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Rabiei guides COE research as College Research Committee chair

Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei in the lab

Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State, has long distinguished herself as an effective research professor in her field. Now, as chair of the College Research Committee, Rabiei helps guide research efforts for the entire College of Engineering, with an emphasis on mid-career faculty research and cross-departmental collaboration.

The 14-member committee has been around for more than 20 years and includes faculty representatives from the College’s nine departments and three affiliated departments. It meets monthly, and some of its duties include: providing information to the departments about research opportunities and available funding, evaluating award recipients, considering feedback on how to improve research efforts within the College and bringing in speakers to talk about research proposals and other relevant topics.

Rabiei started her term as chair in the fall of 2018 after becoming a committee member in the spring of that year.

“When I started I was unsure how I could help, but the longer I’ve been on the committee, I see how it’s the same as being an idea maker for my own research; I can be creative in leading research for the College,” she said.

Dr. John Gilligan, executive associate dean of the College and Distinguished University Professor of Nuclear Engineering, said he believes Rabiei is the first woman to chair the committee.

“I’ve been here for 30 some years, and I really can’t remember another woman who has actually been the chair, but certainly in the last 10-15 years, I don’t think there’s a woman who’s done it. It’s a milestone in that sense,” he said.

Gilligan oversees research in the College and serves as an ex-officio member of the committee.

“The committee is the voice of the faculty researchers to give advice to the College on new research areas and better research processes and improving the general overall ability of faculty and students to do research in the College,” he said. “It’s a feedback mechanism and a way for the faculty to directly interface with the Dean’s office.”

During Rabiei’s time as committee chair, she has developed two sub-committees. The first is focused on supporting mid-career faculty members who want to become more active in research. Dr. Christine Grant, associate dean of faculty advancement and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is an ex-officio member on the committee, and she recently secured funding from the Dean’s office for that goal.

“The idea for supporting mid-career faculty launched very quickly thanks to Dr. Grant taking that lead and starting that subcommittee. I’m proud of her activity,” Rabiei said. “It’s good to have infrastructure that can support mid-career faculty at all levels.”

The second sub-committee aims to develop a database to show faculty expertise and what equipment they have in their labs. Rabiei wants this database to encourage more collaborative research across the College and University.

“I think these two together can really help promote research in the College,” she said. “It’s exciting to see everyone come around to these ideas and help each other within the committee and sub-committees.”

Rabiei was recently awarded the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the College.