2020-2021 New Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Profiles
Office of the Provost | September 1, 2020
We are delighted to welcome each of our new tenured and tenure-track faculty members to the UTEP community. Many of our new colleagues have moved to El Paso from places across the country while some have already been here at UTEP and are settling into new roles. We are grateful for their presence and look forward to the many contributions they will make as teachers, scholars, and leaders on campus and in the community. Welcome to UTEP!
Angel Flores-Abad, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Flores-Abad joins the UTEP College of Engineering after having served as a research assistant professor at the UTEP Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR), a NASA funded center of excellence in aerospace and exploration. Flores-Abad earned his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University (NMSU); a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering from the National Center for Research and Technological Development in Cuernavaca, México; and a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from the Orizaba Institute of Technology in Orizaba, México. His background and research experience are in the area of autonomous systems for Aerospace applications. He has participated in the development of different autonomous controllers for the NASA asteroid redirect mission, the EPOS (European Proximity Operations) systems of DLR and the AFRL Robotic On-orbit servicing project. At cSETR, he has been working in the in the development of small satellites with robotic capabilities and implementing guidance and navigation algorithms for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Systems). His work at cSETR has involved mentoring and working alongside UTEP undergraduate and graduate students. He was a faculty advisor of the UTEP’s student team that won the first place in the United Launch Alliance (ULA) known as CubeCorps, earning the opportunity to launch their CubeSat (nicknamed OF2). OF2 was successfully launched and deployed from the robotic resupply spacecraft Cygnus in early 2020. Flores-Abad was selected to attend the first NASA SmallSat Mission Technical Interchange meeting, where a select group of experts discussed the past and future of small satellites. He is also the Principal Investigator of the project, Autonomous Aerial Power Plant Inspection in GPS-denied Environments, funded by the DOE. Flores-Abad is a reviewer for over a dozen journals in the fields of aerospace engineering and robotics. In 2019, the Aerospace Science and Technology Journal recognized him as an outstanding reviewer. Flores-Abad has two patents and numerous publications. He is a member of the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee, the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineering (IEEE), and the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE).
Sergio Luna, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering
Luna returns to his alma mater after completing a doctoral degree in Systems Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. His research interests focus on the intersection between data science, systems engineering, and strategic decision-making. While at Stevens, Luna was awarded the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Doctoral Fellowship and received the Outstanding Dissertation Award by the School of Systems and Enterprises. He is a former researcher from the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), a University-Affiliated Research Center of the U.S. Department of Defense, where he collaborated in the Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers and the Mission Engineering Competencies project. He earned his master’s in systems engineering and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from UTEP. During this time, he served as a research assistant at the UTEP Research Institute for Manufacturing and Engineering Systems and was a part of the development of enterprise-level architectural views of the University’s shuttle system that were in accordance with the Department of Defense Architecture Framework principles. He is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Prior to joining the faculty at UTEP, Luna spent his career as an e-commerce data scientist at a world leading consumer product goods organization. He is a coffee aficionado, enjoys traveling, and exploring diverse cultures.
Eric MacDonald, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
MacDonald is returning to UTEP as a professor in mechanical engineering after spending four years at Youngstown State University, where he worked on the national initiative on additive manufacturing called America Makes. He received his doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002, and worked in the industry for 12 years at IBM and Motorola in Austin. He subsequently co-founded a start-up company that was acquired by a Silicon Valley firm. MacDonald has held faculty fellowships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with a State Department Fulbright Fellowship in South America at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Valparaiso, Chile. His research interests include 3D printed multi-functional applications and process monitoring in additive manufacturing. His recent projects include 3D printing of structures such as nano-satellites with electronics in the structure, one of which was launched into low earth orbit, and a replica of which is on display at the London Museum of Science. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and over two dozen patents, one of which was licensed by Sony and Toshiba. MacDonald is a co-founding editor of the Elsevier journal Additive Manufacturing, which has one of the highest impact factors for all of manufacturing journals worldwide. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, a senior member of IEEE, and a registered Professional Engineer in Texas.
Shirley Moore, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science
Moore is returning to the UTEP Department of Computer Science after working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for four years as a senior computer scientist. ORNL is the largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory. Moore’s research focuses on evaluation of emerging hardware technologies, parallel and distributed system design and evaluation, and performance evaluation and optimization of scientific and machine learning applications. She earned her doctoral degree in computer science from Purdue University, a master’s degree in mathematics from Wichita State University, a master’s in science education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s in mathematics and chemistry from Indiana University Bloomington. Moore is a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery, and a founding member of the Performance Application Programming Interface (PAPI) project. Her work on PAPI earned her and research colleagues the R&D 100 Award in 2001. The R&D 100 Awards recognize the most promising new products, processes, materials, or software developed throughout the world. During her career at ORNL, Moore has been the ORNL point of contact and lead for several initiatives in the Exascale Computing Project, a monumental DOE initiative to advance scientific and computational capabilities to the exascale in less than a decade. During her downtime, she enjoys open-water swimming, spending time with her three dogs, and playing the piano and guitar. Moore shares that she is excited to return to UTEP, and is looking forward to joining the Computer Science Department and collaborating with faculty and students on teaching and research.
Sylvia Natividad-Diaz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Metallurgical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering
Natividad-Diaz returns to her alma mater after completing a doctoral degree in Bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on patient-specific cardiovascular tissue engineering and diagnostic device development with microfluidic systems. Natividad-Diaz’s doctoral research consisted of developing a biomimetic in vitro angiogenesis model for pre-clinical drug screening. Within this work she developed a novel method for differentiating human induced pluripotent stem cells (originally skin cells) to vascular endothelial cells (hiPSC-ECs). Additionally, as a side project, she worked on developing an autonomous microfluidic cell-sorting chip to monitor the progression of HIV/AIDS in limited resource settings. This work was recognized with the second place award in the Prize for Primary Healthcare competition sponsored by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) with Ambulatory Practice of the Future. Following the completion of her Ph.D., Natividad-Diaz worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Oncology Department at the Livestrong Cancer Institute in the Dell Medical School at UT Austin. During her postdoctoral training, she conducted fundamental research on the effects of the Hedgehog signaling pathway on acute myeloid leukemia. Prior to completing her Ph.D., Natividad-Diaz obtained her B.S. (summa cum laude) and M.S. in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from UTEP. While attending UTEP as a master’s student, she was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP). At Berkeley, she received the National Institute of Health (NIH) T32 Stem Cell Engineering Training Program Fellowship and the Siebel Scholars Foundation Fellowship. She participates in and is a member of several STEM educational and professional societies including the Expanding Your Horizons Network, American Medical Writers Association, ASTM international, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, and Alpha Sigma Mu Materials Science and Engineering Honor Society.
Saeid Tizpaz-Niari, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science
Tizpaz-Niari joins UTEP from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he was a member of the Programming Languages and Verification Group (CUPLV). He is primarily interested in addressing cybersecurity and performance challenges in software, machine learning, and cyber-physical systems. In addition, he is interested in developing tools and techniques to guarantee privacy and fairness in algorithmic inferences. Tizpaz-Niari earned his doctoral degree in computer engineering from CU Boulder, a master’s degree in information technology engineering from the Sharif University of Technology in Iran, and a bachelor’s degree in information technology engineering from Tabriz University in Iran. While at CU Boulder, he served as a team leader of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Space/Time Analysis for Cybersecurity (STAC) Program. Tizpaz-Niari is the first author of multiple publications that have been presented in top-tier computer science conferences such as NDSS’20 (security), AAAI’18 (artificial intelligence), CAV’19 (verification), and ISSTA’20 (software engineering). His latest publication, Detecting and Understanding Real-World Differential Performance Bugs in Machine Learning Libraries, was presented at the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis (ISSTA) in July 2020. Tizpaz-Niari is the recipient of the Gold Research Award from the ECEE department at CU Boulder (2018), and the Second Prize Winner of the First Microsoft Open Source Challenge (2016). He is a reviewer for the Journal of Computer Security and annual Computer Aided Verification (CAV) Conference, which focuses on theory and practice of computer aided formal analysis of software and hardware systems. During his downtime, Tizpaz-Niari enjoys hiking, running, watching soccer, solving puzzles, and playing chess. He is fluent in Persian (Farsi) and Azeri (Turkish), and enjoys learning new languages.
Brian Schuster, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Metallurgical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering
Schuster returns to his alma mater after serving 19 years as a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Maryland. His research background focuses on material characterization. While in Maryland, Schuster also served as a visiting scholar in the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). He earned his doctoral degree and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from JHU, and a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering (summa cum laude) from UTEP. While at the ARL, Schuster was the principal investigator for experiments and characterization for the ARL Essential Research Program on Soldier Protection. He also served as a member of the Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS) Scientific Working Group, and was the DCS Collaborative Access Team Lead for the ARL. Schuster is a recipient of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Award for Analysis (2018), the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Award for Partnership (2016), and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Director’s Research Award (2012). Over the course of this career, he has mentored over two dozen students.
Refer to the Office of the Provost article for the full list of new faculty.