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Seven Faculty Researchers Named AAAS Fellows

National Honor Recognizes Outstanding Scientific Contributions

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image ofIMG 0182 1920x1080 Physical Sciences Complex photo by Gail Rupert M.L.S. ’10

Seven University of Maryland faculty were announced today as fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.

UMD’s 2022 fellows, who hail from the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), join a class of 506 researchers who have moved their fields forward, paving the way for scientific advances that benefit humanity.

“The elections of these seven UMD faculty members are further evidence of their leadership and impact, both among their scientific communities and on society as a whole,” said Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice. “I’m pleased to congratulate them on this prestigious distinction, which demonstrates the world-class thinkers people can access here at the University of Maryland.”

The new fellows bring diverse and novel thinking, innovative approaches and passion to help solve the world’s most complex problems, the scholarly organization said in its announcement.

“AAAS is proud to elevate these standout individuals and recognize the many ways in which they’ve advanced scientific excellence, tackled complex societal challenges and pushed boundaries that will reap benefits for years to come,” said Sudip S. Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

UMD’s 2022 fellows are:

Sonalde Desai, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Sociology, has focused her research primarily on how gender, class, regional inequalities and social institutions shape the lives of individuals. Currently, she is preparing to field another round of the India Human Development Survey, a now 20-year-old research effort to track changes in Indian society via 40,000 households. Since the India Human Development Survey’s inception, it has been used by more than 12,000 researchers in over 1,200 research papers and dissertations. Today, the survey is considered a premier data source by many in the sociology and broader scientific communities.

She was elected president of the Population Association of America for 2022 and holds a joint appointment with the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi, a collaboration between the council, UMD and the University of Michigan. Desai earned her undergraduate sociology degree at the University of Bombay, India, master’s degree in sociology from Case Western Reserve University and Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University, before joining UMD in 1994.

Samuel Graham, Jr., dean of Maryland Engineering and Nariman Farvardin Professor, is an internationally recognized expert on the development of electronics made from wide bandgap semiconductors for applications in communications, power electronics and neuromorphic computing. His research focuses on engineering the electrothermal response of the devices in order to enhance heat dissipation and improve device reliability. In addition, he is creating physics-based models and unique experimental tools for verification that will enable the optimization and digital engineering of these electronics.

Through his work with the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, he is also developing thermal storage materials for use in building energy systems. Graham has won numerous honors for his work: In 2022, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers awarded him one of its top honors, the Allan Kraus Thermal Management Medal, in recognition of his expertise in the thermal engineering of WBG semiconductor devices and interfaces. Graham, who arrived at UMD in October 2021, earned his B.S. from Florida State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.

Abba Gumel, who joined UMD in Fall 2022 as the Michael and Eugenia Brin Endowed Chair in Mathematics, holds joint appointments in the Department of Biology and Institute for Physical Science and Technology. Gumel’s research primarily involves designing, analyzing and simulating mathematical models to gain insight and understanding of the transmission dynamics and control of emerging, re-emerging and resurging infectious diseases. Some of his past research demonstrated the dynamics of dengue disease-carrying mosquitoes, the impact of quarantine on an Ebola outbreak and the ability of masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last year, he was awarded the Bellman Prize at the annual meeting of the Society for Mathematical Biology for a paper on the links between malaria transmission and climate.

Gumel, who has written nearly 170 peer-reviewed research papers, was named a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics as well as the American Mathematical Society in 2022. He is also a fellow of the African Scientific Institute, Nigerian Academy of Science and African Academy of Sciences. Gumel came to UMD from a faculty position at Arizona State University, and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Brunel University in the United Kingdom and his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bayero University in Nigeria.

Mohammad Hajiaghayi is the Jack and Rita G. Minker Professor of Computer Science with a joint appointment in the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. He has made significant contributions to the fields of algorithmic graph theory and algorithmic game theory, and has 350 refereed technical publications.

Hajiaghayi is a Guggenheim fellow, an IEEE fellow, an Association for Computing Machinery fellow, a European Association for Theoretical Computer Science fellow and a Blavatnik honoree. He received a University of Waterloo Alumni Achievement Medal and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, as well as a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. He was also an Amazon Scholar, a visiting research scientist at Google AI-Research and a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research. He is also editor-in-chief of Algorithmica, the oldest and leading journal dedicated to algorithms.

Before joining UMD, Hajiaghayi was a senior researcher in the Algorithms and Theoretical Computer Science group at AT&T Labs. He received his doctorate in applied mathematics at MIT, his master’s degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo and his undergraduate degree in computer engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

Wolfgang Losert is a professor in the Department of Physics with a joint appointment in the Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST). His research aims to discover emergent dynamic properties of complex systems at the interface of physics and biology. He leads a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program that transformed understanding of how cells sense their physical environment. He also serves as co-principal investigator on a BRAIN Initiative center grant from the National Institutes of Health focused on information processing in sensory brain circuits.

Losert helped launch and currently co-leads the American Physical Society group on data science. He was part of a trans-university initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (called NEXUS) that developed new science and math courses for biology majors and pre-health care students that are being widely adopted. He led the development of and co-directs the NCI-UMD Partnership for Integrative Cancer Research, which provides UMD faculty members and graduate students with the opportunity to collaborate with National Cancer Institute experts.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Losert joined UMD in 2000 and has served as an associate dean in CMNS and as interim IPST director. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the City College of the City University of New York in and his diploma in applied physics from the Technical University of Munich.

Dana Nau is a professor in the Department of Computer Science with a joint appointment in the Institute for Systems Research who conducts research in artificial intelligence (AI), with a focus on automated planning and game theory. He discovered pathological game trees, demonstrating that looking further ahead produces worse decisions, and co-authored the AI planning and game-tree search algorithm used to win the 1997 world championship of computer bridge. In collaboration with social psychologists, he uses evolutionary game theory to study human behavioral norms, and led the development of AI planning systems used in thousands of projects worldwide.

Nau is the lead investigator on the Learning Online Temporal Goal Networks project and a member of several other research projects, including the MURI: Innovations in Mean-Field Game Theory for Scalable Computation and Diverse Applications. He has nearly 400 refereed technical publications and has co-authored two graduate-level textbooks, including the de facto standard textbook on AI planning.

Nau is a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the Association for Computing Machinery. He received a B.S. in applied mathematics from Missouri University of Science and Technology and a Ph.D. in computer science from Duke University in 1979 before joining the UMD faculty.

Ji-Cheng “JC” Zhao, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Minta Martin Professor, is a pioneer in the development of accelerated methodologies for discovery and rapid screening for metals, as well as a renowned expert on computational design of materials. He has made outstanding contributions to basic and applied research in metals and their deployment in critical applications in energy infrastructure.

Zhao was the 2021 recipient of the TMS William Hume-Rothery Award, presented annually to recognize a scientific leader for scholarly contributions to the science of alloys. He also received a 2022 Humboldt Research Award and is slated to receive the 2023 J. Willard Gibbs Phase Equilibria Award from ASM International. He is a fellow of ASM International, the Materials Research Society, the National Academy of Inventors and the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society. Zhao is also an inventor on 49 U.S. patents, and has a broad range of experience in industry, government and academia. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in materials science and engineering from Central South University in China and his Ph.D in the same field at Lehigh University.


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