Dean's Message

We know what it means to aim high

September 28, 2022

Studio X meliora weekend

Muhammed El-Sayed ’23, right, an electrical and computer engineering major, helps Jennifer Reisch P’23 with a VR headset at the Grand Opening and Dedication of Mary Ann Mavrinac Studio X in Carlson Library during our Univerity's 2022 Meliora Weekend. (Photo by Adrian Kraus / University of Rochester)


Each fall, faculty, students, staff, parents, friends, and alumni of our University gather for a joyous celebration of Meliora (ever better). The motto embodies the values we embrace as we learn, discover, heal, and create—and endeavor to frame and solve the greatest challenges of the future.

We take the spirit of Meliora very seriously at the Hajim School.

This year our faculty received a school-record five National Science Foundation CAREER awards, the NSF’s most esteemed recognition for early career researchers. These talented scientists and engineers will improve the ability of robots to respond to spoken commands, explain how our brain stems help us listen and converse in noisy settings, make it easier to operate large scale volunteer computing systems, adapt novel imaging to pinpoint “hot spots” on nanoscale devices, and model how the brain’s waste removal system operates.

A generous $12 million challenge gift from our distinguished alumnus James Wyant and his wife Tammy will enable The Institute of Optics to increase its faculty by 50 percent. This will help meet a growing regional and national demand for trained optics graduates. The increase in faculty will also position the Institute to make new advances in laser science, integrated photonics, quantum optics, and other areas vital to our nation’s defense and technological prowess.

This year we hired six new tenure-track faculty members eager to advance their fields in exciting ways. Among their projects: Creating models to understand cell communication in self-organizing systems, developing machine learning that can continually learn like humans, and using AI algorithm-architecture codesign for drug discovery.

They will join the ranks of Hajim faculty conducting groundbreaking research in semiconductors, human computer interaction, nanoscale materials science, modeling of ocean currents, and the use of bone-marrow-on-chip devices to diagnose and treat leukemia. Their projects are also featured in this issue.

These strengths position us to be an important partner as our University refines its research strategic plan for the next five years.

On other fronts:

We completed a successful ABET review earlier this year. This was the first ABET accreditation for our Audio and Music Engineering program and extends back retroactively to Oct. 1, 2019. For all other engineering programs, this was a re-accreditation.

Thanks to our department chairs, faculty members, and staff—led by associate dean Paul Funkenbuschwho worked so hard on the self-study report, the visit, and post-visit responses. The hard work paid off; our programs are now stronger than ever.

I’m very proud of the work being done by our departments in support of our Hajim School diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. All have established effective diversity committees. They’ve updated their websites with great information and resources; they have been intentional about broadening the pipelines for recruiting faculty, staff, and students; and they have invited speakers from diverse backgrounds to enrich our community.

With COVID 19 now more endemic than pandemic, we can be less reactive and more proactive in pursuing initiatives. Relaxed travel restrictions, for example, will enable us to encourage more of our students to study abroad. We are excited about the many opportunities before us.

We know what it means to aim high. To not only imagine—but achieve—the unimaginable. Who would have thought that a James Webb-sized telescope could be folded up in a rocket, launched into orbit nearly a million miles from Earth, then unfold and precisely realign 18 mirrors—and still deliver such startling images from the far reaches of the Universe?

And yet, with many Hajim School faculty, students, and alumni contributing to the effort, we did it!


Your dean,
Wendi Heinzelman

 A collage of images from the Webb Telescope

These stunning NASA images are among the first taken by the Webb Space Telescope. Many Hajim School faculty, students, and alumni contributed to the Webb project. Upper left: Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Upper right: The Southern Ring Nebula star at the center has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions. At bottom: This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” is actually the edge of a star-forming region called NGC 3324 at the northwest corner of the Carina Nebula.