Faculty News

Nov 12 2019

New Faces at Columbia Engineering


Portrait of Elias Bareinboim


Associate Professor, Computer Science
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, 2014; MSc, BSc, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2007


Elias Bareinboim joins Columbia from Purdue University. He is the director of the Causal Artificial Intelligence (CausalAI) Laboratory and an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. His research focuses on causal inference and its application to data-driven fields in the health and social sciences as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning. His work was the first to propose a general solution to the problem of “causal data science,” providing practical methods for combining data sets generated under different experimental conditions and plagued with various biases. More recently, Bareinboim has been exploring the intersection of causal inference with decision-making (including reinforcement learning) and explainability (including fairness analysis). Bareinboim was named one of “AI’s 10 to Watch” by IEEE and is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, the Dan David Prize Scholarship, the 2014 AAAI Outstanding Paper Award, and the 2019 UAI Best Paper Award.


Portrait of Thanos Bourtsalas 

Lecturer in Discipline, Earth and Environmental Engineering
PhD, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, 2015; MS, Columbia Engineering, 2010; MS and BS, University of Patras, Greece, 2006

Thanos Bourtsalas focuses on systems for sustainable development with an emphasis on process engineering, sustainability economics, and public policy. He was vice president of research, development, and deployment at Global WTERT (Global Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology) Council, Inc., where he directed technoeconomic and business model studies for the use of urban and industrial residues for the production of energy, fuels, and materials. He is a senior research associate at Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center, a consultant at the World Bank, and an adviser for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe on the development of standards and a tool kit to optimize public and private partnerships. He was senior adviser for the technical advisory panel of Singapore’s Environmental Protection Agency for the beneficial utilization of industrial residues in construction and coauthored the Solid Waste chapter of the Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities presented at the COP-21 in Paris.


Portrait of Asaf Cidon

Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
PhD, Stanford, 2015; MS, Stanford, 2012; BS, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel, 2010

Asaf Cidon’s interests lie in the areas of networked systems, machine learning for systems, and security. Prior to joining Columbia, he was senior vice president of Email Protection at Barracuda Networks, where he was responsible for all email security and archiving products. He joined Barracuda after it acquired his startup, Sookasa, where he was the CEO and cofounder. His research on distributed storage systems was adopted in commercial systems of several companies, including Facebook, Tibco, and Hortonworks. Cidon previously worked at Google Israel. He is a recipient of SC Media’s 2017 Rising Star Award and a Sohnis Promising Scientist Award.


Portrait of Cédric Josz

Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
PhD, University of Paris VI, France, 2016; MS, University of Paris I, 2012; MS, ENSTA ParisTech, University of Paris-Saclay, France, 2012; CPGE (Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles), Lycée Privé Sainte-Geneviève, France, 2009

Cédric Josz designs tractable and guaranteed algorithms for real-world optimization problems such as computing power flows for smart grids, intelligent transportation systems, and smart cities. Such work will address the increasing complexity of power systems due to renewable energy and electric vehicles. He is also interested in recommendation systems and challenges presented by autonomous vehicles and deep learning for medical imaging. His methods fall into two categories: convex relaxations and local search algorithms. He looks forward to working with students to pursue research in optimization. He was a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Berkeley.


Portrait of Christian Kroer

Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
PhD, Carnegie Mellon University, 2018; MS, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2012; BA, Aalborg University, Denmark, 2009

Christian Kroer’s research lies at the intersection of computer science, economics, and operations research. He focuses on sequential game solving, decision-making, and market design. A recurring theme in his research is how to solve large-scale problems in practice, and thus he often works on first-order methods, regret minimization, and dimensionality- reduction methods. His research has applications in areas such as internet markets (e.g., ad auctions or recommender systems); fair allocation (e.g., of courses to students); security settings (e.g., WiFi jamming or infrastructure protection); and recreational games (e.g., poker). Prior to joining Columbia University, he was a postdoc on Facebook’s Core Data Science team. Kroer will be teaching courses on optimization, game solving, and market design.


Portrait of Amir Sagiv

Chu Assistant Professor, Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
PhD, Tel Aviv University, Israel, 2019; MSc, Tel Aviv University, 2016; BSc, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, 2009

Amir Sagiv is the new Chu Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. As an applied mathematician, he pursues research at the intersection of probability and approximation theory in optics and mathematics. He is currently focused on the prediction of random and chaotic dynamics in high-power, nonlinear laser beams. He will teach multivariate calculus this fall.


Portrait of Mijo Simunovic

Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering
PhD, University of Chicago, 2015; PhD, University of Paris 7, France, 2015

Mijo Simunovic joins Columbia from The Rockefeller University, where he was a junior fellow of the Simons Society of Fellows. His research lies at the interface of engineering, physics, and biology, with particular interest in physics-driven biological problems at the cellular and tissue scales. He recently built an experimental model of the human embryo that elucidated a mechanism by which we break the top-bottom symmetry, a key first step in establishing the body plan. His aim is to create quantitative models of the human embryo and to combine efforts in tissue engineering and developmental biology not only to understand how the human embryo develops but also to mimic natural processes for applications in reproductive and regenerative medicine. He has received the Chancellor’s prize for PhD research from the Sorbonne Universities in Paris and the AAAS/Science and SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists in Cell and Molecular Biology.


Portrait of Brian Smith

Assistant Professor, Computer Science
PhD, Columbia Engineering, 2018; MS, Columbia Engineering, 2011; BS, Columbia Engineering, 2009

Brian Smith’s research focuses on human-computer interaction (HCI), in which he creates computers that can help people better experience the world. His work is interdisciplinary and brings together AI, sensing, game design, social computing, and accessibility. Since 2018, he has been a research scientist at Snap, Inc. At Columbia, he will establish an HCI research lab and teach courses on HCI and game design.


Portrait of Shuran Song

Assistant Professor, Computer Science
PhD, Princeton University, 2019; MA, Princeton University, 2015; BEng, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, 2013

Shuran Song’s interests lie in artificial intelligence, with emphasis on computer vision and robotics. She focuses on establishing the complete research infrastructure for the field of 3D visual scene understanding: from developing fundamental algorithms to deploying them in practical real-world robotics applications and from constructing large-scale 3D data sets to designing effective 3D data representations. From 2017 to 2018, she was a visiting researcher at Google Brain Robotics.


Portrait of Harry West

Professor of Practice, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, Mechanical Engineering
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1986; MS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1984; BA, Cambridge University, United Kingdom, 1980

As the principal of Invisible Design, Harry West develops human-centered design and innovation solutions to difficult business problems and helps design organizations align their work meaningfully with company strategy. He was formerly the CEO of frog, senior partner at Prophet, and CEO at Continuum—where he worked with leading brands including P&G to create Swiffer and ThermaCare, and BBVA to envision new ways for people to interact with financial services. At Columbia, he teaches the interdisciplinary design course, Introduction to Human-Centered Design, and works at the intersection of design, data, and behavior change with a particular focus on developing new ways to reduce consumption.


Portrait of Yevgeniy Yesilevskiy 

Lecturer in Discipline, Mechanical Engineering
PhD, University of Michigan, 2018; MS, University of Michigan, 2016; BE, The Cooper Union, 2013

Yevgeniy Yesilevskiy joins Columbia from the Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science. He conducts research in the simultaneous optimization of gaits, motion, and morphology on realistic simulations of monopod, biped, and quadrupedal robots. By making simple robots move efficiently, he hopes to understand why humans and animals move in the ways that they do. He is the recipient of the University of Michigan Towner Prize for Outstanding Engineering Graduate Student Instructor and the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award. At Columbia, he will focus on teaching design and hands-on coursework.


Appointments to Endowed Professorships


Portrait of Hod Lipson

James and Sally Scapa Professor of Innovation
Mechanical Engineering

A roboticist and director of the Creative Machines Lab, Hod Lipson works in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing. He develops new ways to make machines that create and machines that are creative. An award-winning researcher, teacher, and communicator, Lipson enjoys sharing the beauty of robotics through his books, essays, public lectures, and radio and television appearances. He has also pioneered open-source 3D printing, as well as electronics 3D printing, bioprinting, and food printing. Lipson has cofounded four companies and is a frequent speaker at both industry and academic events. His TED talk on self-aware machines is one of the most viewed presentations on AI and robotics.


Portrait of Dan Steingart

Stanley-Thompson Associate Professor of Chemical Metallurgy
Earth and Environmental Engineering

Dan Steingart is a codirector of the Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center. Previously he was an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University and, prior to that, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the City College of the City University of New York. His group studies the interactions between materials and systems in electrochemical reactors with a focus on energy storage devices. His current research looks to exploit traditional failure mechanisms and “unwanted” interactions with batteries for systematic understanding and device enhancement. His efforts in this area over the last decade have been adopted by various industries and have led directly or indirectly to five electrochemical energy-related startup companies, the latest being Feasible, an effort dedicated to exploiting the inherent acoustic responses of closed electrochemical systems.


Portrait of Latha Venkataraman

Lawrence Gussman Professor of Applied Physics
Applied Physics and Chemistry

Latha Venkataraman is a world leader in creating and characterizing the electronic properties of single-molecule circuits. She focuses on the frontier of charge transport in nanoscale systems. Venkataraman probes, manipulates, and controls single molecules as active elements in electrical circuits, exploring the interplay of chemistry, physics, and engineering at the nanoscale. Venkataraman also has an appointment in the Department of Chemistry. She has received numerous awards, including a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, an NSF CAREER Award, and a Packard Foundation Fellowship; and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. She is a key collaborator on interdisciplinary projects, including the NSF MRSEC grant within the Columbia Nano Initiative.


Promotion to Full Professor


Portrait of V. Faye Mcneill

Chemical Engineering


Portrait of Gil Zussman

Electrical Engineering

Promotion to Tenure


Portrait of Augustin Chaintreau

Associate Professor
Computer Science


Portrait of Kui Ren

Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics


Portrait of J. Thomas Vaughan

Biomedical Engineering, Radiology


Promotion to Associate Professor


Portrait of Daniel Esposito

Chemical Engineering


Portrait of Javad Ghaderi

Electrical Engineering


Portrait of Josh Jacobs

Biomedical Engineering


Portrait of Ioannis Kougioumtzoglou

Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics


Portrait of Kyle Mandli

Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics


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