ISTC Names Four Illinois Tech Faculty Among Its 2024 Researchers to Know



By Casey Halas
(Top) Weslynne Ashton and Igor Cialenco, (Bottom) Ruth Schmidt and Phillip Troyk.

The Illinois Science and Technology Coalition recently announced its annual list of Researchers to Know for 2024, and four Illinois Institute of Technology faculty members have been recognized—setting them apart as researchers who have made significant contributions to their respective fields.

Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability Weslynne Ashton, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Mathematics Igor Cialenco, Professor of Behavioral Design Ruth Schmidt, and Robert A. Pritzker Endowed Chair in Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering Philip R. Troyk have each received this distinction for the impact that their research and other work has made to drive innovation in the state of Illinois.

Ashton, who holds dual appointments in Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business and Institute of Design, has focused her research on transitioning socio-ecological systems toward sustainability and equity. Her current work focuses on increasing sustainability and equity in urban food systems. In February 2024 Ashton received a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in partnership with the National Science Foundation to fund her project, Community Food Mobilization in Chicago. This project aims to foster more equitable, sustainable, and resilient food production and distribution by leveraging the purchasing power of large public institutions.

Cialenco has focused most of his research on mathematical finance, statistics, probability and stochastic processes, and functional analysis. In fall 2023 Cialenco was one of four academics to attend the Simons Semester Stochastic Modeling and Control—an international gathering of top mathematics researchers at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences—to present a series of lectures based on his research, “Dynamic Risk and Performance Measures and Their Control.” There, Cialenco was able to discuss the latest research with fellow researchers, students, and industry leaders to expand the bounds of mathematics research. Cialenco also holds a position as chair of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics Activity Group of Financial Mathematics and Engineering, which he was elected to in 2022.

Schmidt has dedicated much of her research to studying behavioral design, behavioral design in organizations, and bias in design. Her most recent venture is her contribution to the creation of Reformscape, a new online resource enabling the global academic community to explore and share examples of how to make hiring, promotion, and tenure fairer, more robust, and more diverse. She has also published multiple research articles on behavioral design topics in notable publications such as Behavioral Scientist, Huffington Post, CMO Today—Wall Street Journal, and Deloitte University Press.

Troyk is founder and CEO of Sigenics Inc., the only private-label custom semiconductor company in Chicago, in addition to his roles as professor, endowed chair, and executive director of the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering. His research revolves heavily around the design of implantable electronic devices and systems to act as neural interfaces; structured methods of design that focus on customer involvement; and highly adaptable project management methodologies. In 2022 Troyk and his multi-institution team made significant breakthroughs in artificial vision through the creation and testing of the Intracortical Visual Prosthesis (ICVP) system, an implant that bypasses the retina and optic nerves to connect directly to the brain’s visual cortex. This year marked two years of successful clinical testing of the ICVP device since its first surgical implantation in a patient in 2022. In addition, Troyk’s influential role at Sigenics, Inc. earned him the Chicago Council on Science and Technology’s Inaugural Innovative Research Award in 2023.

Each of these faculty members were nominated by university partners who believed that they showed excellence in their work according to the requirements of the Researchers to Know list. This is the coalition’s seventh year publishing the list highlighting groundbreaking research and innovations by faculty at Illinois universities.