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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor and Student Publish Promising Findings for Future Alzheimer's Disease Treatments

Sachin Patil, professor of chemical engineering and director of the NanoBio Lab, and Bella Kuehn '24 '25, a chemistry and chemical engineering double major in the 4+1 engineering program, published a paper in the journal Pharmaceuticals titled, “Discovery of Small Molecule Glycolytic Stimulants for Enhanced ApoE Lipidation in Alzheimer's Disease Cell Model." 

The study established, for the first time, a possible link between two major Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes, namely apolipoprotein E (ApoE), the most significant risk factor for AD, and abnormal glucose metabolism, which is an early and distinct feature of AD brain. The paper presented an integrated drug discovery approach leading to the identification of novel modulators of the glycolysis-ApoE nexus (Lonidamine, Phenformin, and Berberine), which may form the basis for the much-needed, disease-modifying therapies against the devastating disease like Alzheimer’s.

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School of Engineering

Engineering Faculty Awarded More Than $200,000 from Manufacturing PA Innovation Program

Faculty in the School of Engineering have been awarded grant funding through the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program. Funded in part by the Department of Community and Economic Development, this fellowship program pairs graduate and undergraduate students with local manufacturers on research projects to develop new technologies and advance innovation statewide. 

Three Widener engineering projects have been selected to participate in the 2024 initiative:

  1. Babak Eslami, associate professor, and Kamran Fouladi, associate professor and associate dean, mechanical engineering.

    Associate Professors Eslami and Fouladi are working with industrial partner American Additive Manufacturing to enhance durability and repeatability of 3D printing with Polyeth-ether ketone (PEEK) polymer. During this project, a Widener student-research team are modeling the industrial 3D printers used by American Additive Manufacturing to perform computational fluid dynamics study to have a better understanding of flows around the parts. Multi-scale material characterization will be performed on 3D printed parts in order to develop the optimum printing condition for PEEK.

  2. John Suarez, associate professor, electrical engineering.

    Associate Professor John Suarez and his student-research team will develop a radio-frequency system for sensing roadway nonuniformities in front of vehicles. The system is intended to operate in vehicles moving at relatively high speeds. The nonuniformities of greatest interest are potholes or other defects in the road which can damage vehicles or create unsafe conditions. Dr. Suarez’s group will work with Dorman Products, an industry leader in aftermarket automotive products located in Colmar, Pennsylvania.

  3. Xiaochao Tang, associate professor, and Vicki Brown, professor, civil engineering.

    Associate Professor Xiaochao Tang and Professor Vicki Brown along with a team of student-researchers are working to create a low-carbon sustainable alternative for concrete, the most widely used construction material. Cement, a key component of concrete, is a highly energy-intensive product that releases a large amount of carbon dioxide when produced. In collaboration with two partners, the Delaware County Reginal Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) in Chester, Pennsylvania and Conewago Manufacturing, LLC in Hanover, Pennsylvania, this project will utilize sewage sludge ash, a byproduct from DELCORA's wastewater treatment facility, to create an inorganic polymer binding agent, known as geopolymer, at ambient or slightly elevated temperatures. This project will potentially enable repurposing the ash, which would otherwise be disposed of in landfills, for beneficial reuse at scale. The project will also utilize Conewago's concrete mix and testing facility to characterize the geopolymer product and cast pilot scale test bed. 

The Manufacturing PA project was financed [in part] by funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.

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Xiaochao Tang
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Awarded EPA Grant to Develop Low-Carbon Sustainable Cement Product

Xiaochao Tang, associate professor of civil engineering, was awarded approximately $75,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, as part of the Agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Program.

The P3 Program supports faculty-student research designed to develop innovative solutions that address leading environmental and public health challenges. Tang's research aims to develop a process that uses industrial byproduct to create low-carbon sustainable cement product in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and solid waste that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. This multidisciplinary project boasts educational opportunities to undergraduate students across the engineering programs and infuses sustainability into senior design projects in multiple departments.

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School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Awarded Nearly $200,000 from National Science Foundation

Ali Hamza, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been awarded approximately $200,000 in grant funding from the prestigious Engineering Research Initiation program from the National Science Foundation, or NSF. The grant will support Hamza's research, which aims to revolutionize cognitive sensing technologies for radar and wireless communication systems. By enhancing interference mitigation, using artificial intelligence techniques, Hamza’s pioneering work promises improved signal detection with applications spanning wireless communication, aerospace, healthcare, and automotive industries. These contributions will significantly advance the radar imaging for self-driving cars, weather and military radar, radar-based human activity monitoring, fall detection, and remote vital sign estimation. With the integration of machine learning and AI algorithms, the project seeks to optimize radio frequency spectrum utilization, alleviate congestion, and expand bandwidth, ultimately enhancing quality of service and regulatory capabilities. 

The funding, which marks the first NSF grant for the electrical engineering department, will support undergraduate and graduate research.

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Robert Buckley presents at a podium.
School of Engineering & School of Business Administration

Robert Buckley, Jr. '81 Presents "Rebuilding I-95: Twelve Days in June"

Robert Buckley Jr. ’81, a School of Business Administration graduate, returned to the Chester campus to give a presentation on his role leading the I-95 rebuild. Buckley is president of Buckley & Company, Inc., the primary company that oversaw the record-setting rebuild of the collapsed interstate highway in the summer of 2023. Moderated by Engineering Dean Pamela McCauley, Buckley presented alongside Archie Filshill, CEO at Aero Aggregates of North America, whose company produced the ultra-lightweight aggregates that was used to fill the rebuild. The conversation recounted the hands-on contributions of Buckley & Company and the transformative power of collaboration between local industries and city, state, and federal government partners. 

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor and International Collaborators Publish Artificial Intelligence-enabled Cancer Drug Discovery Tool

Professor of Chemical Engineering Sachin Patil, together with a team of international collaborators from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the Cancer Research Center in Marseille, France, published a paper in the Journal of Advanced Research titled, “Inactive-enriched machine-learning models exploiting patent data improve structure-based virtual screening for PDL1 dimerizers.” The paper presented novel PDL1-specific machine-learning scoring functions as a powerful drug design tool for detecting small-molecule PD1/PDL1 inhibitors, forming the basis for developing novel cancer immunotherapies with better patient outcomes and milder side effects.

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Mark A. Nicosia
School of Engineering

Engineering Faculty Presents at the 2023 World Dysphagia Summit

Mark Nicosia, vice provost for Academic Affairs and Strategy and professor of engineering, was a featured speaker during a panel discussion at the 2023 World Dysphagia Summit. The summit was hosted by the Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) in affiliation with the European Society for Swallowing Disorders, the Japanese Society for Dysphagia Rehabilitation, and the Latin America Society for Dysphagia. 

Nicosia, who also serves as president of the DRS, is an expert in dysphagia which is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. The summit was held on World Swallowing Day to increase worldwide awareness among health care professionals as well as the public to increase knowledge about normal swallowing and swallowing disorders, their causes, early detection, complications and management.

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Vicki L. Brown
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Honored for Distinguished Service and Leadership

Vicki L. Brown, distinguished university professor, was honored by the American Concrete Institute (ACI) for her scholarly contributions to the organization and the overall civil engineering community. Brown, who has served on School of Engineering's faculty for more than four decades, received the 2023 Delmar L. Bloem Distinguished Service Award which celebrates noteworthy work on ACI technical committees. The award was given at the 2023 ACI Concrete Convention in California and recognized Brown “for outstanding leadership of ACI Subcommittee 440-H, FRP-Reinforced Concrete.”

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Ria Mazumder poses with biomedical engineering students in the nursing sim lab
School of Engineering

Biomedical Engineering Students Ranked Nationally in Undergraduate Research Competition

Biomedical engineering students Marina Walsh, Benjamin Aon, Hatice Emanet, Cheyenne Miller and Chiamaka Oduah attended the SB3C 2023 Summer Bioengineering, Biomechanics and Biotransport Conference in Vail, Colorado to showcase their research focused on developing a pulse oximeter for nursing simulation mannequins to be used by Widener nursing students. The team, along with faculty advisor Ria Mazumder, interim chair of biomedical engineering and associate teaching professor, were one of six teams chosen to present their research at the conference's Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices. Their work earned third place in the national competition. 

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John Suarez 260x300
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Awarded Manufacturing PA Innovation Program Grant

John Suarez, associate professor of electrical engineering, received a grant from the Manufacturing PA Innovation program funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The project, titled “Capacitive and Infrared Sensing for Precision Chemical Analysis of Polar Compounds,” will build upon preliminary work completed by Probes Unlimited, Inc. (PUI) to design, prototype, rigorously test, and manufacture a precision sensor for monitoring the quality of cooking oil. Suarez will lead a research team to conduct the necessary research and development to assist PUI in developing the capacitive sensor with the required characteristics as well as investigate the viability of infrared sensing technology in this application.

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor Named Journal Guest Editor

Sachin Patil, professor of chemical engineering, was invited to serve as the guest editor for a special issue in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmaceuticals. Titled “Alzheimer’s Disease: Small-Molecule Modulators of Novel Therapeutic Pathways,” this special issue is dedicated to gathering novel Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms, with a particular emphasis on targeting these mechanisms using small-molecule drugs. 

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Amanda DiAlessandro stands in front of her research poster and talks with a conference attendee.
School of Engineering

Engineering Student Presents at National Conference

Amanda DiAlessandro '22 '23, a two-time graduate of Widener's mechanical engineering program, presented research at the 2023 National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin in April. The poster, "HVAC Design of a Performing Arts Center to be Located in Sidney, Australia," was co-authored by DiAlessandro and teammates Jacqueline Loeliger, Jamal Badamassi, Tristan Fish, Michael Hutchinson, and Madeline Reynolds and showcased findings collected during the team's senior project. 

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Pamela McCauley's headshot.
School of Engineering

Pamela McCauley Named Next Dean of School of Engineering

Pamela McCauley, a renowned scholar, educator, university administer and entrepreneur, has been named dean of the School of Engineering. McCauley will assume the role on July 1 following the retirement of Fred Akl, who led the program for more than two decades. 

McCauley comes to Widener after serving as associate dean for Academic Programs, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University since 2020. She is an internationally-recognized industrial engineer whose research accomplishments include the development of fuzzy set theory-based mathematical models, human engineering, ergonomics and biomechanics as well as engineering leadership and women’s leadership in STEM. In her role as associate dean, McCauley has overseen the college’s academic programs, promoted innovation and entrepreneurship within the college and the university, and led and implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across the college. 

“We are thrilled to have Dr. McCauley join the Widener community and lead our esteemed engineering program,” said Provost Andrew Workman. “Throughout her extensive career she has demonstrated herself as an innovator, entrepreneur, researcher, educator, and advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging both in the engineering field and the greater academic community. She will be a tremendous asset in enhancing the Widener student experience by bringing extensive research and entrepreneurial experiences to her role and championing student-faculty research opportunities. Her remarkable record of service to the professional and global scientific community will position the engineering program and the university to continue expanding its commitment to experiential service learning and community engagement.”

“I am honored and excited to join Widener’s vibrant community,” said McCauley. “The university’s engineering program has a remarkable legacy of innovation. Engineering changes the world, and Widener students and faculty are cultivating bold ideas in a space where students from diverse backgrounds know they belong and contribute unique perspectives. I am excited to lead the program and build on this success, guided by my years as an industry professional, engineering scholar, and university leader.”

McCauley has developed an impressive catalog of research backed by funding from some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions including NASA, the U.S. State Department, and The National Science Foundation. In 2012, McCauley was selected as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and presented her funded research on human factors and ergonomics in disaster management. In additional to scholarly accomplishments, McCauley is the author of more than 100 technical papers, book chapters, conference proceedings and the best-selling ergonomics textbook, “Ergonomics: Foundational Principles, Applications, and Technologies.” 

McCauley brings more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience to Widener and has led numerous small businesses. Throughout her career McCauley has been a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion in engineering and higher education, particularly for females and students from groups who are under-represented in STEM. 

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Professor, Interdisciplinary Student Team Publish Cancer Immunotherapy Discovery

Professor of Chemical Engineering Sachin Patil and a team of student-researchers published a paper in the journal Computational Biology and Chemistry titled, “Discovery of small-molecule PD-1/PD-L1 antagonists through combined virtual screening and experimental validation.” The paper presented an integrated drug discovery approach leading to identification of a novel PD-1/PD-L1 antagonist that may serve as a starting point for further optimization into potent, small-molecule cancer immunotherapies. The team included students from Widener's chemical engineering and computer science program, as well as Computer Science Professor Jeffrey Rufinus and technician John Stoddart. Michelle DiFrancesco '18, a chemical engineering graduate, served as the student team leader and study first author. She is currently continuing her cancer immunotherapy work at Bristol-Myers Squibb, a leading global biopharmaceutical company. 

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Sachin P. Patil
School of Engineering

Engineering Faculty Presents Funded Research at International Symposium

Sachin Patil, professor of chemical engineering, attended and presented findings at the Heart Development and Disease: From Genes to Cures conference hosted by Keystone Symposia in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The conference gathered researchers from around the world to advance knowledge and understanding of heart formation and homeostatic function and how derangement in these processes lead to diseases and organ dysfunction.

In his presentation, “Small-molecule stabilizers (and inhibitors) of immune checkpoint PD1-PDL1 for heart disease and beyond,” Patil highlighted his novel findings on the role of immunotherapy in the heart disease treatment. Patil’s research is supported by a funding grant from the W. W. Smith Charitable Trust.  

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Brian Hoffman presenting his poster
School of Engineering

Chemical Engineering Student Presents his Research at Middle States Annual Conference

By: Riya Sembhi '25 secondary education, English

Chemical engineering student Brian Hoffman ‘23 recently presented his research at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education 2022 Annual Conference in Philadelphia where higher education faculty, administrators, and educators observed a wide array of student research projects.

Conducting this research as part of Widener’s Summer Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities (SURCA) program, his work entitled, “Porous Carbon from Non-Recyclable Plastic Wastes,” aims to reduce Styrofoam waste through burning and converting Styrofoam into carbon-based materials that can then be repurposed for water and air filters, catalysts, and more. Brian appreciated the chance to share his research with a receptive audience that had a diverse range of occupational backgrounds. 

Having been engaged in this research since Junior year, Brian aims to continue this work as his Senior project. Now in the 4+1 Program at Widener, he hopes to maintain the research with similar projects. He thanks Dr. Dipendu Saha for his guidance and mentorship, for the opportunity to be involved with the research, and his continuous support today. 

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Vicki Brown holding award plaque alongside provost and president
School of Engineering

Distinguished University Professor Designation goes to Engineering Professor

School of Engineering faculty member Vicki Brown has been honored with the distinguished university professor designation. The recognition honors individual faculty members of distinction and represents the university’s commitment to recognizing excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service throughout faculty members’ careers. The honor was announced at the 2022 faculty awards program. 

To be eligible for the designation, a faculty member must hold a tenured appointment at the rank of professor and be clearly identified by students and colleagues as an outstanding teacher.  They must also have national or international recognition for scholarly research activities, and have made significant contributions as a leader at the university or in the faculty member’s profession or academic discipline. The designation has a three-year term.

Brown has been an active member of the university faculty for 41 years, including 18 as chair of the Civil Engineering Department, successfully guiding it through three accreditation visits under her leadership.

Brown has also played an active role in university faculty governance and has served several times on the Faculty Council Executive Committee. She was instrumental in the development of the laboratory curriculum, and in infrastructure for the undergraduate civil engineering program.

Brown’s belief that “in-the-classroom learning” is most effective when combined with “real-world learning,” she seeks out opportunities to provide students with networking experiences – taking them to professional society meetings and continually challenging them in a supportive environment.

She also established and administers student competitions at national and international levels for the American Concrete Institute. One of Brown’s most visible and important contributions is the development and execution of the Engineering Girls Camp. Given the under-representation of females in the engineering field, her efforts to bring young women interested in engineering together with female engineers and female engineering students has impacted numerous young women and helped them gain the confidence to pursue a traditionally male-dominated field.

In addition, Brown has made a significant impact in her area of expertise – the use of fiber reinforced polymers as a substitute for steel in reinforced concrete. She serves as chair of an international committee tasked with developing design codes for FRP-reinforced structural concrete. 

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Professors Mazumder and Singh standing with their plaques alongside the provost and president
School of Engineering

Professors Honored for Promoting Civic Engagement

Assistant Teaching Professor Ria Mazumder and Associate Professor Anita Singh, both of the School of Engineering, have been honored with the Civic Engagement Award. The honor, given at the 2022 faculty awards program, recognizes outstanding contributions of faculty to students’ understanding of their social responsibilities, and to Widener’s engagement in the local or global community through teaching or research. 

Mazumder and Singh are committed to broadening engineering education in ways that and equip Widener students to become professionally, personally, and socially responsible leaders. They developed two innovative projects that promote a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. The first, a partnership with Chester Eastside Inc. School and Edgemont Scholars Academy, delivers innovative extra-curricular STEM education to elementary and middle school students in need of opportunity.  The second created a partnership with the Chester Community Clinic and the Community Nursing Clinic, in which engineering students learn about the challenges of developing effective, low-cost solutions for patients at the margins of the health care system.

Both projects have been effective at engaging students and serving the community and have received recognition beyond the university.

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A group photo captures and students and faculty whose projects were named winners of the 2022 SURCA Symposium.
Undergraduate Academics

Undergraduate Students Named Winners of the 2022 SURCA Symposium

The annual Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) program offers a high-impact experience through faculty-mentored undergraduate research, collaborative engagement, and a student-faculty learning community. The months-long program culminated with a symposium event which allowed participating students to present their projects and findings to the Widener community as well as a panel of volunteer judges who ranked the presentations by category.

The winners of the 2022 SURCA Symposium are:

Biochemistry: Michaela Jemison (advisor: Alexis Nagengast)
Detecting phenotypic difference of Alzheimer’s progression in a variety of Drosophila genotypes

Biology: Zachary Anderson (advisor: Caroline Fortunato)
Understanding the biogeographical patterns of microbial communities within the grassland soils of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Business & Computer Science: Shea’lyn Hubbs & Daniel Wiedl (advisors: Babatunde Odusami & YoungHa Ki)
Green bond performance in the United States

Chemistry: Elana Nguyen (advisor: Robert Mishur)
Microwave-assisted synthesis of transplatin, trans-[Pt[NH3]2Cl2]

Engineering A: Jared Ware (advisors: Babak Eslami & Kamran Fouladi)
Investigation of effect of melting temperature on the quality of 3D printed parts out of PLA filaments

Engineering B: Brian Hoffman (advisor: Dipendu Saha)
Conversion of Styrofoam into value-added products

Environmental: Emily Mills (advisor: Chad Freed)
Spatial modeling to support conservation of Sialia sialis, Eastern Bluebirds, in Pennsylvania

Humanities: Madison Smith & M’Nya Preston (advisor: Jordan Smith)
Hidden History of Widener

Molecular Biology: Adam Oladeji (advisor: Michael Toneff)
Transient expression of miR-200c does not permanently inhibit breast cancer cell aggression

Social Science A: Zora DeSeignora & Kaitlyn Lathrop (advisor: Angela Corbo)
Belonging, inclusion, and collaboration in communication studies: Building self-awareness and community

Social Science B: Cloë Di Flumeri & Marissa Fowler (advisor: Jeremy Backstrom)
Intimate partner violence during civil war

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Kirkbride Exterior Sunset
Chemistry, Chemical Engineering

Faculty and Students Published in Sustainability Journal

Assistant Professor Hongwei Yang, along with collaborators John Mason ’21 and Joanna Weyrich ’23 have had an article, “Mechanic Study of Porosity Formation in Liquid-Assisted Mechanochemical Synthesis of Metal-Organic Framework Cu3(BTC)2  for adsorption-Based Applications,” published in Sustainability, a journal distributed by MDPI. 

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