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Lehigh Announces Interdisciplinary Research Institutes

Lehigh has announced the formation of three Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs): the Institute for Functional Materials and Devices, the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems, and Computation, and the Institute for Cyber–Physical Infrastructure and Energy.

Lehigh’s IRIs will create communities of scholars and will catalyze crucial research in areas in which Lehigh can take a leading position on the national and international stage and make lasting societal contributions.

The IRIs are one of the ways the University will realize its vision to build a stronger, more dynamic Lehigh. These Institutes will be supported by a portion of Lehigh’s commitment of more than $150 million toward interdisciplinary research and education with investments focused on faculty and student talent, new research and academic programs that collaborate across colleges, and the expansion of campus facilities dedicated to interdisciplinary research and learning.

“The power of interdisciplinary collaboration is central to Lehigh’s vision and culture,” said Lehigh President John D. Simon. “Interdisciplinary research is society’s best hope for addressing our most vexing challenges. Lehigh’s investment in this space is a critical component of our commitment to educate students and create knowledge that will have a lasting impact on society.”

Provost Pat Farrell said, “These IRIs will bring Lehigh faculty members and students together in interdisciplinary teams that are positioned to solve hard problems at the intersections of disciplines. They have already attracted faculty members from all of our colleges who are committed to teaming around such problems and to enhancing our interdisciplinary research culture. They will also provide strong connection points to our industrial and other external partners.”

The themes and structure of the IRIs emerged through a faculty-led envisioning process initiated in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. The process included faculty participation from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business and Economics. 

“Through our envisioning process, we gathered thoughtful feedback from across our community that set targets for strategic growth and focused investment in our future,” said Stephen P. DeWeerth, professor and dean of P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. “The IRI themes were selected in some of the areas in which Lehigh can broadly impact society, based on our existing strengths and on our future investments. The IRIs will address interdisciplinary research challenges through the facilitation of interdisciplinary teaming, the incubation of big ideas, and the realization of these ideas through large-scale, extramurally funded projects. The institutes will also assure Lehigh’s prominence across these themes, promoting our thought leadership and linking us to a robust set of external stakeholders.”

Lehigh’s three new IRIs are:

Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD)
Himanshu Jain, Director
Diamond Distinguished Chair and Professor of Materials Science

Steven McIntosh, Associate Director
Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Innovative new materials and devices will underpin the solution to many challenges facing society, from detecting and treating disease, to implementing large scale renewable energy sources, to securing food and fresh water for all. In order to address these challenges, I-FMD brings together Lehigh’s interdisciplinary expertise in the synthesis, fabrication, processing, and characterization of engineered materials including semiconductors, metals, ceramics, composites, polymers and other soft materials. These materials are incorporated into sensors, actuators and other devices that have critical functionality across mechanical, electronic, photonic and chemical domains. I-FMD conducts innovative and interdisciplinary research into materials issues at the nanoscale, often in combination with intelligent processing and device design. FMD researchers will identify and address innovative solutions to societal grand challenges by building interdisciplinary teams focused around material and device functionalities. FMD also will coordinate access to cutting-edge materials characterization facilities, welcoming both internal users and external users from universities and industry.

Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems, and Computation (I-DISC)
Hector Muñoz-Avila, Co-Director
Class of 1961 Professor, Computer Science and Engineering

Katya Scheinberg, Co-Director
Harvey E. Wagner Endowed Chair and Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

The analysis of complex and massive datasets and the development of sophisticated computational models are essential to our understanding and prediction of complex phenomena and systems associated with personalized medicine, health care delivery, transportation systems, social networks, the human brain, global climate and international economic development. I-DISC will build upon the foundation of Lehigh research expertise in areas such as machine learning, optimization, probabilistic modeling, data-driven decision making, high-performance and data-intensive computing, statistical signal and image processing, data representation and management, modeling and simulation, robotics and computer vision, business and management technology, and privacy and security. I-DISC research, attacking at the root some of the most pressing problems in technology and society, will create a fertile space for collaborative work with industry, academic and government interests.

Institute for Cyber–Physical Infrastructure and Energy (I-CPIE)
Richard Sause, Director
Joseph T. Stuart Professor of Structural Engineering

Shalinee Kishore, Associate Director
Iacocca Chair and Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Infrastructure systems—such as those that underpin living and working spaces, energy production and delivery, transportation, and communications—have a profound impact on the human condition. Rapid technological and scientific advancements related to the built environment are bringing significant improvements to our quality of life. I-CPIE seeks to understand, develop and optimize the cyber and physical components of infrastructure and energy systems that support all aspects of modern society, and expand its leadership role in the advancement of such areas as smart and resilient communities, optimized infrastructure renewal, and the integration of the flow of people, energy, data, resources, and finances through these systems. I-CPIE will build on a broad foundation of Lehigh expertise in areas including resilient infrastructure; smart grid and renewable energy technologies; cybersecurity; environmental science, technology, and policy; and social sciences.

Each Institute has already begun the process of building specific teams, hosting workshops and connecting with key industry and academic personnel. For more information on each Institute, including Lehigh faculty listings, research highlights and more, visit  www.lehigh.edu/IRI.

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