Faculty promotions
George Barbastathis

George Barbastathis, Professor

Professor George Barbastathis has established an internationally-recognized research program in three-dimensional (3D) optical engineering. His research activities are centered on information optics—the processing and analysis of information by systems composed of optical, mechanical, and computational elements.

Professor Barbastathis’ work is focused on fundamental research and application development within two principal areas. The first is digital holography and volume holography for imaging of complex biological and fluidic systems. The second is subwavelength optical engineering using novel 3D assembly methods, such as nanostructured origami. Nanostructured origami leverages precision patterning by two-dimensional lithography with folding to achieve 3D structures primarily for optics, but also for sensing and energy storage.

Professor Barbastathis developed and popularized an optics curriculum within the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His joint undergraduate/ graduate course 2.71/2.710 has been offered continuously for a decade now, attracting students from across the School of Engineering and other schools at MIT.


Sanjay Sarma

Sanjay Sarma, Professor

Professor Sanjay Sarma’s research contributions have spanned several areas: manufacturing, radio frequency Identification (RFID), and distributed and mobile sensors.

Sarma’s research in manufacturing automation resulted in major innovations in work-holding, 5-axis machine tools, and 5-axis CAM systems. His research in RFID lead to the EPC suite of UHF RFID standards, which is used by more than 1,000 companies in over 30 countries. Sarma lead a team that transformed RFID tags into the new bar code, literally from concept to large-scale industrial implementation. His work, which was a game-changer in supply chain management, is now influencing new areas such as healthcare. The area has grown into a fertile field of scholarly research.

Sarma is also recognized as an exceptional educator, teaching an unusual range of core undergraduate courses ranging from disciplinary mechanics courses to the hands-on design and manufacturing courses. He has been recognized with several awards including the Institute-wide MacVicar Fellowship.


Thomas Peacock

Thomas Peacock, Associate Professor, Promoted with tenure

Professor Thomas Peacock is a rising international leader in the fields of stratified flows and nonlinear dynamics. Stratified flows occur in many physical systems through spatial variations in temperature and/or composition (e.g. salinity in the ocean), leading to buoyancy-driven convection and internal waves. These internal waves are prevalent throughout the ocean and atmosphere and impact large-scale environmental phenomena, such as oceanographic mixing, as well as engineering technologies, such as submarines and pipeline operations. Many of the predicted theoretical phenomena have been quantified for the first time in Peacock’s experimental laboratory.

Research in Peacock’s laboratory has also revealed a novel form of self-propulsion associated with the diffusive flux of stratified fluids near solid boundaries. Most recently, Peacock has been utilizing modern ideas about Lagrangian Coherent Structures to improve decision-making strategies for ocean-based events like oil spills and air-sea rescues. A unique and distinguishing feature of Peacock’s research is a careful and thorough combination of laboratory experimentation accompanied by theoretical analysis, which is reinforced by participation in large-scale field experiments.

Peacock has invigorated the department’s curriculum in linear and nonlinear dynamics. He is an excellent lecturer and popular mentor as well as a skilled communicator of scientific ideas. Through his NSF CAREER award, he is helping convey the importance of the dynamics of stratified fluid flows to a broad public audience.


Alexandra Techet

Alexandra Techet, Associate Professor, Promoted with tenure

Professor Alex Techet is a rising international leader in the field of experimental hydrodynamics. Her research addresses challenging problems of critical practical importance and scholarly significance, including free surface water entry of projectiles, maneuvering and propulsion of aquatic creatures, and sensing of the water/air interface of breaking waves using innovative spatial and temporal flow imaging techniques. Techet’s work on the water entry of ballistic projectiles has unraveled the role of spin in cavity evolution and projectile trajectory. Her imaging of live fish maneuvering, using a novel near-infrared particle imaging velocimetry technique, has helped uncover the role of vortex rings that enable fast starts and rapid turns at low energy cost. These physics guide the design of biologically-inspired propulsion systems. Techet’s group developed an innovative 3D synthetic aperture particle image velocimetry system capable of non-intrusive, non-holographic measurements of complex flow fields. Techet’s research has been recognized with numerous awards, including winning images in the Gallery of Fluid Motion and an ONR Young Investigator Award.

Techet is also a talented and dedicated educator and mentor. She is committed to the vitality and vibrancy of ocean engineering education and research, including a leadership role in the MIT/WHOI joint program and as MIT PI of the Naval Engineering Education Consortium, a major new education and research initiative that will educate the next generation of civilian engineering leaders for the U.S. Navy.


Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli

Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, Associate Professor

Professor Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli has focused her research program on the interface between nanotechnology and biology, engineering the design of nanoparticles for biomedical applications. The use of nanoparticles to control biologically relevant processes is a rapidly expanding research area due to its potential in disease detection and treatment. Hamad-Schifferli’s research focuses on designing the geometry and surface chemistry of nanoparticles for controlled biomolecular release. She is the first to propose and demonstrate the use of gold nanorod size and geometry to selectively release different biomolecules, capitalizing on the size-dependent resonant absorption wavelength of the nanorods to activate release. Her group further tailors the surface chemistry of nanoparticles to control protein conformation (and function), providing design rules for protein-nanoparticle linking.

Hamad-Schifferli has introduced, in collaboration with Professor Linda Griffith, a new undergraduate course Statistical Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems that is now a required course in Biological Engineering.