ESM welcomes five new faculty members


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is proud to welcome Şahin K. Özdemir, Todd Palmer, Christian Peco, Slava V. Rotkin and Justin Schwartz as its newest faculty members.

Özdemir has been hired as an associate professor. He comes to Penn State from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a research associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. He is also a specially appointed professor in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University (Japan), and has a close research collaboration with RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution.

He is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the Optical Society of America.

Özdemir’s research lies at the interface of engineering, physics, nanotechnology and materials science, with a major interest in developing basic knowledge and innovative photonic technologies to solve challenging problems, both fundamental and applied, not only across these fields, but also in biological studies, diagnostics and environment. His highly interdisciplinary work includes experimental and theoretical studies in photonics, optomechanics, parity-time symmetric systems, single particle/molecule detection, quantum sensors and plasmonics. Özdemir has published more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles on these topics, with more than 5,800 citations.

He earned a doctorate in electrical and electronics engineering from Shizuoka University (Japan) in 2000. He also earned a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Middle East Technical University (Turkey) in 1995 and 1992, respectively.

Palmer joins the department as a professor and as director of the Center for Innovative Sintered Products. He will also hold an affiliated faculty position as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Most recently, Palmer was a senior research associate at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory. He has also worked for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a metallurgist.

His research interests involve high energy density (electron beam and laser) processing and joining of structural and advanced materials, development of process-structure-property relationships in additive manufacturing of metals, application of additive manufacturing to repair and part refurbishment, characterization of phase transformations using synchrotron-based in situ x-ray diffraction techniques, physical metallurgy of gears and bearings, plasma-metal interactions, electron beam diagnostics development and economics and business development in materials and manufacturing industries.

Palmer holds a master of business administration degree and a doctorate in materials science and engineering from Penn State. He also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in metals science and engineering from the University.

He is a member of the American Welding Society (AWS), where he has been recognized with six awards since 2000 and chairs two committees and vice-chairs a third. He is also a member of ASM International.

Peco comes to Penn State as an assistant professor, having previously been a postdoctoral research associate in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. He is also a research collaborator at the Information Initiative at Duke, Idaho National Laboratory and the Okinawa Institute of Technology (Japan).

He received his doctoral degree in computational mechanics in 2014 and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering in 2009, all from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona, Spain.

Peco received several awards and honors during his time at UPC, including the Spanish Society for Numerical Methods in Engineering’s Best Doctoral Thesis in Numerical Methods Award (2014), the UPC Best Doctoral Thesis (2014) and an FPU-MED Fellowship from the Ministry of Science and Innovation – Spain (2011-2013).

His interdisciplinary research explores problems in biomechanics and materials science with the long-term objective placed on the active control of soft materials, such as lipid bilayers, to create bioinspired soft nanomachinery.

Rotkin has been hired as a College of Engineering Frontier Professor with tenure home in ESM, following thirteen years at Lehigh University where he was most recently professor in the physics department and the materials science and engineering department.

Prior to Lehigh, he served as a Beckman Fellow at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Rotkin was also a visiting professor at Sungkyunkwan University (Korea), RWTH Aachen University (Germany) and UIUC.

His research interests are in the field of applied and device physics of semiconductor nanostructures and nanomaterials with a focus on nanocarbons and 2D materials—particularly on biosensing applications of nanocarbon materials and their compounds, nanoscale and near‐field optics characterization and quantum optics and nanophotonics of low‐dimensional systems.

Rotkin holds professional memberships in IEEE; Sigma-Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society; the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE); the Materials Research Society; the American Physical Society and The Electrochemical Society (ECS).

He is also a member of the ECS Board of Directors, chair of its Nanocarbon Division and a member of the ECS Interface Advisory Board.

During his career at Lehigh, Rotkin was the recipient of the Hillman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Student Advising (2012), Class of ’68 Fellowship (2009) and the Eleanor and Joseph F. Libsch Early Career Research Award (2007), and was named the Frank J. Feigl Junior Faculty Scholar (2004). He advised more than 100 undergraduate students and supervised 20 postdocs and visiting scholars. He has more than 3,500 total citations and 78 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Rotkin earned a doctorate in physics and mathematics from the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia) in 1997 and earned a master’s degree with highest honors in optoelectronics and electronics from the Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University (Russia) in 1994.

Schwartz, who was named the new Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering, will be tenured in ESM. He was the Kobe Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) since 2009.

Prior to NCSU, Schwartz was the Jack E. Crow Professor of Engineering (2005-09), and senior research adviser to the vice president for research (2001-02) at Florida State University (FSU). He joined the FSU faculty in 1993, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the newly formed National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where he served as the leader of the HTS (high-temperature superconductor) Magnets and Materials Group. In 2003 his research group, in collaboration with Oxford Instruments, established the world record for highest magnetic field generation by a superconducting material.

He received his bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from UIUC in 1985 with highest honors, and his doctorate in nuclear engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990.

Schwartz's research interests include processing-structure-property relationships and failure mechanisms in superconducting materials and systems, multiferroic and magnetic thin films and devices, and optical fiber-based sensors. He focuses on the scientific challenges in transitioning a new material into a technologically functional material. He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and has graduated 28 doctoral students in four engineering disciplines and physics.

He was named a 2014 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a 2015 fellow of ASM International and a fellow of IEEE, where he also was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity from 2005-12.

Özdemir, Palmer, Peco, Rotkin and Schwartz will begin their appointments for the fall 2017 semester.


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Chris Spallino



The Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) is an internationally distinguished department that is recognized for its globally competitive excellence in engineering and scientific accomplishments, research, and educational leadership.

Our Engineering Science program is the official undergraduate honors program of the College of Engineering, attracting the University’s brightest engineering students. We also offer graduate degrees in ESM, engineering mechanics, engineering at the nano-scale, and an integrated undergraduate/graduate program.

Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics

212 Earth and Engineering Sciences Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-4523