Two assistant professors at West Virginia University have been named the inaugural J. Wayne and Kathy Richards Faculty Fellows in Engineering.
Thorsten Wuest, from the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, and Saiph Savage, from the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, were appointed to the three-year positions, which provides funds to support and grow their respective research programs.
The Fellowships are the result of a $1 million gift made in 2014 by alumnus J. Wayne Richards and his wife, Kathy. The first-of-its-kind endowment at WVU provides flexible funds to allow the College to hire, retain, reward and recognize faculty members who have not yet achieved tenure.
“Kathy and I are honored to have the ability to support and recognize these two outstanding young faculty members as they work to grow their research profiles,” Richards said. “We congratulate them and we look forward to seeing how the fellowship helps them bring their research to fruition in the years to come.”
“In a short period of time, Thorsten and Saiph have made significant contributions to the future of the Statler College and West Virginia University,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “Thorsten has advanced the College’s research work in smart manufacturing, while Saiph has achieved international notoriety in the field of social engineering. I believe they epitomize the types of leaders Wayne and Kathy envisioned as being Richards Faculty Fellows in Engineering.”
Noting the “supportive culture and collaborative spirit at WVU,” Wuest said he was honored and humbled by the trust put in him by WVU from the start.
“After meeting Wayne, it became directly apparent that he not only truly cares about the future of the state and the well-being of its citizens but that he is also a great benefactor of WVU, our students and our faculty,” Wuest said. “I plan to honor Wayne and Kathy’s legacy by strategically using the additional flexible funds to further develop my research program in smart manufacturing with the goal of contributing to make West Virginia’s manufacturing landscape more resilient and better prepared for upcoming challenges.”
Savage concurred noting, “It feels very empowering to be recognized. Receiving the funding will enable my human computer interaction laboratory to start exploring new areas, such as creating tools that bootstrap on social networks to improve engineering systems, which range from smart and connected health systems to efficient energy platforms. The funding will give us the resources we need to conduct impactful research and place WVU as one of the top universities in human computer interaction.”
Wuest came to WVU in 2015 after serving as a post-doctoral research fellow at BIBA, a scientific engineering research institute at the University of Bremen. He earned his doctorate in production engineering in 2014 and his master’s degree in industrial engineering and management in 2009, both from the University of Bremen.
Savage earned her master’s and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has been recognized with the Conacyt-UC MEXUS Doctoral Fellowship, Google Anita Borg Scholarship, and is also currently a member of Microsoft's BizSpark and director of the Anita Borg Community powered by Google.
Natives of South Charleston, the Richards’ have a history of support to the Statler College and to WVU athletics. In 2012, the pair pledged $250,000 to the Statler College Building Fund to help fund construction of its new Advanced Engineering Research Building. In 2013, they pledged $1.25 million to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for enhancements to the football complex.
A member of the Statler College’s Advisory Committee, J. Wayne Richards has spent his career in the oilfield services sector. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from WVU in 1981, he spent 25 years in a number of senior operational, and sales and marketing positions with Schlumberger. He currently serves as president and CEO of GR Energy Services in Sugar Land, Texas. Kathy earned her degree in dental hygiene at WVU Tech in Montgomery.