Robert Ghrist, Penn's 7th PIK Professor
"A singular math and engineering sensation," is how President Amy Gutmann describes Robert Ghrist.
Who is Robert Ghrist?
He's Penn's seventh Penn Integrates Knowledge
(PIK) Professor, an expert in applying mathematical methods to
real-world engineering challenges. With joint appointments in the
School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences, his chair is
funded through a gift by Andrea Mitchell and her husband, Alan
Ghrist, who has "an infectious love of teaching" and
groundbreaking research in robotics and topographical hydrodynamics, is
already sparking inquiry and new ideas in the classroom and across
"I love teaching freshmen," he says. "They do not yet
know what they cannot do, and, as such, can often achieve well above
others' and their own expectations."
Andrea Mitchell, CW'67, the
chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, was just that kind of
student, and she remembers how her personal history was shaped by
impassioned teachers like Ghrist. Before covering the White House,
Fidel Castro, or Darfur, she noted, "I covered Chaucer, Nabokov and
Dostoevsky. My Ivy League degree and inspiration came from the
University of Pennsylvania."
Dr. Ghrist shares with Andrea
Mitchell a love of great books. "I have a secret wish," he confessed,
"to disguise myself and teach a literature course: what could be more
fun than teaching Dante?"
At Penn, however, the professor is
focused on speeding technology transfer -- from the more
esoteric-seeming branches of mathematics to robotics, sensor networks,
Professor Ghrist's homepage
all, fifteen PIK professorships have been funded to date. Not only have
the PIK Professors enhanced and multiplied what our other already
stellar faculty are able to do, but their appointments have led to the
creation of truly unique academic programs.
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Robert Ghrist is the seventh Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor
to be named since President Gutmann launched the program in 2005.
Recruited from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Professor Ghrist comes to Penn with numerous distinctions, including a
Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and a
Career Award from the National Science Foundation. He was also named by
Scientific American as one of this year’s top 50 scientific innovators.