Research & Innovation

Strategic Investments Fuel Record Growth of Stevens’ Research Enterprise

With nearly $46 million in research funding grants over the past 14 months and a record number of Ph.D. students, it’s an exciting time to be involved in research at the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science

photo of Stevens researchers in a lab

Four years into the execution of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering & Science’s (SES) five-year strategic plan, heavy investments in research infrastructure are beginning to pay big dividends. After four years of laying strategic groundwork, the Schaefer School is experiencing record-breaking Ph.D. enrollment, research funding and research spending–all in support of its mission to prepare students to confidently take on leadership roles in technology and the applied sciences.

“The strategic plan we created in 2018 included strategies for creating a stronger research enterprise at Stevens to better support our graduate students and their educational experience,” explained Dean Jean Zu. “We identified some key areas where we wanted to focus our efforts, and beef up our resources. That included hiring more than 60 new tenure and tenure-track faculty, many of whom are up and coming stars in their fields, as well as building out frameworks to support the development and improve the quality of grant proposals so that we can provide even more Ph.D. students with cutting-edge research opportunities.”

The efforts have paid off substantially. Last year, the school received a record-breaking $34.4 million in research grants from federal, state, foundation and industry sources, funding innovation in increasingly impactful, cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum science, biomedical engineering, data science and sustainability and providing ample opportunities for doctoral students to discover their niche.

“Stevens in general and SES in particular has a thriving research enterprise and deepening research culture,” said Henry Du, professor of chemical engineering and material science, and associate dean for research. “Our capacity to train Ph.D. students is rapidly expanding due to the addition of so many new faculty members and our increased level of research funding. This progress is affording our Ph.D. students exciting new opportunities to conduct cutting-edge doctoral research across engineering and science disciplines.”

These new projects focus on breakthrough research into a variety of potentially life-changing areas, including innovative AI applications for healthcare, led by Jason Corso, professor and interim department chair of the department of computer science, and Computer Science Associate Professor Samantha Kleinberg, both funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As more and more opportunities are available to get involved in unique research projects, more students are deciding Stevens is the right place to continue their educational journey. In 2021, 355 Ph.D. students enrolled, a 41% increase over the last six years.

“This impressive growth is a clear demonstration of the importance of research as our focus in SES,” noted Rainer Martini, associate professor of physics and associate dean for graduate studies. “Doctoral students come here for the unique opportunity to do research at the intersection of engineering and science that a Stevens education provides.”

The rapid expansion in both research and the student population has come in tandem with an expanding faculty. The addition of 17 faculty members in 2021 brought SES’s four-year hiring total to 64. Ranging from junior to senior faculty, these leaders are already making an impact, further strengthening research programs and the ways students can experience and contribute to advances in their chosen fields.

“Our new hires are contributing in a major way to our already powerful intellectual vibrancy and research culture, and increasing the breadth and depth of our research, especially in areas of federal investment priority such as artificial intelligence, quantum research, human health and sustainability,” Du explained.

That momentum has continued, with $11.5 million in new research funding grants since July, funding projects like groundbreaking new tools for skin cancer imaging, led by Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Negar Tavassolian and her RadioSight partner, founded by former doctoral fellow Amir Mirbeik ’18, and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF); research into quantum technologies led by Yuping Huang, professor of physics, and his team, and funded by the U.S. Army; and automated mobile robot research conducted by Brendan Englot, associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering, and funded by the Consolidated Edison Company.

As Zu noted, “I’m proud that our focus on excellence in research and scholarship is making Stevens an even more vibrant place for current and future students to thrive.”

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