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Viterbi School Builds Strategic Bridges with Tsinghua, China’s Top Technical University

June 03, 2007 —

Jiguang Sun, dean of Tsinghua’s School of Information Sciences and Technology and USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos shake hands after signing the MOU.
USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis Yortsos and 17 faculty members recently conducted a two-day workshop with Chinese colleagues in information science and technology at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. The focus was to build bridges of collaboration between Tsinghua and USC faculty, to establish a strategic partnership for future collaboration in research and education, and to facilitate student and faculty exchanges. The Tsinghua computer science and electrical engineering faculty affiliated with the multi-disciplinary Future Internet Technologies (FIT) Research Center were hosts.

At the workshop Tsinghua and Viterbi faculty each showcased their relative strengths through briefings by the individual faculty members. Viterbi faculty met Tsinghua students interested in graduate studies at a reception held the second day.

“We learned first-hand that Tsinghua students are enthusiastic to study abroad,” said Yortsos. “Many of them have very positive views of doing so at USC and we are looking forward to leveraging many sources of support to make this happen.”

The large contingent of participating USC faculty included:

  • Solomon Golomb, university professor, Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering (Golomb reads, writes and speaks Chinese.);
  •  Dan Dapkus, professor and electrophysics chair, Ming Hsieh Dept.;
  • Sandy Sawchuk, professor and systems chair, Ming Hsieh Dept.;
  • John O’Brien, professor of electrical engineering and senior associate dean, academic affairs;
  • Cauligi “Raghu” Raghavendra, professor of electrical engineering and senior associate dean, special projects;
  • Shri Narayanan, professor of electrical engineering
  • Chongwu Zhou, professor of electrical engineering;
  • Todd Brun, associate professor of electrical engineering;
  • Jay Kuo, professor of electrical engineering;
  • Jia Grace Lu, associate professor of physics and astronomy;
  • Gerard Medioni, professor and chair of computer science;
  • Ramesh Govindan, professor of computer science;
  • Michael Waterman, university professor of computational and molecular biology;
  • Ted Berger, professor of biomedical engineering;
  • Kirk Shung, professor of biomedical engineering;
  • Ellis Meng, assistant professor of biomedical engineering;
  • Joe Qin, a newly appointed professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and of electrical engineering, who is a Tsinghua graduate, arrived at the workshop from his former post at University of Texas, Austin meeting many of his USC colleagues for the first time.

Tsinghua and USC faculty who participated in the workshop. Feng Deng (MSCE’93), who facilitated the collaboration, is second from the right in the front row. Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos is fourth from the left in the front row with Jiguang Sun, dean of Tsinghua’s School of Information Sciences and Technology on his right and Jun Li, vice provost for globalization on his left.

The workshop was organized by Raghavendra and Jun Li, executive vice dean at Tsinghua.

Jiguang Sun, dean of Tsinghua’s School of Information Sciences and Technology (SIST), and Yortsos signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU calling for future exchanges of students and faculty, as well as collaboration on research and education topics of mutual interest. They agreed that the partnership would be mutually beneficial, and both expressed optimism and excitement over the opportunities for future cooperation.

The Tsinghua – USC partnership was initiated by Feng Deng (MSCE ’93), a highly respected engineer, entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is an alumnus of both USC and Tsinghua. Deng worked in the Silicon Valley at Intel and Juniper Networks before co-founding Netscreen Technologies with two friends. He received the 2002 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Northern California region and is listed in their Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame.

Deng returned to China to co-found Northern Light Venture Capital with three other successful Chinese entrepreneurs. The company has quickly become one of China’s top venture capital companies and Deng maintains close ties to the electronics industry in Silicon Valley.

“Tsinghua produces the very best undergraduate engineering students in China, while USC produces some of the very best graduate engineers in the world. I owe so much of my success to the combination of these two opportunities. I want to expand this possibility to many other Tsinghua graduates while also developing faculty cooperation,” Deng said at the MOU signing. “I am so happy to see this partnership come together.”

Feng Deng (MSCE’93), who facilitated the Tsinghua-USC Viterbi partnership, in his Beijing office.
In addition to the fast-paced workshop, participants bridged cultures through visits to the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square, and through superb Chinese cuisine. The travelers returned home with bulging bags of treasure from Beijing’s world-famous Knock-Off Alley.

The trip had some additional bridge building:

  • Dan Dapkus went to dinner at the famous Peking Duck restaurant with one of his former PhD students who traveled from Shanghai;
  • Jay Kuo met with three graduating Tsinghua students slated to begin research at USC under his direction in Fall 2007 courtesy of the new Chinese Government initiative;
  • Joe Qin went golfing with former colleagues from Beijing; and
  • Dean Yortsos made calls on key officials of Research Institute for Petroleum Exploration and Development and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation to explore possible research and education collaboration with USC.

“The workshop was a big success, but it was just a starting point,” said Yortsos. “The bridges started at Tsinghua will be very useful for the envisioned traffic in collaboration and exchanges.”

During the summer, the Viterbi School hosted eight undergraduate students from Tsinghua who worked as research interns.

--Angus McColl