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Worcester Polytechnic Institute has announced the appointment of new heads for two of its academic departments. Germano S. Iannacchione is the new head of the Physics Department; he has been interim head since April 2006. James K. Doyle will become head of the Social Science and Policy Studies Department on July 1, replacing Khalid Saeed, professor of social science and policy studies, who will return to teaching and research full time after 10 years as department head.
Iannacchione, associate professor of physics, joined the WPI faculty 1998 after serving as a postdoctoral research fellow in physics at Kent State University and as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at the MIT. He holds BS and MS degrees in physics from the University of Akron and a PhD in physics from Kent State University.
He has published more than 50 papers in scientific journals in a number of areas in experimental physics, including order-disorder phenomena in soft condensed matter systems, liquid crystal phases and phase transitions, and critical phenomena. He is lifetime member of the American Physical Society and Sigma XI: The Scientific Research Society, and is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Liquid Crystal Society.
Iannacchione says his plans as department head include responding to the growing emphasis on the life sciences—at WPI, and more broadly within academia and industry—by expanding the department's research strengths in areas directly related to the life sciences and by making the department's curriculum more relevant to students majoring in such areas as biology, biotechnology, and bioengineering. He notes that the department will hire new faculty this year with research interests in the area of soft condensed matter.
"This broad field, also called complex fluids, includes experimental and theoretical work on polymers and liquid crystals, but also biological systems, including cell membranes and proteins," Iannacchione says. "Our goal is to augment this particular research thrust, while also building on our other research strengths, including nanotechnology and nanoscience, wave function engineering, semiconductor research, photonics, and Bose-Einstein condensates."
Doyle, associate professor of social science and policy studies, has been a member of the WPI faculty since 1992. He earned a BA in environmental science at the University of California at Berkeley and an MS and a PhD in psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research has focused on judgment and decision making, risk perception and communication, and mental models of complex systems. He is a member of the American Psychological Society, the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and the System Dynamics Society.
In his new role, Doyle says he will work to increase the visibility and role of the Social Sciences and Policy Studies Department. "This is a broadly defined social sciences department that will continue to embrace its service role," he says, "particularly with regard to supporting the university's social sciences requirement and its unique Interactive Qualifying Project. In addition, as the university develops new approaches to energizing the first-year experience and reexamines its general education requirement, I'd like to see this department play an important role in the discussions. At the same time, the department will continue to build and broaden its research strengths in applied social sciences, with particular emphasis on computational approaches to the analysis of social and economic problems."
Along with continuing to offer five undergraduate majors, and a unique master's program in system dynamics, Doyle says the department is developing plans for a PhD program in system dynamics and is collaborating with a wide range of faculty on a proposal for an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies. "These are all part of our ongoing efforts to re-examine and expand our role within the university," he says.
"Strong physics and social sciences departments are critical to WPI's continued success," says John A. Orr, provost ad interim. "Physics is the ultimate foundation for the life sciences and now these two areas are beginning to provide exciting cross-fertilization. A major piece of WPI's future will be built on the intersections among physics, the life sciences, and engineering.
"A unique hallmark of WPI's mission is the interrelation between technology and society," Orr adds. "Hence we need a vibrant social science department where the faculty are advancing the world's knowledge in realms ranging from economics to psychology, and are also helping our students understand the application of their technical knowledge in a societal context."
About Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Founded in Worcester, Mass., in 1865, WPI was one of the nation's earliest technological universities. From our founding days, we've taken a unique approach to science and technology education.
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We believe that students should understand how to apply knowledge – not just how to cite facts and theories. Our undergraduates and graduate students emerge ready to take on some of the most difficult challenges in science and technology. More important, they understand how their work can truly impact society and improve our lives.
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