Faculty Advisory Board


Eugenie Birch, PhD

Professor Birch’s current research focuses on global urbanization. Professor Birch has been active in the field’s professional and civic organizations in the United States and abroad. She is president, General Assembly of Partners (GAP), the engagement platform for the implementation of the UN’s New Urban Agenda and associated global agreements, co-chair, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Thematic Group on Cities, and an Associate Editor, Journal of the American Planning Association. In the past, she has been president, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning; president, Society of American City and Regional Planning History; president, International Planning History Society; and co-editor, Journal of the American Planning Association. She has been a member of the Planning Accreditation Board, having served as its chair from 2004-2006. She has been a member of the editorial boards of Planning Theory and PracticeJournal of Planning History, Journal of Planning Education and Research and Planning Perspectives. In the early 1990s, she was a member of the New York City Planning Commission, and in 2002, she served on the jury to select the designers for the World Trade Center site. She has chaired the Board of Trustees of the Municipal Art Society of New York and is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Regional Plan Association of New York.


Matthijs Bouw, M.S. Architecture

Matthijs Bouw is a Dutch architect and urbanist and founder of One Architecture (est. 1995), an award-winning Amsterdam and New York-based design and planning firm. He is the Rockefeller Urban Resilience Fellow for PennDesign at the University of Pennsylvania. Bouw’s work at Penn theorizes and positions design as an integrator and innovator among scales, disciplines, actors and issues in urban resilience and water management projects. He is a driving force between RBD U, a network of design schools that collaborate on resilience issues, and is developing the Chief Resilience Officer curriculum for 100 Resilient Cities. Additionally, he researches how to achieve and increase ‘resilience value’ in the implementation of complex projects.

Bouw’s practice is known for its unique approach in which programmatic, financial, technical and organizational issues are addressed, communicated and resolved through design. Bouw has been a pioneer in the use of design as a tool for collaboration, for instance through the development of ‘Design Studios’ as an instrument to support the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment with its long term planning.

In New York City, the office co-leads the BIG Team that won the Rebuild by Design competition for the flood protection of Manhattan, and is currently part of the multi-disciplinary teams executing the first phase of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project for Lower Manhattan, as well as planning the Lower Manhattan Coastal Protection project. In Panama City, he is the urban designer in the ‘Water Dialogues’ team. In the Netherlands, One are part of the ‘Hackable City’ team for Buiksloterham, a large scale brownfield redevelopment in Amsterdam-Noord based on the principles of the circular economy.


Vanessa Chan, PhD

Professor of Practice, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)

Vanessa’s focus is at the interface of innovation, technology and business where she is adept at translating technology/product assets to meet unmet needs. She is a part of Penn’s Engineering Entrepreneurship faculty and leads Senior Design for the Materials Science department. Vanessa is an entrepreneur (the inventor of loopit, tangle-free headphones that are currently sold on QVC) and an angel investor with Robin Hood Ventures. Prior to Penn she was a partner at McKinsey & Company where she co-led their innovation practice, helping Fortune 100 companies with deep R&D portfolios commercialize their technologies. She continues to be a writer & speaker on the journey from corporate executive to entrepreneur and work-life integration. Vanessa is the co–President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ellevate Network, the chair of the BRIC (Business Resource Innovation Center) for the Free Library of Philadelphia and a member of the Innovation Business Development Advisory Council for United Technology Corporation and the Advisory Board for Charge-it-Spot. 


Russell Composto, PhD

Russ is involved in polymer science and biomolecular engineering research. His interests extend to polymer surfaces and interfaces, adhesion and diffusion, and nanocomposite polymer blend and copolymer films. Russ’s biomaterials work centers around manipulating the surface of polymers to elicit control over protein adsorption, as well as cell adhesion, orientation, and function, and he has an active research program at the interface of polymer science and biomolecular engineering, which combines block copolymer self-assemble as a basis for orienting stiff biological molecules.


Dennis Culhane, PhD

Professor, Dana & Andrew Stone Chair of Social Policy, Co-Principal Investigator, Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy

Dr. Culhane is a social science researcher with primary expertise in the area of homelessness and assisted housing policy. His work has contributed to efforts to address the housing and support needs of people experiencing housing emergencies and long-term homelessness. Most recently, Culhane’s research has focused on using linked administrative data to gain a better understanding about the service utilization patterns of vulnerable populations, including youth exiting foster care and/or juvenile justice, as well as the individuals aged 55 and older who are experiencing homelessness.

Dr. Culhane’s research also focuses on homelessness among veterans. From July 2009 – June 2018 he served as Director of Research at the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Culhane also co-directs Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), an initiative that promotes the development, use, and innovation of integrated data systems by states and localities for policy analysis and systems reform.

Reto Gieré, PhD

University of Pennsylvania, Professor and Department Chair, Earth & Environmental Science

Reto Giere’s previous work focused on the fate of bio-transformed products such as metabolized pharmaceuticals in wastewater during UV treatment. He studied how these pharmaceuticals especially painkillers and sugars are transformed in water and their effect on public health. His current area of research interest involves analyzing the release of microplastic particles due to abrasion of vehicle tires on the road and leaching off of these particles into the water after a storm event. Understanding the levels of microplastics at different locations in a water body is essential as these particles can readily colonize into microalgae and hence enter the human food chain via fish consumption. Reto is also interested in understanding the heat recovery from wastewater processes


Marilyn Howarth, MD, FACOEM

, Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC), Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology

Dr. Howarth’s career in Public Health began when she was an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta. She worked with communities and government agencies to investigate occupational and environmental problems. After leaving the CDC, Dr. Howarth worked with Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ re-shaping their Occupational Health efforts by reaching out to employers to provide medical services to their workers.

At the University of Pennsylvania she is the Director of Consultation Services for the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In that role she performs worksite evaluations and helps patients and communities with the effects of environmental exposures. Dr. Howarth has experience evaluating and treating patients with exposure to heavy metals, solvents, mold, respiratory allergens, and musculoskeletal trauma. Dr. Howarth has participated with CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Institutes of Health and the Camden County Technical Advisory Board to work on topics as diverse as latex allergy, the health effects of air pollution, and lead and radiological contamination. 


Junhyong Kim, PhD

Patricia M. Williams Term Professor and Chair, Biology; Co-Director, Penn Program in Single Cell Biology; Adjunct Professor, Computer and Information Science
Junhyong Kim is primarily a Systems Biologist and works at the interface of mathematical and computational biology, genomics, and evolutionary biology with a focus on neuro-cell biology. He uses quantitative models, statistical analyses, and collects genome-scale data to ask questions about mechanisms of cell function and their evolution. In particular, he is interested in theoretical structures of problems such as the mathematical structure of biological models, the architecture of temporal control for cellular processes, and the theory of biological dynamics. Working on theoretical problems is not limited to pen-and-pencils and his lab gathers data and tests hypotheses in the wet-lab and also develops new genomic technologies. A key technological expertise in his lab is single cell analysis, including RNA sequencing from single cells and bio-photonic techniques. In recent years, he have been focused on the mammalian neurons as an empirical system of study. Here, he is interested in RNA dynamics that establish cell phenotypes, variation of RNA states associated with single cell function, systems biology of individual synapses, and evolution of central nervous systems via modulation of neurons.


Eric Orts, JSD

Guardsmark Professor, Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and Management; Director, Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, The Wharton School

Eric is the Guardsmark Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  He is a tenured professor in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department with a secondary appointment in the Management Department.  He also serves as the faculty director of the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and faculty co-director of the FINRA/Wharton Certified Regulatory and Compliance Professional Program. His primary research and teaching interests are in business theory, corporate governance, environmental sustainability, securities regulation, and professional ethics.

Orts graduated Oberlin College (BA), the New School for Social Research (MA), the University of Michigan (JD), and Columbia University (JSD).  He is a member of the bar of New York and the District of Columbia, as well as an elected member of the American Law Institute.  He is a founding board member of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability and serves on the editorial board of Business Ethics Quarterly.


Simon Richter, Ph.D.

Simon Richter is Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and member of the Graduate Groups in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies, fellow of the Institute of Urban Reserach, and affiliated with the Programs in Cinema Studies, Environmental Humanities, and Women’s Studies. 

Richter is currently involved with the long term reserach project, Floating/Sinking: A Cultural Phenomenology of Coastal Urban Resilience and Adaptation in the Era of Sea Level Rise. This project focuses on Dutch responses to sea level rise in an intercultural context with a focus on the Netherlands, the United States, and Indonesia. Dutch prowess in water management is legendary and the Netherlands is a major international player in developing innovative solutions for dealing with high water in coastal cities around the world. “The Dutch approach” combines engineering, design and urban development with a commitment to an inclusive, location-specific, ecologically sound planning process. What makes New York City, Jakarta and Semarang additionally interesting is that colonial and post-colonial factors also come into play. 


Peter Stuck, PhD

Peter T. Struck is Professor and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is director of the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program and founder of its Integrated Studies curriculum. He is cofounder (with Sarah Igo) of the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education, and has worked with foundations, media organizations, and scholarly societies to promote the liberal arts. He works on the intellectual history of Greek and Roman antiquity. His book Birth of the Symbol: Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts (Princeton 2004) won the C. J. Goodwin Award from the American Philological Association for best book in Classical Studies. His most recent book is Divination and Human Nature: A Cognitive History of Intuition in Antiquity, (Princeton 2016), for which he also won the Goodwin Award, becoming the first person to win the award twice. He edited Mantikê (with Sarah Iles Johnston, Brill 2006), the Cambridge Companion to Allegory (with Rita Copeland, Cambridge 2010), and is general editor (with Sophia Rosenfeld) of the six-volume Cultural History of Ideasforthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic in 2020. He is currently writing a popular book on mythology for Princeton University Press. He has given dozens of lectures at universities in the United States and Europe, and has held fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Whiting Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the American Academy in Rome. He has won multiple teaching awards at Penn, including the Lindback Award, the university’s top teaching prize.


Marilyn Jordan Taylor, M.Arch

Marilyn Jordan Taylor is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design. She had a distinguished tenure as Dean of the School of Design from 2008 – 2016, having been a much admired practitioner. She is recognized worldwide as a thought leader in urban design, as well as a woman pioneer in the fields of architecture, planning, and construction. Her global stature is complemented by her down-to-earth demeanor and proven ability to interact easily with constituencies across communities, government, industry, and academia, both locally and internationally. She is a leader who exudes not only intellectual breadth, but also deep enthusiasm and compassion in her dedication to enhancing the vitality of urban communities through design.

Marilyn Taylor was Partner in Charge of the Urban Design and Planning Practice at Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP and the first woman to serve as Chairman of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, is internationally known for her distinguished and passionate involvement in the design of large-scale urban projects and civic initiatives. Over a 35-year career with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, she led many of the firm’s largest and most complex projects around the world. She was also both the first architect and the first woman to serve as chairman (2005-07) of the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit research and educational institution, where she championed a renewed focus on cities, sustainable communities, and infrastructure investment.


Susan Wachter

Susan M. Wachter is the Albert Sussman Professor of Real Estate, and Professor of Finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Director for the Wharton GeoSpatial Initiative and Lab, and the co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research. She also co-directs the Spatial Integration Laboratory for Urban Systems at the University of Pennsylvania. As an economist, she is frequently sought for comment on real estate market trends in well known media outlets

Wachter was appointed the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (1998-2001). She currently serves on the Financial Research Advisory Committee for the Office of Financial Research, a sub-department of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (2016). Wachter was Celia Moh Visiting Professor at Singapore Management University (2004). She serves on the Board of Editors for various publications including the Journal of Housing Economics, the Housing Policy Debate, the Journal of Real Estate and Finance, and the Journal of Real Estate Research. Wachter is the co-editor, with Eugenie L. Birch, of the Social Science Research Network Urban Research eJournal.


Skip to toolbar