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Hofstra names engineering school dean

Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz speaks to Newsday

Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz speaks to Newsday editors and reporters in Melville. (June 14, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

Hofstra University has appointed an acting dean from one of the nation's most competitive engineering programs to lead its new engineering school -- another major step in the university's plan to boost its hard science research and courses.

Simon Ben-Avi, who spent 28 years at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan, will begin Aug. 1 as founding dean of Hofstra's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"Frankly, it is where the jobs are now and will be in the future," Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said Thursday in a meeting with reporters and editors at Newsday in Melville. "The region needs more engineers."

Rabinowitz said Hofstra is continuing with a strong push to raise its national profile. Creating three separate schools for the sciences -- medicine, engineering and health sciences -- is strategically geared to help achieve that goal. Last fall Hofstra opened its medical school in a partnership with North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, and in the coming year it will move to create a school of health professions.

In the school of engineering, Ben-Avi said, he "hopes to create an atmosphere where students are comfortable, inspired and feel like they are doing good work for the world."

A resident of Manhattan, Ben-Avi hails from the United Kingdom. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical and electronic engineering and a master's degree in digital electronics and computer engineering, both from The University of Manchester, and a doctorate in computer science from The Queen Victoria University of Manchester.

He served as C.V. Starr distinguished professor of research for a decade at The Cooper Union. He also has worked on clinical trials with medical institutions, including Lenox Hill Hospital.

One key feature of the new engineering school will be partnerships with industry leaders, offering students work experience before graduation, Hofstra officials said.

The university is spending $4 million to upgrade its engineering facilities, including renovation of labs, classrooms and offices.

A new, $1-million biomedical engineering lab funded by the Empire State Development Corp. also is planned. Renovations are expected to be complete by the fall.

Yacov Shamash, dean of Stony Brook University's engineering college, endorsed Hofstra's efforts. There are three jobs for every one engineering graduate on Long Island, he said.

"There's a huge engineering shortage on Long Island," he said. "We need this to stay on the cutting edge of technology here."

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