Introductory Message from Interim Dean Alexander Couzis
Dear Colleagues, Students, Alumni and Friends,
I am honored and humbled to have been appointed interim dean of The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York, during so perilous a moment in our city’s history. It was only 100 days ago that the world shifted beneath our feet. Our resilience will continue to be tested, and these new challenges will demand the best of us. Great obstacles lie ahead, yet I am confident that together, with the work of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, partners, and friends, we will persevere and reaffirm our shared mission and values.
I want to thank Dean Gilda Barabino for her thoughtful leadership, vision, and transparency. Under Dean Barabino’s leadership enrollment reached at an all-time high even as CCNY had been forced to make do with budget cuts. Despite these odds, The Grove School of Engineering improved retention and graduation rates, developed new and innovative programs, and moved up in rankings. As interim dean, my goal is to build on that momentum and use our collective talents to navigate through a new reality for engineering education in a post-COVID-19 world.
I joined the CCNY School of Engineering faculty in 1994. From 2008 to 2013 I served as the Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. During that time, we accomplished great things at CCNY: we secured ABET accreditation, founded the CUNY Energy Institute, and completed a multi-million-dollar capital project that upgraded laboratory space for teaching and research. In 2013, I took a five-year hiatus from academia to help establish a clean energy start-up, Urban Electric Power (UEP), that spun-off from our research work at CCNY. As CEO and CTO of UEP, we secured over $20M in funding and grew from five engineers to a company of more than 30 with a 40,000 sq ft pilot manufacturing plant in Pearl River, NY.
Since returning as faculty in 2018, I have spent much of my time listening to students, colleagues, and alumni, to reacquaint myself with the college’s ongoing evolution, and to better understand their experiences, expectations, and hopes for the direction of the school. I’ve learned that it’s our shared desire to thrive, to build on this rich history, and develop an inclusive community of faculty and student scholars.
I look forward to working with each of you as we continue to navigate the many challenges with an unwavering spirit of practicality, innovation, and optimism. There will be challenges ahead, but our work at The Grove School of Engineering is now more critical than ever. I am inspired by this opportunity, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts insights and recommendations in the days to come.
Alexander Couzis, PhD
Interim Dean of The Grove School of Engineering
Fall 2020 Welcome Message from Interim Dean Alexander Couzis
Alexander Couzis, PhD
Interim Dean, The Grove School of Engineering
Alexander Couzis, Professor of Chemical Engineering at The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY), has been appointed interim dean of the school effective July 1, 2020.
Professor Couzis received his BS in chemical engineering from the National Technical University in Athens, Greece and received his MS and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. Immediately after graduating, he joined International Paper in their research center with the division of Applied Polymer Science developing novel polymeric materials and coatings for gas and vapor barrier applications. In September 1994, Couzis joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at CCNY where he established an internationally recognized research program focused on the study of the dynamic phenomena at solid-liquid interfaces. He is the author of over 50 highly cited peer-reviewed publications, he holds six patents, and has mentored and co-mentored 19 PhD students. From 2008 to 2013 he served as chair of the chemical engineering department at CCNY. During this period, the department successfully achieved ABET accreditation, receiving the full six-year renewal; the CUNY Energy Institute was established and housed within the chemical engineering department; a number of newly hired professors joined the department and the institute; and the department support infrastructure was greatly enhanced. Additionally, a NYS funded capital improvement project was undertaken, upgrading 5,000 square feet of chemical engineering laboratory space for teaching and research.
In January 2013, Couzis took a special leave to take on the role of CTO of Urban Electric Power (UEP), where less than two years later in November 2014 he was also appointed CEO by the board of directors. UEP is a NY-based clean energy start-up company that spun off from research at CCNY. The company is commercializing advanced zinc anode rechargeable battery technology developed at the CUNY Energy Institute. During Couzis’ tenure at UEP, the start-up made up of just five engineers located in a 5,000 square foot facility in Harlem successfully ramped up pilot scale production, increasing staffing to over 30 and moving to a 40,000 square facility in Pearl River, NY, within the original Pfizer Industrial Campus. In January of 2018, Couzis returned to his duties at City College, as professor and researcher. He maintains an advisory role in UEP as the company continues on path towards commercialization. In September of 2019, Couzis, as a Co-PI, along with Professors Messinger, Biddinger, and Banerjee were awarded the NASA-MIRO grant of $3 million over three years.
Interim Dean Alexander Couzis succeeds Dr. Gilda A. Barabino who was appointed Olin College of Engineering's second president effective July 1, 2020.
Departing Message from Outgoing Dean Gilda Barabino
Dear Grove School Community, Alumni and Friends,
Despite being in the midst of a global pandemic and a period of unrest across our nation in response to persistent inequities, I write this final communication as dean of The Grove School of Engineering with a great sense of hope for our future—not only for us as individuals, but for us as a society and for us as the Grove School Community. While moving on to serve as president of Olin College of Engineering, I will forever remain part of the Grove School Community.
I am immensely grateful for the privilege of having served as dean of the Grove School and for having had the opportunity to lead such a dedicated, driven and resilient faculty, student body, and administrative staff. Since my arrival in 2013, under my leadership, we have doubled the rate of retention of our students; implemented new graduate programs in translational medicine, data science and engineering and cybersecurity; increased partnerships with the Harlem community; enhanced our research footprint; and led the nation in the production of work ready engineers from diverse groups. We are the only public school of engineering in the city of New York and we have a 100-year history of undergirding the city through contributions from Grove engineers.
Throughout the past century and during these unprecedented times, The Grove School of Engineering has carried on in serving its mission to provide a readily accessible and high quality education while also stepping up to address our society’s most pressing challenges.
My words alone could not do justice the actions of our faculty, staff and students. Each remarkably stepped up, doing what engineers do, adapting, learning, and problem solving. We managed to transition a fully face-to-face instruction and service operation to a remote one that ensured continuity of education and service, with some difficulty, but with much dedication, cooperation, and grace.
Faculty and students alike stepped up in response to combat Covid-19, which included making PPE for healthcare workers; shifting the production of a private company to produce hand sanitizer; developing technology to help address the anticipated ventilator shortage; and helping set up the mobile medical facilities; and, more recently, with contact tracing. Then the death of George Floyd flooded our television screens and was plastered across the front pages of newspapers and magazines shinning a light on the harsh reality of racial inequity and health disparities—topics that I have spent my entire career bringing to the forefront, especially as they apply to STEM and higher education. Here, our community stepped up again, many joining peaceful protests and others in leading the conversations on our role as the only public school of engineering in NYC.
With social distancing measures in place, we were unable to hold our traditional commencement exercises however this in no way diminished the accomplishments of the class of 2020. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to view the virtual GSOE Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration. Class of 2020, during the most trying of times you achieved what you set out to do, congratulations! I have seen the power of building – and maintaining – strong connections, I encourage you to become involved with the Engineering School Alumni and stay connected with us on LinkedIn.
I am pleased to be succeeded by my colleague and good friend Professor Alexander Couzis who has been appointed as interim dean. As a member of the City College chemical engineering faculty since 1994, few know the college and the Grove School as Alex does, and those who know him, know I leave the school in more than capable hands.
I will end by noting what anyone who has ever heard me speak of the school has undoubtedly heard me say, here at the Grove School, human capacity is our greatest strength—our talent is boundless and our resilience is unmatched. The impact of our students, faculty, and staff extends far beyond the confines of our walls, more evident than ever in these past few months.
Thank you for being part of our Grove School family—and thank you for accepting me as one. I will forever hold a special place for Grove in my heart. Continue transforming the city, the nation, and the world.
With gratitude and best wishes to all,
Gilda A. Barabino, PhD
Daniel Berg ’50 and Frances Berg Professor