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Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and incoming Faculty Co-Director of Penn First Plus Russell J. Composto.

Professor Russell Composto will serve as Faculty Co-Director of Penn First Plus starting this July. 

Composto enters this role from his current appointments as professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Howell Family Faculty Fellow, and associate dean for undergraduate education in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. P1P is an organization supporting first-generation, low-income students on campus.

P1P's office in College Hall — known as the Shleifer Family Penn First Plus Center — opened in 2021, designed to serve as a hub for FGLI students to utilize designated study rooms and meeting rooms, and make appointments with advisors. Early last year, Penn First Plus received an $18 million donation from the Schleifer family. 

The Pre-First Year Program, a P1P program, is an intensive four-week pre-orientation program for select first-year students, offering support and resources that are intended to continue throughout their four years at Penn. 

“Russ Composto has long been one of our campus leaders in advancing support and mentoring for our students,” Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein said in a press release sent to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “[This includes] new programs for student wellness, community service, and research and mentoring for first-generation and/or low-income students."

Composto has served as both the undergraduate chair and graduate group chair of Materials Science and Engineering and has been awarded the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring, the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award of the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools, and the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising.

He is also a world-leading pioneer of polymer science who is a Fellow and former Chair of the Division of Polymer Physics of the American Physical Society. He recently became co-director of an initiative part of the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program, which encourages innovative training models for STEM students in new, interdisciplinary research areas. 

"He is one of the leaders of our exciting new initiative to increase inclusivity in STEM education at Penn, which just received a major six-year grant from the Inclusive Excellence initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute," Winkelstein said in the press release. 

Mathematics and Electrical Systems & Engineering Professor Robert Ghrist served as the inaugural faculty co-director of P1P. Professor Composto will join continuing faculty co-director professor Camille Charles and Executive Director Marc Lo

"To have Professor Composto – a fierce advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences – join us allows P1P to continue the work of encouraging our faculty in the sciences and engineering adopt best practices in inclusive mentoring and teaching,” Marc Lo said. "We are fortunate to benefit from such committed senior faculty’s leadership and expertise in this space."