The School of Engineering and Applied Science commended seven assistant professors for early-career excellence in research and teaching. This year’s junior faculty award recipients will each receive $50,000 to support their research.

E. Lawrence Keyes, Jr./Emerson Electric Co. Faculty Advancement Award

Jonathan Conway

Portrait of Jonathan Conway.An assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, Jonathan Conway studies the interactions between microbes and plants. Those interactions play a major role in the health, productivity and eventual decomposition of the plants that drive atmospheric carbon cycles and shape life on Earth. Conway’s research uses genetic engineering of bacteria found at plant-microbe interfaces and biomolecular engineering of their products to probe and define consequential plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions in these ecosystems. His work has revealed pathways to new bioenergy and agricultural technologies that could help with climate change mitigation and adaptation. The combination of genetic engineering and mechanistic understanding of these interactions makes Conway’s “research program particularly unique,” according to Christos Maravelias, chair of chemical and biological engineering. In three years, Conway has mentored nine senior thesis projects and five junior independent projects. He has also introduced a program where graduate students present their work to undergraduates, enhancing educational opportunities for both groups. Conway was recently named a New Investigator with the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Project. He also received funding from Princeton’s IP Accelerator Fund this year and was previously the recipient of a Project X Fund research grant. He joined Princeton in 2021 from the University of North Carolina, where he was a postdoctoral researcher. He is an associated faculty member of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, the High Meadows Environmental Institute, and the Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute.

Yasaman Ghasempour

Portrait of Yasaman Ghasempour.An assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Yasaman Ghasempour studies fundamental mechanisms of wireless communication and sensing technologies. Her work focuses on designing, implementing and experimentally evaluating next-generation systems that use high-frequency signals, especially in the millimeter-wave, sub-terahertz and terahertz bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some of that spectrum has only recently been made available for research and is not yet used in commercial applications. Ghasempour develops techniques to access this part of the spectrum and build new systems that leverage its higher data rates and greater precision while managing the increased complexity these systems bring. In 2023, Ghasempour’s team won best paper awards at the USENIX NSDI and ACM MobiCom conferences. She has won a Young Investigator Program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Commendation for Outstanding Teaching from Princeton University, and a Marconi Young Scholar Award, among many other honors. Additionally, she co-directs Princeton’s NextG Initiative and has held leadership positions at more than a dozen academic conferences and journals. Ghasempour joined Princeton in 2021 after completing her Ph.D. at Rice University.

Yuri Pritykin

Portrait of Yuri Pritykin.Yuri Pritykin, an assistant professor of computer science and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, is an expert in computational biology. He applies statistics, machine learning and efficient algorithms to investigate cell function and cell-cell interactions, focusing on immunology and cancer. His work has been recognized with an NSF CAREER award (2023) and a New Innovator Award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2022). Prior to joining the Princeton faculty in 2021, Pritykin was a postdoctoral researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He did his doctoral work at Princeton, completing his Ph.D. in 2014. In his nomination letter, department chair Szymon Rusinkiewicz noted Pritykin’s valuable work in building interdisciplinary connections between computer science and other units on campus, including the Lewis-Sigler Institute and the Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute. “Yuri is an exceptional scholar,” Rusinkiewicz said. “He is brilliant and creative and has been addressing challenging and high-impact problems with sophisticated computational approaches.”

Howard B. Wentz, Jr. Junior Faculty Award

Reza Moini

Portrait of Reza Moini.An assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, Reza Moini focuses on bio-inspired design and development of architected materials using additive manufacturing and robotic technologies for applications in civil infrastructure. Architected materials are those that display customized behavior based on the interplay of material properties and geometry. Moini’s work explores the mechanics of intrinsically brittle engineering materials and seeks to develop ductile and flaw-tolerant responses using biomimetic design principles and new material assemblies. Such materials can provide advanced functionality and damage-tolerant behaviors. His research also pursues questions about the interplay between properties such as toughness and strength. Moini joined Princeton in 2021 after completing his Ph.D. at Purdue University. He is an associated faculty member of the Princeton Materials Institute and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. He is the recipient of a 2023 NSF CAREER award. In his nomination letter, department chair Branko Glišić praised Moini’s creation of “a state-of-the art laboratory equipped with robots for additive manufacturing that he personally designed.” Glišić called this a “signature lab” of the department that puts Moini “at the forefront of research in architected materials.

Bartolomeo Stellato

Portrait of Bartolomeo Stellato.Bartolomeo Stellato is an assistant professor of operations research and financial engineering. His research lies at the interface of mathematical optimization, machine learning and optimal control. It focuses on data-driven computational tools to make decisions in highly dynamic and uncertain environments, including acceleration schemes for optimization algorithms in fast real-time scenarios, frameworks to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty, and architectures to model multi-agent rationality and design interventions. Stellato places a strong emphasis on computations, aiming to building a trade-off between the quality of the proposed techniques and computational tractability. Along the way, he seeks to develop open-source numerical tools to help practitioners apply his work in the real-world. He works on various applications in autonomous systems, robotics, power systems, health care, finance and engineering. Stellato joined Princeton in 2020 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, where he was a postdoctoral research associate. He is an associated faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Computer Science, the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning, and the Robotics at Princeton initiative. He is the recipient of a 2023 NSF CAREER award. In his nomination letter, H. Mete Soner, department chair, said that Stellato “has a comprehensive and an ambitious research plan and his work will significantly impact the ability of optimization tools to provide rapid and accurate decision-making in complex dynamic environments.”

Aimy Wissa

Portrait of Aimy Wissa.An assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Aimy Wissa is interested in bio-inspired design for locomotion and adaptive structures. Wissa models and experiments with robotic structures inspired by animal biology, such as the wings of birds and insects. Naomi Ehrich Leonard, chair of the department, noted in her nomination letter that Wissa is “an intellectual leader in this growing field” and has “taken a leading role in defining the agenda for research and education in bio-inspired design.” Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2022, Wissa was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her work has been recognized by an NSF CAREER award (2021) and a Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (2018). Leonard said Wissa has also made outstanding contributions as a mentor and teacher in the department. In addition to advising nine undergraduate independent work projects in the past two years, she redesigned a key departmental course on aerospace structures. “This is a testament to the interest Aimy has generated in the field and to her superb advising abilities,” Leonard said.

Huacheng Yu

Portrait of Huacheng Yu.Huacheng Yu, an assistant professor of computer science, studies theoretical computer science, particularly the efficiency of data structures and streaming algorithms. Yu’s work investigates the limits of how efficiently problems can be solved, a longstanding area of research in theoretical computer science. In his nomination letter, department chair Szymon Rusinkiewicz noted that Yu’s work has “developed groundbreaking new ideas to resolve long-standing open problems and provide optimal bounds for streaming algorithms.” Yu joined Princeton as a faculty member in 2021 after completing a doctorate at Stanford and serving as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard. Earlier this year he received an NSF CAREER award. In addition to his research, Yu received commendations for outstanding teaching from the Engineering School for the past three years as well as perfect teaching evaluations for a graduate course he taught on streaming and sketching algorithms. “Huacheng is a prolific researcher, a universally praised teacher and mentor, and a great departmental citizen,” said Rusinkiewicz. “He strongly embodies the things we look for in junior colleagues in our department.”