Active Learning Labs Staff

Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning

Dr. Anas Chalah

Dr. Anas Chalah is the Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Lecturer on Engineering Sciences at Harvard University. He leads a team of engineers and collaborates with faculty to create an environment that encourages hands-on engineering education. As member of the research and teaching senior executive team, he applies new pedagogical methods in developing experimental and design-based activities as well as supporting SEAS's growing presence in biological and environmental engineering. Chalah serves in Harvard’s Teaching and Learning Consortium that provides policy recommendations for University leadership on substantive issues of teaching and learning as well as academic strategic planning.

He serves as the SEAS/Harvard Environmental Safety Compliance Officer (ESCO), SEAS Safety Committee Chairman, and Director of SEAS Lab Safety Program.

Anas received his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the Cancer Biology department focused on understanding the switching mechanism between the cellular survival pathway and the programmed death pathway.

Related article: Profile

Active Learning Labs Manager

Rachel DeLucas

Rachel is the Active Learning Labs Manager and provides managerial and technical support to active learning activities. She has a huge amount of enthusiasm for helping students acquire hands-on skills and for developing the physical spaces required to support the needs of budding engineers here at Harvard.

Previously, she worked as a Research Engineer in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT in the groups of Prof. Allanore and Prof. Sadoway. Her efforts there were focused on extending the Molten Oxide Electrolysis process to extract rare-earth metals directly from their oxides. In addition, she spent three years working in industry as a Process Engineer for H.C. Starck in a tantalum metal refining and powder manufacturing factory. She has worked on other diverse materials science research projects including: ceramics development for dental biomaterials applications, ancient Mesoamerican copper smelting, and polymeric photonic bandgap materials. As a member of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society (TMS), she serves as a member of the Materials and Society committee and Content Development and Dissemination committee.

Her academic training includes a MS in Manufacturing Engineering at Boston University (Thesis: Scale-up and Modeling of the Solid Oxide Membrane Process for the Direct Reduction of Magnesium from Magnesium Oxide, with Prof. Pal) and a BS in Archaeology and Materials from MIT (Thesis: Analysis of copper slags from the archaeological site of El Manchon, Guerrero, Mexico, with Profs. Hosler and Lechtman).

Biological and Environmental Lab Engineer

Melissa Hancock

Melissa is the Biological and Environmental Lab Engineer for the Active Learning Labs. She 

supports the development and implementation of “wet” lab curriculum in bioengineering and environmental engineering undergraduate and graduate courses. Outside of courses, Melissa assists students in designing and conducting laboratory experiments for extracurricular projects and theses.

Melissa holds a PhD from Columbia University in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies, where she studied cell surface receptor signaling in developing neurons. As a post-doctoral fellow in the Cell Biology Department at Harvard Medical School, she researched axon guidance and insulin signaling, and she was actively involved with course development and teaching.  

In addition to drying soil samples, imaging insects on the SEM, and growing cells, Melissa enjoys Crossfit, film photography, duct tape, and antique Danish furniture.

Senior Mechanical and Systems Lab Engineer

Elaine Kristant

Elaine is the Senior Mechanical and Systems Lab Engineer for the SEAS Active Learning Labs. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Manufacturing Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Elaine started her career at iRobot Corporation after completing her undergraduate studies. While there, she worked for the Home Robots Division designing and building household robots like the Scooba® and advanced development robots that turn into products like AVA®. She also gained valuable experience with rapid prototyping and overseas manufacturing. Elaine left iRobot to pursue her master’s degree. 

After receiving her MS, Elaine was hired at Medtronic as an Advance Manufacturing Engineer for the Coronary and Renal division of the Cardiac and Vascular Group. While there, she developed and validated manufacturing processes for new products for coronary catheters and transcatheter heart valve delivery systems. She also worked with the Neuromodulation group to help develop new products and processes for redesigning some of their current products to be MRI safe.

While not working, Elaine likes to play ice hockey and solve puzzles.


Mechanical Engineer

Steve Cortesa

Steve is the Mechanical Engineer for the Active Learning Labs at SEAS. His primary responsibilities include supporting professors in the development and implementation of design, manufacturing, and mechanical systems labs, as well as assisting students in those areas of study.

Steve graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. While in school, he was actively involved with WPI’s peer mentor program. Prior to joining the team in 2016, he spent time working in product development with EMC Corporation, Bevi, and SharkNinja.  He is passionate about efficiently iterating prototypes to develop final products.

In addition to his engineering interests, Steve is a food connoisseur and a steadily improving cook.

Design Specialist in Mechanical Engineering

Maddie Hickman

Maddie Hickman is the Design Specialist in Mechanical Engineering.  She helps students design, build, and test their projects - particularly those related to open-ended design courses or extracurricular teams. 

Before joining the staff at the Active Learning Labs, Maddie did engineering work in a variety of fields: international development, medical device design, agriculture, bicycle technologies, and astrophysics.  In addition to working for various labs in Boston, she has traveled to work on a wide range of projects, from motorized wheelchairs made of bicycle parts in Kenya, to carbon fiber-enclosed calibration equipment for Harvard CMB telescopes at the South Pole. She also has a variety of teaching experience, co-founding an organization for hands-on STEM education in low-resource areas, teaching high school physics, biking and teaching STEM to students across the USA, and teaching hands-on design classes at the middle school through university level.  She is especially interested in helping students develop a love of tinkering and hands-on learning.  

Maddie holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.  Her hobbies include bicycles, building things, backpacking, swing dancing, and making music.​


Computational and Simulation Engineer

Nishant Sule



Computational and Simulation Engineer

 Mohammad Souri

Mohammad is the computational and simulation engineer for SEAS Active Learning Labs and a member of Computing in Engineering Education team. He supports SEAS faculty and students with their computation needs and create content and teaches computational labs for courses. 

Mohammad obtained his BSc in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology with emphasis on finite element analysis of a car to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). He pursued his PhD also in mechanical engineering at University of Kentucky and worked on a project funded by NASA and NSF with emphasis on finite element modeling of smart materials. He has 3 years of experience working in industry.



Electrical Engineer

Evan Smith

Evan is the Electrical Engineer for the Active Learning Labs at SEAS. He is interested in student-centered education, practical and autotelic design, and electrical development projects, particularly in biomedical applications.

Before coming to Harvard, Evan worked at the Duke University School of Medicine as a Research and Development Engineer in the Division of Brain Stimulation and Neurophysiology. There, he developed and manufactured novel transcranial magnetic stimulation devices and deployed state-of- the-art characterization schemes, including robotized measurements approximating cortical field distributions, in collaboration with faculty, post-doctoral associates, and corporate partners. Additionally, he has designed and realized control systems for magnetic actuators used in microfluidic mixing applications and developed software that captures and analyzes metrics of manual and digital oscillation in individuals with Parkinson’s disease to isolate salient muscular dynamics.

Evan graduated with Highest Honors and Highest Distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering; his thesis explores the creation of a computational model for a biochemical network relevant to genetic and environmental engineering.

At Harvard, Evan is responsible for supporting the development and implementation of lab curriculum in electrical engineering courses. In addition, he guides student learning as a passive facilitator, assists with a spectrum of design projects, and coordinates events for student-led organizations.

Associate Director of Instructional Laboratories

Xuan Liang

Xuan is the Associate Director of Instructional Laboratories. She has extensive university-level instructional and laboratory experience, as well as industrial manufacturing and product development experience in EECS. She holds a MSCS and BSEE, with some background in mechanical, business administration, and bio-medical areas.

Xuan co-manages the Active Learning Labs EECS area. She works with faculty and course staff to develop lab experiments and course demonstrations, and provides technical advice and consultation to teaching fellows and students engaged in course-related project work, in a wide range of subjects. Xuan is also responsible for developing lab procedures, acquiring equipment and software, as well as ensuring lab safety.

Xuan works closely with the Executive Director of Active Learning and other team members on strategic lab planning, policy making, asset tracking, budgeting when applicable, as well as computer network, systems, services, interfaces, hardware, software and licensing administration. Xuan also serves as a member of the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) Technical Advisory Committee.