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Robert Ghrist: Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor
July 15, 2008, Volume 55, No. 1



President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ronald Daniels are pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Ghrist as the seventh Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor, effective September 1, 2008.

Dr. Ghrist, one of the world’s leading applied mathematicians, will be the Andrea Mitchell University Professor. His appointment will be jointly shared between the department of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the department of mathematics in the School of Arts and Sciences. 

“Rob Ghrist is a singular math and engineering sensation whose infectious love of teaching and groundbreaking research in robotics, topological hydro-dynamics, and other fields will make him a great PIK Professor and a huge hit with Penn students and faculty alike,” said President Gutmann. “Penn is the perfect environment for him to pursue his innovative and integrative scholarship and for stoking his passion for literature and music, which, incidentally, runs the gamut from Dante to Mozart to Frank Zappa. We look forward to welcoming Rob into the Penn family.”

Dr. Ghrist has produced a widely influential body of work that applies mathematical methods to real-world engineering challenges, especially in robotics and wireless sensor networks.  He specializes in topology, a branch of mathematics that provides tools to visualize abstract spaces—for example, finding gaps in a security network, or automating robotic movement across a factory floor.

“Rob Ghrist embodies the PIK program’s highest aspiration to integrate knowledge across disciplines,” said Provost Daniels. “His work brilliantly brings together the most advanced research in mathematics and engineering, creating visionary ideas that will ultimately benefit us all.”

The PIK program was launched by President Gutmann in 2005 (Almanac February 22, 2005) as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines, and who are jointly appointed between two schools at Penn.

Dr. Ghrist has won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, and was named by Scientific American as one of this year’s Top 50 scientific innovators. 

He is currently University Scholar and Richard & Margaret Romano Professional Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he has taught since 2002. He has also taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Texas-Austin. He received his PhD (1995) and MS (1994) in applied mathematics from Cornell University and his BS (1989) in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo, where he was valedictorian. 


The Andrea Mitchell University Professorship is the gift of Penn Trustee Andrea Mitchell, CW ’67, and Alan Greenspan, the former longtime chairman of the Federal Reserve. Ms. Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, has been a trustee since 1992. She is chair of the Board’s External Affairs Committee and a member of the Executive, Compensation, Nominating, and Honorary Degrees and Awards Committees. She is also chair of the Annenberg School Advisory Committee and a member emerita of the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women. Alan Greenspan received a 1998 honorary doctorate of laws from Penn (Almanac March 31, 1998).





Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Almanac - July 15, 2008, Volume 55, No. 1