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DeGroot and Schiffman Selected as Outstanding Faculty Award Winners

Don DeGroot

Don DeGroot

Jessica Schiffman

Jessica Schiffman

The College of Engineering has chosen Professor Don DeGroot of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department as the 2017 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award winner and Assistant Professor Jessica Schiffman of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department as the 2017 recipient of the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. The winners will be recognized during the college’s Senior Recognition Celebration to be held on Saturday, May 13, 2017.

Regarding Dr. DeGroot, the selection committee noted the depth and breadth of his record in teaching, research, and service during his 28 years at UMass and the international recognition within geotechnical engineering of his expertise in the assessment of soil behavior. DeGroot’s research has focused on soil characterization, including drilling and sampling of soils, in situ testing, laboratory measurement of soil behavior, and selection of soil design parameters.

According to CEE Department Head Richard Palmer, DeGroot has published his research in many of the major geotechnical engineering journals, including those published by the American Society of Civil Engineers,  American Society for Testing and Materials, Institute of Civil Engineers, and the Canadian Geotechnical Society. He has delivered invited national and international Keynote, State-of-the-Art, and State-of-the-Practice papers and presentations on site characterization and soil behavior.

Since 2007, Dr. DeGroot has been the PI or co-PI on approximately $21.5 million in research and has maintained funding from three important sources: the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the MA Clean Energy Center. “These prestigious research awards have allowed him to support a continuous flow of M.S. and Ph.D. students,” said Palmer. “Since 2007, he has graduated four Ph.D. students, 10 M.S. students, and has six current Ph.D. students.”

DeGroot is a member of a wide range of professional organizations and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and the Geotechnical Testing Journal.

DeGroot was also the program coordinator of CEE’s Geotechnical Program for many years and has ably served on CEE’s Department Personnel Committee. Professor Guoping (Gregg) Zhang noted that, “As a mentor and colleague, Dr. DeGroot exemplifies himself as a role model of faculty to me, as well as many other junior faculty in and beyond our department. Without his continuous effort, leadership, and passion, the program would not have evolved to achieve a high reputation in New England and the nation for the graduate education and research.”

Professor David Ostendorf has worked with DeGroot for many years. He noted that “Dr. DeGroot has become a geotechnical engineer of international stature, an interdisciplinary mentor to tenured and tenure track researchers in other UMass colleges and COE departments, a coauthor and co-PI with his CEE colleagues, and a leader and PI within his program.”

DeGroot has received several UMass Amherst outstanding teaching and research awards. Other awards include the American Society of Civil Engineers NY Section GZA Lecture Award (2013); Sowers State-of-the-Art Lecture Award, Georgia Tech (2006); Gledden Visiting Senior Fellowship, University of Western Australia (2005); and the Research Council of Norway Guest Researcher Fellowship (1997).

DeGroot received his Sc.D. from MIT in 1989, his M.S. from MIT in 1985, and a B.S. from Concordia University in 1983.

Dr. Schiffman was cited by the selection committee for her outstanding record in research, teaching, and service, including the development of novel bioinspired materials from natural polymers and her creative fundamental research at the interface of materials science and microbiology.

As ChE Department Head John Klier said, “Jessica is in her sixth year as a faculty member at UMass and is a model young faculty member whose achievements approach an ideal blend of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and service. She will be a very worthy recipient of this award because she is a young superstar who has the potential to become a future scientific leader.”

She has published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading journals in her field, including prestigious refereed journals such as Advanced Materials Interfaces, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Environmental Science & Technology, and Biomacromolecules. Additionally, she has published five book chapters and five U.S. patents. Since starting at UMass, she also has been the invited speaker or keynote speaker at 36 conferences around the world, including, Austria, Mexico, Canada, India, Singapore, and China, and additionally has over 100 contributed conference presentations.

Schiffman has been the PI or co-PI on grants totaling $2.5 million from multiple federal grants funded by the National Science Foundation, Army Research Laboratory, ACI Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, Armstrong Fund for Science, and several industrial grants.

“Professor Schiffman has developed a highly visible research program in the field of nanofibers, functional coatings, and surfaces with an emphasis on the interface with biological systems,” said Professor Klier. “Her research focuses on building nanofiber surfaces that control the collection and inactivation of bacteria and provide durable antimicrobial properties, along with novel coatings and materials that control and resist bacterial adhesion, attachment, and proliferation.”

Schiffman has supervised eight graduate students, graduated two Ph.D. students and one M.S. student, and is currently supervising or co-supervising five graduate students. She has also supervised 26 undergraduate students and one postdoctoral researcher.

Klier said that Schiffman has also served as the program director for the ChE Honors Program, acting as advisor for approximately 125 students. “Significantly,   under   her   leadership, the   Honors Chemical Engineering Undergraduate graduation rate has more than tripled from approximately 12 in 2011 to over 40 currently,” said Klier. “Professor Schiffman’s extra effort and dedication to managing this exceptional program growth, especially while juggling research and teaching duties, should be fully recognized.”

Among Schiffman’s many awards and honors are the following: Professor James M. Douglas Career Development Faculty Fellow; NSF BRIGE Award; Koerner Family Fellow; Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from Drexel University; Graduate Assistantship in Areas of National Need Fellow; NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Fellow; and Malcolm G. Mclaren Scholarship.

Schiffman earned her B.S. at Rutgers University in Ceramic and Materials Engineering, her M.S. at Cornell University in Materials Science and Engineering, and her Ph.D. at Drexel University in Materials Science and Engineering. She additionality was a Post-Doctoral Associate at Yale University in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. (April 2017)

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