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McCormick Announces Two New Chairs

Two McCormick departments will soon be under new leadership. Alan Sahakian, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biomedical engineering, was named chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Michael Bedzyk, professor of materials science and engineering and physics and astronomy, was named chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Sahakian, who will become chair on July 1, received his BS in applied science and physics from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in 1976. He received his MS in 1979 and his PhD in in 1984, both in electrical engineering (with a minor in computer science) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined Northwestern in 1984 and has been a member of the associate professional staff of NorthShore University Health System’s Department of Medicine since 1985.

Sahakian’s research focuses on the intersection of living systems and engineered electronic systems. He works in cardiac electrophysiology (treating atrial fibrillation with automatic implanted devices) and uses electromagnetic and photonic methods for medical and non-medical imaging and monitoring. He has recently performed research in electroporation ablation therapy for liver cancer. 

Sahakian has received many teaching awards, including Bette and Neison Harris Chair, the Charles Deering McCormick Chair, the McCormick Teacher of the Year award, the McCormick Adviser of the Year award, and the Northwestern Alumni Association Teaching award. He has served as a resident visiting scholar in the Center for Excellence in Reliability and Maintainability at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He is a distinguished lecturer of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and
is a fellow of AIMBE and IEEE.

Sahakian succeeds Alok Choudhary, John G. Searle Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“The department is in excellent shape due to Alok Choudhary’s work as chair,” Sahakian said. “Part of what I’d like to do is maintain that energy to keep us moving forward.” As chair, Sahakian hopes to strengthen ties with other departments in McCormick and across Northwestern. He also hopes to explore new options in undergraduate curricula –- he has served as the associate chair for the department’s undergraduate program -- and create new joint majors.

“Many opportunities for today’s undergraduates are hybrids of different disciplines,” he said. “I think the time is right to partner with different fields.”

Bedzyk, who will become chair on September 1, received his BS in physics and mathematics from State University of New York-Brockport in 1973. He received his PhD in physics from State University of New York-Albany in 1982. He joined Northwestern in 1991.

Bedzyk’s research focuses on using X-ray scattering and spectroscopy to study molecular-scale processes that happen at interfaces separating different materials. He is currently working within the Institute for Catalysis in Energy Processes on oxide-supported catalysts and in the Center for Electrical Energy Storage to develop ideas for new types of anode materials for lithium ion batteries.

He serves as the co-director of the Synchrotron Research Center and as the director X-ray Diffraction Facility. He also has an appointment in Argonne National Laboratory’s materials science division. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and has received the Bertram Eugene Warren Diffraction Physics Award.

Bedzyk succeeds Peter Voorhees, Frank C. Engelhart Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and (by courtesy) Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics.

“Peter Voorhees has done a fantastic job leading us these past eight years,” Bedzyk said. “Our department is in a superb position. I hope to encourage creativity among faculty, staff, and students so we can support growth in research and education.” Bedzyk hopes to work with members of his department to develop new 21st century undergraduate laboratory facilities that give students opportunities to learn about new developments in the field, including new materials like graphene, carbon nanotubes, and biomaterials, and the synthesis and characterization of those materials.

“There is a whole array of new developments that we can bring into the educational experience of undergraduates,” he said.