Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture

The College of Engineering Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture celebrates high-impact research in engineering and annually honors one of our faculty engaged in outstanding research. This showcasing event allows all members of the Boston University community to meet a distinguished scholar selected from the College of Engineering faculty discussing a topic of recognized excellence.

Widely considered the father of the Human Genome Project, DeLisi was an early pioneer in computational molecular biology, and also made seminal contributions to theoretical and mathematical immunology. He currently serves as Metcalf Professor of Science and Engineering, and continues to direct the Biomolecular Systems Laboratory, where more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students have trained.

As Dean of the College of Engineering from 1990 to 2000, he recruited leading researchers in biomedical, manufacturing, aerospace and mechanical engineering, photonics and other engineering fields, establishing a research infrastructure that ultimately propelled the College into the top ranks of engineering graduate programs. In 1999 he founded—and then chaired for more than a decade—BU’s Bioinformatics Program, the first such program in the nation.

Current Recipient

Professor Xin Zhang

Professor Xin Zhang (ME, ECE, BME, MSE) is the recipient of this year’s Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture. Zhang presented the Charles DeLisi Distinguished Lecture, “Tailoring Electromagnetic and Acoustic Waves with Microelectromechanical Systems and Metamaterials” on Thursday, April 12 at 4 p.m. in the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering.

Zhang has been a member of the faculty since 2002, and is a professor of mechanical engineering, electrical & computer engineering, biomedical engineering, materials science & engineering, and the Photonics Center. She leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers focused on fundamental and applied aspects of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS and its descendent NEMS or micro/nanosystems). Her research group—the Laboratory for Microsystems Technology—seeks to understand and exploit interesting characteristics of physics, materials, mechanics, and manufacturing technologies with forward-looking engineering efforts and practical applications ranging from energy to health care to homeland security.

Zhang has published more than 140 papers in interdisciplinary journals. She served as associate chair for mechanical engineering graduate programs at BU from 2008 to 2011, and is now associate director of the BU Nanotechnology Innovation Center and director of both the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates and the NSF Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Integrated Nanomanufacturing at BU.

She has received numerous awards for research and education excellence and was both a U.S. and E.U.-U.S. National Academy of Engineering Invitee. In 2009, she was named the inaugural Distinguished Faculty Fellow, an appointment given to tenured engineering faculty at Boston University who are on a clear trajectory toward an exemplary career in all dimensions of science and engineering. In 2016, she was selected as the recipient of the IEEE Sensors Council Technical Achievement Award (advanced career) for distinguished contributions to micro/nanoelectromechanical systems. She is a Fellow of AAAS, AIMBE, ASME, IEEE, and OSA, and an Associate Fellow of AIAA.

Above: A playlist of recent lectures

Award recipients are nominated by their colleagues as having the distinction of being a renowned researcher within their field of expertise. They are reviewed by a panel and are awarded by the College of Engineering Dean. The Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture recognizes faculty members with extraordinary records of well-cited scholarship, senior leaders in industry and extraordinary entrepreneurs who have invented and mentored transformative technologies that impact our quality of life, and provides the recipient with a public forum to discuss his or her work before the Boston University academic community and the general public.

Recent Recipients

2017: Professor Joyce Y. Wong (BME, MSE) was the 2017 recipient of the Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture. Wong presented the Charles DeLisi Distinguished Lecture, “Biomaterials to Detect and Treat Disease” on Tuesday, April 25 at 4 p.m. in the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom.

Wong received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was named a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awardee as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has been a faculty member at Boston University since 1998. Her research interests include biomaterials science and engineering, and currently focus on pediatric vascular tissue engineering, development of targeted contrast agents for cancer theranostics and nanomedicine, and engineering biomimetic systems to study heart disease and cancer metastasis.

Professor John White, chair of BME, said Wong is “internationally renowned in the areas of biomaterials science and engineering and an excellent research mentor. Her contributions to society lie not only in her research and mentoring contributions, but in her tireless effort to strive for equity in STEM fields.”

Wong has more than 90 publications and has been invited to give more than 120 lectures. She holds fellowships with the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and the Biomedical Engineering Society, where she also serves on the Board of Directors. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship (1998), National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award (2000), the Dupont Young Professor Award (2004), and Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award (2009). In 2012, she was named a Kern Faculty Fellow and in 2014, was named to the inaugural term of Distinguished Faculty by the College. She was also the recipient of the College’s Faculty Service Award in 2015. Currently, she is the Director of ARROWS, an initiative by the Provost’s office to advance women in STEM at all levels, from undergraduate to faculty. Additionally, she is an editorial board member of six academic journals related to biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

2016: Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE) was selected to receive the 2016 Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture. He presented the Charles DeLisi Distinguished Lecture, “Optical Interference: from Soap Bubbles to Digital Detection of Viral Pathogens” on Thursday, April 14 at 4 p.m. in the GSU Conference Auditorium.

Ünlü received his bachelor’s degree from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, and his Master’s and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been on the faculty of Boston University since 1992 and is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering in electrical and computer engineering, with affiliations in biomedical engineering, physics, material science and engineering, and graduate medical sciences. He also served as the associate dean for Research and Graduate Programs in the College of Engineering as well as the associate director of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology. His research interests include nanophotonics and biophotonics, focusing on high-resolution solid immersion lens microscopy of integrated circuits and development of biological detection and imaging techniques, particularly in multiplexed detection of single viral pathogens and protein and nucleic acid microarrays.

Nominated by professors Thomas Bifano (ME), Mark Grinstaff (BME, MSE, Chemistry, MED) and W. Clem Karl (ECE), who applauded his work as a “first-rate scholar, a tireless mentor, and a committed community member,” his nomination highlighted his accomplishments as a professor, researcher and professional. Ünlü was the recipient of the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) and Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Awards in 1996. He was selected as a Photonics Society Distinguished Lecturer from 2005-2007 and was the 2007 Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network (ARCNN) Distinguished Lecturer. He was also elevated to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellow rank for his contributions to optoelectronic devices in 2007. In 2008, he received the Science Award, the highest award given in Turkey for scientific achievement, by the Turkish Scientific Foundation. He served as the editor-in-chief for IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics from 2011-2014. At BU, Ünlü is the recipient of the 2002 ECE Faculty Teaching Award and 2006 College of Engineering Faculty Service Award. His students have received more than 40 awards, including numerous Graduate Science Day awards and first prize in the nationwide Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology Primary Healthcare Award. His students have also received a number of College of Engineering awards, such as best senior design projects in ECE and BME and the Societal Engineer/Impact Best Dissertation.

2015: Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, MSE, Chemistry). For two decades, Professor Grinstaff has pursued highly interdisciplinary research aimed at elucidating underlying fundamental chemistry and engineering principles, and applying them to develop new materials and devices for clinical applications. Supported by the Grinstaff Group, a lab with more than 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Advanced Energy Consortium, the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology, and other agencies, he has advanced several major biomaterials that range from a joint lubricant that could bring longer- lasting relief to millions of osteoarthritis sufferers, to a highly absorbent hydrogel that not only seals wounds, but can later be dissolved and gently removed.

He has co-founded three companies to translate some of his ideas into clinical products. The first, Hyperbranch Medical Technology, produces biodegradable surgical sealants that are already widely used by surgeons. The others, advancing products that have not yet completed clinical trials, are Acuity Bio (flexible films to prevent tumor recurrence after surgical resection) and Affinergy (leading edge assays and research tools aimed at improving scientific and diagnostic outcomes).

Grinstaff has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, garnered more than 10,000 citations, filed more than 200 patents, and delivered more than 275 oral presentations. His students and fellows have given more than 125 oral presentations and 350 posters at national and international meetings. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nanomedicine, American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, and National Academy of Inventors. His numerous awards include the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award, NSF Career Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and Edward M. Kennedy Award for Health Care Innovation. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

At BU Grinstaff directs the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN) and NIH-funded Translational Research in Biomaterials program, and is the inaugural College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Translational Research and inaugural recipient of the Innovator of the Year Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development. He was also named a College of Engineering Distinguished Faculty Fellow and a Kern Faculty Fellow.

2014: Professor Christos Cassandras. A member of the BU faculty since 1996, head of the College’s Division of Systems Engineering and cofounder of BU’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), Christos Cassandras is the recipient of the College’s 2014 Distinguished Scholar Award, honoring senior faculty members who have helped move their field and society forward through outstanding, high-impact research.

“I am honored to be selected as the 2014 College of Engineering Distinguished Lecturer,” said Cassandras, who also specializes in hybrid systems, stochastic optimization and computer simulation. “I have always enjoyed research which involves new, relatively unexplored areas and unusual ways to tackle ‘real world’ problems, from contributing to the establishment of the field of discrete event dynamic systems to envisioning new ways to design and manage complex systems such as ‘smart cities.'”

In conjunction with his award, Cassandras delivered a public lecture, “Complexity Made Simple (at a Small Price),” highlighting methods he’s developed to solve difficult problems by exploiting their specific structure, asking the “right” questions and challenging some conventional engineering approaches – and showing how these methods have resulted in energy savings, enhanced security and other benefits.

Cassandras has published five books and more than 300 refereed papers; was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control from 1998 through 2009; and the 2012 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society (CSS). He has chaired several technical conferences and served as plenary speaker at various international conferences, including the American Control Conference in 2001 and the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control in 2002, and Distinguished Lecturer for the CSS.

2013: Professor Thomas Bifano. Professor Thomas Bifano’s research focuses on the design and manufacture of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) in optical applications. For more than a decade, Bifano has developed deformable mirrors that are widely used to compensate for optical aberrations in telescopes and microscopes. His “adaptive optics” technique uses MEMS technology—electrostatic actuators and flexible layers of silicon—to shape the mirrors precisely and to bring images of everything from cells to planets into sharper focus.

In collaboration with Joslin Diabetes Center, Bifano recently developed a prototype scanning laser ophthalmoscope that uses deformable mirrors to compensate for optical aberrations of the eye, yielding unprecedented cell-scale, in vivo images of the retina to track disease progression and evaluate the effectiveness of clinical treatments.

In his public lecture scheduled for the spring semester, “Shaping Light: BU Deformable Mirrors Untwinkling the Stars and Deblurring our Eyes,” Bifano will describe his efforts at BU and at Boston Micromachines Corporation (as founder and CTO) to design, fabricate and control MEMS deformable mirrors (DM) for adaptive optics applications, particularly those related to telescopes and retinal imaging systems.

“MEMS-DM research offers the rare opportunity to introduce technology that is both more economical and more capable than the state-of-the-art,” he said.

Bifano has served as a BU professor of mechanical engineering for 25 years, chair of the Manufacturing Engineering Department from 1999-2006, and chair of the University Research Council from 2008-2011. He also directs the Boston University Photonics Center, where since 2006 he has led programs for education, research and development of advanced photonic device prototypes for commercial and military applications.

A member of the U.S. Army Science Board, he has served as conference technical session chair for five professional societies; member of the Board of Directors of the American Society for Precision Engineering; and associate editor of International Journal of Manufacturing Science and Production and Society of Manufacturing Engineers Journal of Manufacturing Processes. He has authored or co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference publications.

“His summary article, ‘Adaptive Imaging: MEMS Deformable Mirrors,’ which appeared in Nature Photonics in 2010, serves to underscore his position as an international leader in this field,” said Mechanical Engineering Chair and Professor Ronald Roy. “Tom is a courageous intellect, and his ability to transition fundamental research into useful and widely used technologies is reflected in his five patents, his two R&D 100 Awards (2007 and 2010) and the 2009 Bepi Colombo Prize for his work in ‘micro-deformable mirrors for astronomical telescopes.’”

2012: Professor H. Steven Colburn. Professor H. Steven Colburn, founder and director of the Boston University Hearing Research Center, is the 2012 Distinguished Scholar award recipient. He will present the lecture “Information Processing in the Binaural Auditory System” on March 22, 2012.

As a member of the Boston University College of Engineering faculty for more than 30 years and associate chair for undergraduate studies, he chaired the Biomedical Engineering Department throughout the 1980s and was named BME Professor of the Year in 2002, 2006 and 2008.

Colburn’s research exploits experimental data and mathematical modeling tools to gain deep understanding of the auditory system. Much of his work aims to develop an integrated representation of binaural interaction and its role in human sound perception, including the interpretation of acoustic cues in complex sound environments.

A Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and recipient of the Acoustical Society of America Silver Medal and Javitz Neuroscience Award, Colburn has written widely in the past 40 years on challenges faced by the binaural system in complex acoustic environments, and on issues associated with hearing impairments and hearing aids, including cochlear implants.

“His body of work has had a profound influence on the criteria employed to define what it means to be a serious auditory scientist today,” said Solomon Eisenberg, professor and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department.

In addition to Colburn’s outstanding direct contributions to auditory science, he has made enormous indirect contributions in both teaching and administrative roles. His devotion to students and his excellence as a teacher are evidenced by his superior work as housemaster while serving as a faculty member in MIT’s Electrical Engineering Department; the many teaching awards he has received at BU; the great warmth shown to him by all of his students; and the substantial contributions these students have themselves made to auditory science.

2011: Professor Theordore D. Moustakas. Dr. Moustakas is the Associate Head, Division of Materials Science and Engineering and has been a Professor of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Boston University since 1987 and Professor of Physics since 1991. He received the B.S. degree in Physics from Aristotle University (Greece) and the Ph.D. degree in Solid State Science and Engineering from Columbia University. Prior to joining Boston University he worked at Harvard University as a Research Fellow and Exxon Research Corporate Research Laboratories as a Senior Scientist.

Dr. Moustakas’ research contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics in opto-electronic materials and devices, including nitride semiconductors, amorphous semiconductors and diamond thin films. He is the co-editor of eight books, including Gallium Nitride I (Academic Press, 1998) and Gallium Nitride II (Academic Press, 1999) and the author of more than 300 publications. He has been granted 25 U.S. patents. Intellectual property that resulted from his work has been licensed to a number of companies, including major manufactures of blue LEDs and lasers (Cree and Philips-LumiLeds in United States and Nichia in Japan)

Dr. Moustakas was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1994 and of the Electrochemical Society in 1997. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the Aristotle University for “outstanding contributions to research and teaching”. In 2010 he was awarded the MBE Innovator Award for “pioneering contributions in the development of MBE growth of nitride materials and the development of nitride optoelectronic devices prepared by MBE”.