth; it is unique for research disciplines steeped in legacy and tradition.

"Over the past 80 years, we have played a major role in the design and evaluation of engineered civil, environmental and ocean vehicles and systems. We will make certain this legacy is continued through major research breakthroughs and contributions."

Hajj stresses collaboration as a key to accomplishing these goals.

"Our alumni are interested in supporting these focus areas," he says. "Some have already put us in contact with different entities and organizations to start collaborations."

“We are also interested in establishing collaborative degree programs, certificate programs and national and international research efforts to position Stevens among world leaders in those areas,” Hajj added.

Prior to joining Stevens, Hajj was the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Engineering at Virginia Tech. He was also the associate dean at the Graduate School and director of the Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics.

His research and education initiatives have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the U.S. State Department, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and industry. He has published over 150 journal articles with his students and has given keynote and invited lectures at several international workshops and conferences.