Meet the Team


Yanfen Li, Ph.D.

Yanfen LiYanfen Li is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She received her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where her research was focused on the utilization of biomaterials to understand and influence cellular function and epigenetics. Her current research is in engineering education with a focus on curriculum development, formation of engineering identity in undergraduate students, and retention and recruitment of female and minority engineering students.

Nicole D. Jackson, Ph.D.

Nicole D. Jackson is currently a Postdoctoral Appointee at Sandia National Laboratories in the Energy Water Systems Integration department. She received her B.S. and Ph.D.  in Civil Engineering as well as an M.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and  a M.S. in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech. Her current research focuses on characterizing extreme weather event impacts to the food-energy-water nexus through the use of data science and complex systems analysis.

Rebecca Reck, Ph.D.

Photo of Rebecca ReckRebecca Reck is a Teaching Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  From 2016-2020, she was an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University.  She received her Ph.D. in Systems and Entrepreneurial Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2016.  Previously she worked as a systems engineer in the Systems and Software group in the Flight Control Systems Department at Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace).  She has completed a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at Iowa State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.   Her areas of research include experiential learning, undergraduate instructional laboratories, and inclusive pedagogy.  She is an active volunteer in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

Rohit Bhargava, Ph.D.

Photo of Rohit BhargavaRohit Bhargava is Founder Professor of Engineering and serves as the Director of the Cancer Center at Illinois of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rohit graduated with a dual-degree B.Tech. (1996) from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and received a doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University (2000). After a stint at the National Institutes of Health, he has been at Illinois as Assistant (2005-2011), Associate (2011-2012), and Full (2012-) Professor. Rohit is widely recognized for his research on chemical imaging and advances in theory, instrumentation, and applications in cancer pathology. His innovative teaching and mentoring has also been consistently recognized by the success of his students. He directs the NIH T32-supported Tissue Microenvironment training program and founded the cancer scholars program too. In addition to his research and educational activities, Rohit has also served to connect the research community in new and exciting ways to address basic science and engineering questions that surround cancer. He proposed and has served to develop the Cancer Center at Illinois – a basic science center at the convergence of high quality technology and engineering and oncology.


Wan-Ting (Grace) Chen

Wan-Ting ChenWan-Ting (Grace) Chen is an assistant professor in the department of Plastics Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), where she directs the Plastics & Environment Research Laboratory. Grace received her B.Sc in Chemical Engineering from National Taiwan University, M.S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a postdoctoral training in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University. Her research group has extensive experience in the sustainability area. Prof. Chen’s current research focuses on four topics: 1) Chemical recycling of plastic waste into fuels, polymers, and chemicals, 2) Biofuel and bioplastic material development, 3) Microplastic pollution mitigation, and 4) green solvent formulation. Her lab is equipped with reactors for hydrothermal processing of plastic waste and biowaste, as well as characterizations for fuel/polymer products. In addition, her lab also has a license to a specialized software, Hansen Solubility Parameters in Practice (HSPiP), to study polymer dissolution/precipitation behavior, coating removal, polymer diffusion, and packaging failure mechanisms. The Chen Group’s research program contributes to the development of new multi-disciplinary materials on the topic of plastic waste recycling, biobased plastic material, and sustainability analysis. Prof. Chen is affiliated with American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), American Chemical Society (ACS), Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), and American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers (ASABE). To date, she has published 27 peer-reviewed articles, one book chapter, and one U.S. patent, with a total citation of 1330 and an H-index of 18.


If you are interested in mentoring a small group of participants with their statement drafts and reviews throughout the program, please contact us.