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Nine Faculty Will Join Viterbi School of Engineering

Newly appointed experts in electrical, chemical, astronautics and civil engineering will be onboard beginning this fall

July 10, 2008 — Nine faculty will join the Viterbi School of Engineering beginning this fall: Andrea Armani of Caltech; Burcin Becerik, a project management and information systems consultant from Harvard; Rahul Jain of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY; Alex Dimakis of Caltech; Joseph J. Wang of Virginia Tech; Michelle Lynn Povinelli of Stanford University; Carl Kesselman of the Viterbi School’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI); Gerhard Kramer of Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, New Jersey; and Fei Sha of UC Berkeley’s Computer Science Department.

Andrea Armani will join the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science this fall as an assistant  professor of chemical engineering and materials science. She will be coming from the  California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.
Armani 1
Andrea Armani

Armani earned her bachelor of arts degree in physics from the University of Chicago in 2001 and her Ph.D. in applied physics from Caltech in 2007.  From 2006-2008, she was a Clare Boothe Luce Postdoctoral Fellow in biology and chemical engineering at Caltech.

Armani’s research is focused on demonstrating the first label-free, single-molecule sensors. The work is highly interdisciplinary, Armani said, involving the physics of a sensing mechanism, the chemistry of surface functionality and the fluid transport in a sensing chamber, in addition to understanding the underlying biological principles at play.

Burcin Becerik will join the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering this fall as an assistant professor in construction engineering and management. She specializes in implementing online collaboration and program management systems to better monitor projects and improve communication among team members.
“Dr. Becerik’s novel research on the application of information technologies to construction expands the horizons of civil engineering in the century of the Internet,” said Jean-Pierre Bardet, chair of the Sonny Astani Department. “Her expertise in Building Information Management (BIM) systems is essential to our department as we work to shape a better future for the megacities of the world, including Los Angeles and New York.”  
Burcin Bercerik 1
Burcin Becerki

Becerik graduated from Istanbul Technical University with a B.A. in architecture in 1999 and an M.S. in architecture in 2001.  In 2002, she attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she received an M.S. in civil and environmental engineering degree with a special focus on construction engineering and management. She earned her Ph.D. in design in 2006 from Harvard University.

Her research at the Harvard School of Design focused on the implementation and value of online collaboration and project management (OCPM) systems in the design and construction industries. As a consultant, she has explored the opportunities and benefits that this new technology can provide to the architecture, engineering and construction industry.

Grid computing pioneer and computer science professor Carl Kesselman has accepted a primary appointment in the Viterbi School’s Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), with a joint appointment in the Computer Science Department beginning this fall.  
Carl Kesselman

Kesselman, director of the Center for Grid Technologies, and a longtime colleague, Ian Foster, who is a professor of computer science at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, co-direct the Globus Project, which connects geographically distant computers and allows them to share raw computing power and data.  The software addresses the security, data management, execution management, resource discovery and other issues that arise from network sharing.

Kesselman will become a professor of systems engineering, but continue his work in large-scale distributed systems and virtual organizations, with an emphasis in health care informatics.

Joseph J. Wang will join the tenured faculty of the Viterbi School’s Astronautics and Space Technology Division next year.  His research focuses on advanced space propulsion and space power, spacecraft engineering, plasma and gas physics, and computational engineering.

As a member of Virginia Tech’s aerospace engineering faculty since 2001, Wang helped to establish a college-level research and education center in space science and engineering, and was most recently the funding co-director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Space Science and Engineering Research.
Joe Wang 1
Joseph J. Wang

He was a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1991 to 2000, where he worked on several NASA missions, including principal investigator of the ion propulsion engine on NASA’s Deep Space 1 mission.

He earned a B.S. in engineering mechanics from Tsinghua University, China, a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in plasma physics from MIT in 1991.

Rahul Jain will join the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering in August as an assistant professor of electrical engineering from the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.
  His research interests lie in networks and control with a current focus on network economics and games, and stochastic control and learning.  

Jain received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science in 2004, and a master’s degree in statistics in 2002, both from the University of California, Berkeley.  He also earned an M.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Rice University in 1999.  He completed his undergraduate work with a B.Tech in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1997, where he won the TCS Best B. Tech Project Award.  
Jain 1
Rahul Jain

Jain is an elected member of the Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) honor society and a recipient of an IBM Invention Achievement Award. Jain is also a contributing member of many professional societies, including IEEE, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

Alex Dimakis will join the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering in June 2009 as assistant professor after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Mathematics of Information at Caltech.

His research interests include communications, coding theory, signal processing, and networking, with a current focus on network coding, message passing algorithms and sparse graph codes.

Dimakis received his Ph.D. in 2008 and M.S. degree in 2005 in electrical engineering and computer science, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to that, he received the Diploma degree in electrical and computer engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 2003 with highest honors.

Alex Dimakis
Dimakis received the Eli Jury award from UC Berkeley in 2008 for his thesis work on codes for distributed storage, two outstanding paper awards, the UC Berkeley Regents Fellowship in 2003, and the Microsoft Research Fellowship in 2007.

"I am very pleased that Alex Dimakis is joining our department,” said Alexander “Sandy” Sawchuk, Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering co-chair. “Our faculty join me in welcoming Alex to USC."

Michelle Lynn Povinelli will join the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering as an assistant professor in August from Stanford University. She is an optics/photonics specialist studying light propagation in nanostructured materials.

"We are delighted to have Michelle onboard in electrical engineering,” said P. Daniel Dapkus, co-chair of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering. “She will be pursuing research at the cutting edge of nano device technology, with an emphasis on applications at the intersection of optics, nanotechnology, and information science.”

Povinelli is working on the problem of “slow light,” which involves the design of tiny devices that could trap light pulses and hold them for a while before releasing them. These devices could be useful for optical communications, such as fiber-optic networks, which are used to deliver Internet traffic.
Michelle Povinelli

She said researchers have achieved some impressive results in slow light in atomic gases, but the systems they have developed are “bulky” and don’t work at the wavelength range used for optical communications.

"I am trying to design microfabricated, ‘on-chip’ devices, which means nano-devices built on a silicon chip similar to a computer chip, that are more practical for engineering applications, using nanofabrication techniques,” Povinelli said.

Povinelli did her undergraduate work in physics at the University of Chicago and her graduate work in optics and photonics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a Ph.D. in physics in 2004.
Gerhard Kramer will join the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering as a professor of electrical engineering in early 2009.

Kramer has been with Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, since 2000. His research focuses on information theory, communications theory, iterative decoding and source coding.
Kramer 1
Gerhard Kramer

He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical 
engineering from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, in 
1991 and 1992, respectively, and a doctorate of science technology from the Swiss Federal Institute of 
Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998.

Kramer is a co-recipient of
the IEEE Communications Society 2005 Stephen O. Rice Prize paper
 award and a Bell Laboratories President's Gold Award in 2003.  He also received the ETH Medal from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in 1998. 

Fei Sha will join the Viterbi School Computer Science Department this fall as an assistant professor. Sha specializes in computer and information science, machine learning, visualization, artificial intelligence, speech recognition and computational models of auditory perception.

Prior to USC, Sha was a visiting scholar in the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and a research scientist at Yahoo! Research in Sunnyvale, CA.  Before that, he worked as a research specialist/postdoc in the UC Berkeley Computer Science Division.
Fei Sha 1
Fei Sha

Sha graduated from Southwest University, formerly Nanjing Institute of Technology, Nanjing, P.R. China, with a B.S. in biomedical engineering in 1990 and an M.S. in biomedical engineering in 1993.  He earned a Ph.D. in computer and information science in 2007 from the University of Pennsylvania in  Philadelphia.  

He is the author of many scholarly papers and talks, and the recipient of several outstanding student paper awards. In 2004, he won the Outstanding Student Paper award at the 21st International Conference on Machine Learning; in 2006, he won the Outstanding Student Paper award at the 20th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems; and in 2007, he was a finalist for the Best Student Paper at the International Conference on Acoustics, Signal and Speech Processing.