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Charles River Campus Promotions: 16 Made Full Professors

Faculty from five schools represented


In 1999, Harold Park was stumped for a career. The recent Northwestern University graduate found his friends’ chosen paths—banking, consulting, finance—un-thrilling. Punting, he chose to remain at Northwestern to pursue graduate work in mechanical engineering, his undergraduate major. Midway through, he found his passion when he did a project that used a computer to model structures from A to A (atoms to airplanes). He later earned a PhD from Northwestern.

Today, his field of computational mechanics has revolutionized any number of technologies, he says: “Car crashes are simulated and analyzed on computers, nuclear weapons are tested virtually on computers, the reliability of your cell phone is tested virtually on computers.” As for Park, he develops computation techniques that could help design artificial muscles and other technology.

His prowess in the lab has helped earn him a slot among the 16 faculty who have just been promoted to full professor (mechanical engineering at the College of Engineering, in Park’s case) on the Charles River Campus. Park says that sharing his passion with students typically means teaching via problem-solving.

“I look for the slow head nod, like ‘Yes! This makes sense!’ That’s when I know what I’m teaching is sinking in,” says Park, who has written more than 120 journal articles and coauthored the book Nano Mechanics and Materials: Theory, Multiscale Methods and Applications. He received the John Argyris Award for Young Scientists from the International Association for Computational Mechanics and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

By contrast, Kecia Ali knows students have learned from her when their questions don’t have hard-and-fast answers. Promoted to professor of religion at the College of Arts & Sciences, Ali specializes in Islam, Islamic law, and gender, and in her classes, she says, “I try hard to show why it’s wrong to generalize blithely about Islamic doctrines and Muslim practices. I know I’m doing my job when one student asks, ‘What do Muslims believe about X?’ and another student responds, ‘It depends on which Muslims.’”

Ali, who earned a PhD from Duke, began graduate studies in history, but switched to religion when she became interested in Muslim thought on sexuality and gender issues. Her scholarship has shown “how Islamic marriage and divorce law developed in the 8th to 10th centuries in ways that drew on prevalent assumptions about gendered slaveholding,” she says.

A frequent international speaker, Ali is the author or coauthor of five books, including a recently expanded edition of Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (Oneworld Publications, 2016), and The Lives of Muhammad (Harvard University Press, 2014). She has also published more than a dozen book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and articles for premier journals.

Besides Harold Park and Kecia Ali, the other newly minted professors are:

Alisa Bokulich, CAS professor of philosophy

Bokulich researches the role of modeling in past and present scientific explanation in both physics and earth sciences. The director of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science, she is the author of Reexamining the Quantum-Classical Relation: Beyond Reductionism and Pluralism. Bokulich has edited 3 books and published more than 20 articles in philosophical journals.

Uri Eden, CAS professor of mathematics and statistics

Eden specializes in neuroscience and statistics, developing statistical methods to understand the patterns of firing and network connectivity among brain neurons. He pioneered statistical theory for modeling neuron spiking data and other novel advances with implications for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and the coding of neurons in the hippocampus for task learning and position tracking. He is a National Science Foundation CAREER Award recipient, holds seven patents, and has published two textbooks and dozens of journal articles.

Sergio Fagherazzi, CAS professor of earth and environment

Fagherazzi’s research is centered on the evolution of coastal environments, including wetlands erosion, hurricane impacts on sandy beaches, tsunami effects on shorelines, and long-term effects of rising sea levels and climate change. He is a coeditor of The Ecogeomorphology of Tidal Marshes and has written dozens of journal articles. In addition, he sits on two editorial boards. His awards include the 2014 Augusto Ghetti Prize for scientific studies on Italy’s Venice Lagoon, awarded by the Venetian Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Iván Fernández-Val, CAS professor of economics

Fernández-Val’s research is focused on datasets of multiple units observed over time, quantile models, and the use of high dimensional data—which is extracted from multiple sources and disciplines—to produce new solutions to economics challenges. A member of the editorial boards of five journals, he has published numerous articles and last year received his department’s Neu Family Award for Teaching Excellence. His research has been taught in some of the nation’s top PhD programs. He has received multiple NSF grants and is a member of the Royal Economics Society and the Econometric Society.

Douglas Kriner, CAS professor of political science

Kriner’s research interests include American political institutions, military policymaking, and the separation of powers. He has authored or coauthored four books, most recently Investigating the President: Congressional Checks on Presidential Power (Princeton University Press, 2016) and The Particularistic President: Executive Branch Politics and Political Inequality (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which won the 2016 American Political Science Association Richard E. Neustadt Award. Kriner is on the editorial board of three scholarly journals and has written numerous articles and presentations exploring White House–Congressional relations, the use of force, and the human costs of war. He received the CAS Gitner Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011.

Fallou Ngom, CAS professor of anthropology

Ngom focuses on West African languages and Islamic movements. The director of BU’s African Languages Program, he uncovered and deciphered a great corpus of Ajami—precolonial works written in African languages and using modified Arabic script. He has written or edited six books, most recently Muslims Beyond the Arab World: The Odyssey of Ajami and the Muridiyya (Oxford University Press, 2016), along with numerous articles on linguistic history, forensic linguistics, and Senegalese culture. Another area of Ngom’s work is language analysis in asylum cases, a subfield of the new field of forensic linguistics. This work addresses the intricacies of using knowledge of varied West African languages and dialects to evaluate the claims of migrants applying for asylum and determine if they are actually from the country they claim to be from. He won a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2011.

Scott Schaus (CAS’95), CAS professor of chemistry

Schaus develops new methodologies for the production of molecules with potentially transformative impact on human health problems. He is currently helping lead efforts to develop drugs targeting infectious diseases and specific cancer types. He has received more than 15 major federal grants from agencies to support his research, serves on several National Institutes of Health and NSF study panels, and has published dozens of journal articles. Schaus is the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award.

Stephen Scully, CAS professor of classical studies

Scully, classical studies department chair, specializes in archaic Greek epic and didactic poetry; the history of ideas (including theories of justice and political organization); the theory, history, and practice of translation; and the transmission, reception, and tradition of classical poetry in subsequent cultures. The most recent of his four books is Hesiod’s Theogony: From Near Eastern Creation Myths to Paradise Lost. (Oxford University Press, 2015). Scully has more than a dozen journal articles and reviews to his name.

Pamela Templer, CAS professor of biology

Templer’s research is centered on ecosystem ecology, developing new methods of measuring nitrogen saturation and the effects of climate change and air pollution on forest ecosystems. An NSF CAREER Award recipient, she has written dozens of articles and papers on the impact over time of natural and human activity on nitrogen retention and the ability of forests to regenerate. Her lab focuses on the effects of environmental change, including climate change, atmospheric deposition, and urbanization on biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen in natural and managed ecosystems. In 2015, Templer won a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of the University’s highest teaching honors..

Richard West, CAS professor of computer science

West specializes in the building of computer and advanced operating systems, especially embedded and real-time computing. He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is leading the development of the Quest real-time operating system for multi-core processors (circuitry that performs a computer program’s instructions). He has published 10 journal articles and dozens of conference papers. In 2015, he was general chair of the IEEE Real-Time and Embedded Technology and Applications Symposium. The recipient of numerous NSF grants, West holds four patents.

Prakash Ishwar, College of Engineering professor of electrical and computer engineeering; professor of systems engineering

Ishwar’s expertise is in network information theory, information-theoretic security, machine learning, and visual information processing. A past NSF CAREER Award recipient and winner of ENG’s Dean’s Catalyst Award, he has received numerous NSF grants, and is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Ishwar is the author of dozens of journal articles.

Susan McGurk, Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences professor of occupational therapy

McGurk, a neuropsychologist, specializes in the development and evaluation of cognitive remediation or enhancement programs for those with severe mental illness. She designs new methods to help patients find and keep employment and has completed six randomized controlled trials in the last 15 years in community service settings. In addition, she has delivered nearly 150 keynote addresses at national and international conferences. A senior researcher at BU’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, McGurk has written dozens of journal articles and reviews. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Sara Bachman, School of Social Work professor of social research and School of Public Health professor of health law, policy, and management

Bachman studies state and national health care coverage approaches. She also focuses on health care financing for children with special needs and adults with complex conditions, including HIV/AIDS, disabilities, and substance abuse. She is the interim director of SSW’s Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health and directs the school’s Center for Advancing Health Policy and Practice. She’s involved in research that has won five grants to study health care for vulnerable populations.

Claire Wolfteich, School of Theology professor of practical theology and spiritual studies

Wolfteich’s research focus is in practical theology, spiritual studies, and the engagement of practical theology with Catholic fields of theological discourse. Considered among the world’s leading experts in her discipline, she is a past president of both the International Academy of Practical Theology and the Association of Practical Theology. She is currently president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality. She has authored, coauthored, or edited numerous books, most recently Catholic Approaches in Practical Theology: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Peeters Publishers, 2016), and is on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals. Wolfteich has been a co–principal investigator on four major grants from the Lilly Endowment and last year won the STH Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.

“We are enormously proud of this talented cohort of faculty and what they’ve been able to accomplish as scholars and leaders in their fields of study,” Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, says of the 16 promoted professors. “From contributing to our understanding of ancient writings and their contribution to societal evolution to our ability to improve health care for those with special needs, build secure information systems, and protect our environment and forest ecosystems, all are making considerable impact on their disciplines that reach well beyond the boundaries of the Charles River Campus.”

Read about faculty recently promoted to full professor on the Medical Campus here.

Rich Barlow, Senior Writer, BU Today, Bostonia, Boston University
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

3 Comments on Charles River Campus Promotions: 16 Made Full Professors

  • Student on 03.22.2017 at 1:25 pm

    Congratulations to Professor Eden. I had him last semester and he is by far my favorite professor at BU. he’s incredibly intelligent but still very helpful. I wish I could have him again.

  • CAS '13 Alum on 03.23.2017 at 3:11 pm

    Congratulations to all, and particularly to Professor Scully with whom I had the pleasure of taking an intro course on Classical Greece. Very well deserved!

  • Pauline Jennett on 03.29.2017 at 5:10 am

    Much deserved congratulations to Professor Wolfteich!! She taught one of my favorite classes on spirituality at STH!!!

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