New Engineering Faculty 2019-2020

Friday, October 4, 2019

The William States Lee College of Engineering welcomes 18 new faculty members to the fall 2019 semester. With experience and education from some of the finest companies and institutions in the world, these educators bring expertise to our classrooms and laboratories in engineering fields including energy, biomedical, electro-mechanical systems, fire safety, motorsports, construction and more.


Dr. Ahmed Arafa             

Assistant Professor, Electrcial and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, University of Maryland College Park, 2017 

Dr. Arafa’s research theme is about developing fundamental solutions for latency and security issues for current and emerging applications in communications, networks and controls, with frameworks spanning the Internet-of-Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), next generation cellular systems (5G and beyond), and light fidelity (LiFi). Prior to joining UNC Charlotte, Dr. Arafa spent two years as a postdoctoral research associate in Princeton University.   Email

Research interests:

  • Communication theory
  • Information theory
  • Signal processing
  • Networks


Dr. Linquam Bai             

Assistant Professor, Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, University of Tennessee Knoxville, 2017

Dr. Bai’s research interests include power system optimization and economics, energy systems integration, electricity markets and renewable energy integration. He serves as a reviewer for more than 20 journals and conferences, including IEEE Transactions on Power Systems/Sustainable Energy/Smart Grid, and he is a member of IEEE and the IEEE Power and Energy Society.  Email

Research interests:

  • Power system optimization and economics
  • Distribution and wholesale electricity markets
  • Energy system integration
  • Renewable energy integration
  • Energy storage and microgrids


Dr. Catherine Blat

Assistant Dean for Student Experiences, Office of Student Development and Success (OSDS)
Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction - Mathematics Education, UNC Charlotte, 2018

Dr. Blat is committed to student academic success. She has more than 20 years of experience in higher education academic support programs. She initiated the Lee College of Engineering Freshman Learning Community, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) UNC Charlotte Chapter, and co-led the implementation of the New Student Convocation. Before rejoining OSDS, she was the director of the University Center for Academic Excellence.  Email

Research interests:

  • STEM education
  • College student math preparedness
  • Student success and retention


Dr. Yuting (Tina) Chen

Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, University of Toronto, 2017

Dr. Chen’s research focuses on construction safety, investigating cultural and technological factors that can affect construction safety performance. Over the past two years, she has worked on several projects, such as “Benchmarking construction safety culture of the Ontario construction industry” funded by Ontario Ministry of Labour and “Investigating the application status of drones for construction safety inspection” funded by the Polytechnic Institute, Purdue University.  Email

Research interests:

  • Construction safety
  • Organizational resilience and maturity vs. project management
  • Safety culture, safety climate
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle and building information modelling vs. construction safety


Dr. Youxing Chen           

Research Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, Texas A&M University, 2015

Dr. Chen’s research focuses on material response under extreme environments, such as radiation, load, strain rate and temperature. His group is interested in exploring the fundamental relationship between materials structure and property across multiple length scales, from atomic to macroscopic scale.  Email

Research interests:

  • Structural characterization of novel materials
  • Radiation-tolerant structural materials
  • Small-scale mechanical behavior
  • in situ and ex-situ electron microscopy


James (Jim) Gafford

Assistant Director, Special Projects, Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC)
M.S. in Electrical Engineering, Mississippi State University, 2005

Mr. Gafford joined EPIC as the Assistant Director of Research and Special Projects. His previous work includes the development of advanced power electronics and vehicle autonomy. His current research interests include wide bandgap semiconductor device applications in power electronics, predictive control systems, and vehicle electrification and the resultant impact on grid utility service.  Email

Research interests:

  • Advanced power semiconductor device packaging and applications
  • Distributed energy resource integration, control and management
  • Model predictive control
  • High performance computing in embedded applications


Dr. Wei Gao

Cleanroom Lab Manager, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland, 1996

Dr. Gao joined UNC Charlotte in 2019 as the manager of the Cameron Center cleanroom laboratory and as a lecturer in electrical engineering.  Email

Research interests:

  • Device physics and fabrication processes of various types of solar cells
  • II-VI semiconductor-based infrared materials and devices
  • Si-based optoelectronic devices


Dr. Javad Hashenpour

Assistant Professor, Fire and Safety Engineering Technology
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Southern Queensland, Australia 2016

Dr. Hashenpour’s research includes investigating potentials of metal screen as fire barriers to contain wildfires, evaluating their effectiveness against fire radiation and firebrand attacks. Before coming to UNC Charlotte, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the department of Fire Protection Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts.  Email

Research interests:

  • Structure ignitions under wildfire exposure
  • Wildfire behavior theories and spread mechanism
  • Fire dynamics in porous fuels
  • Building facades fires 


Bobbi Hodge    

Lecturer, Civil Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Master of Science in Engineering Management, UNC Charlotte, 2013

Before coming to UNC Charlotte Ms. Hodge was an instructor at Isothermal Community College, and head of the Mechanical Drafting Department. She has also worked as a civil engineer with the South Carolina Department of Transportation.  Email


Andrew LeClair

Electro-mechanical Systems Design and Integration Specialist, EPIC
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Mississippi State, 2015

Mr. LeClair’s research focuses on the hardware design of electro-mechanical systems in power electronics, energy storage and robotics. He worked as a research engineer for three years at Mississippi State University. His master’s research focused on vehicle autonomy and collision avoidance.  Email

Research interests:

  • Grid connected power generation
  • Energy storage
  • Electro-mechanical systems
  • Electronic hardware design
  • Sensor design and integration


Dr. Mario Mencagli

Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. in Electromagnetics Engineering, University of Siena, Italy, 2016

Before coming to UNC Charlotte, Dr. Mencagli was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. His research includes reconfigurable metasurface, periodic structures, circuit implementation, numerical methods for electromagnetic problems, high-frequency techniques for electromagnetic scattering, metamaterials for both microwave and optical regimes, transformation optics, metatronic, filter at optical and UV frequencies, and analog computing.  Email

Research interests:

  • Metamaterials and metasurfaces
  • Transformation optics
  • Reconfigurable devices
  • Analog computing
  • Space- and time-varying media


John Nettles

Lecturer, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, UNC Charlotte, 2004

Mr. Nettles has 14 years of professional experience in the commercial nuclear power industry, including six in plant engineering, five in design engineering, and three in quality assurance.  Email


Dr. Behanz Papari

Assistant Professor of Practice, and Manager of the Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab, EPIC
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Florida State University, 2018

Dr. Papari joined EPIC as Assistant Professor of Practice in Power Electronics and Engineering, and the manager of the Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab. Prior to that, she was a post-doctoral fellow at Florida State University and the Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS). Her Ph.D. studies focused on power systems with an emphasis on modeling, analysis, control, planning and operation.  Email

Research interests:

  • Integration of renewable energy sources for the distribution system
  • Control of stand-alone and utility-interactive energy systems
  • Distributed control for electric grid modernization    
  • Real-time power distribution system simulation and hardware-in-the-loop instantiation 


Dr. Stephanie Pilkington

Assistant Professor, Civil Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, 2019

Dr. Pilkington’s research primarily focuses on large-scale or community-wide issues related to natural hazards and the subsequent impact and recovery of civil infrastructure and the affected community.  Email

Research interests:

  • Natural hazard impact and recovery modeling
  • Community resilience and sustainability
  • Human-infrastructure interaction
  • AI applications for infrastructure and hazards


Dr. Alison Elizabeth Sears

Assistant Professor of Teaching, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, West Virginia University, 2015

Dr. Sears traveled and worked as a high school mathematics teacher prior to joining UNC Charlotte. Her prior research focused on geomorphic landform design and hydrologic mapping of surface mine reclamation sites.  Email

Research interests:

  • Hydraulics and hydrology
  • Geomorphic landform design
  • Geotechnical engineering


Dr. Michael Smith

Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, UNC Charlotte, 2015

Dr. Smith has over 10 years of professional experience in the energy industry working for Orano (previously AREVA) and over 11 years of part-time teaching experience at Central Piedmont Community College. His research focuses on applied energy and process system modeling and control (e.g., process automation and optimization, real-time system modeling, adaptive control), electromechanical systems, and manufacturing.  Email

Research Interests:

  • Modeling and control of process systems and energy systems
  • Electromechanical systems, magnetic circuits and shielding
  • System dynamic, manufacturing, machining
  • Instrumentation, metrology, and uncertainty evaluation
  • Energy generation systems (e.g., nuclear energy)


Dr. Guanglin Xu

Assistant Professor, Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Ph.D. in Management Sciences, University of Iowa, 2017

Before joining UNC Charlotte, Dr. Xu was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications (IMA) at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include decision-making under uncertainty and its applications in operations research, healthcare, supply chain management, and energy systems.  Email

Research interests:

  • Robust, stochastic, dynamic optimization, and applications in operations management
  • Data science and its applications in energy, healthcare, cybersecurity, and machine learning 
  • Convex, semidefinite, and copositive optimization


Dr. In Hong Yang    

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, Texas A&M, 2003

Dr. Yang’s research area is regenerative neural engineering. He was a research faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and the head of Neuro-Chip program in Singapore Institute for Neurotechnologyat the National University of Singapore.  Email

Research interests:

  • Regenerative neural engineering using bioelectronics medicine
  • Disease/organ on a chip to regenerate diseased or damaged nerve tissues
  • Identification of drugs for axon growth and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Bionic nerve interface for neural prosthesis.