Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi School Annual Awards Salute Staff and Faculty Excellence in Service and Research

Dean discusses state of the school and recounts its remarkable progress in 2010-2011
Eric Mankin
April 30, 2011 —

Every spring, faculty and staff of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering gather to hear an account from the dean of the year's achievements at the school, and see colleagues singled out for exceptional achievements. The latest installment of this proud tradition took place in the traditional confines of the Town and Gown Foyer on April 28, 2011.

Town and Gown April 28, 2011
"I am very pleased to welcome you once again to our traditional spring luncheon and our faculty and staff awards," the dean's remarks began. "It is good to see so many of you here today for this opportunity to review the past, and to plan for the future.

"Spring is a season of hope and renewal and it is also the culmination of our academic year. In a few weeks, each of our graduates will embark on the next leg of their life journey. Whether they were undergraduate or graduate students, we hope that journey will be profoundly shaped by everything they have learned at the USC Viterbi School.

"All of us in this room have contributed to the knowledge, the skills, the mentorship and the rigorous academic standards that will influence our graduates for the rest of their lives. We expect great things from them. But more important, they leave here expecting to do great things.

"As USC's own Warren Bennis, University and Distinguished Professor from the Marshall School said: 'Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them.'"

Here are the talented and accomplished people who won 2011 Viterbi Faculty and Staff Awards


Staff Early Career Award: Dragana Davidovic, Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: Her nominators wrote: “Dragana commits far more than 100% on her efforts getting tasks done so goals are always met on time and beyond expectations. She very quickly mastered the basics of her position, and is consistently performing at an outstanding level.” Her performance was described as “nothing short of stellar”. She was described as “very intelligent, graceful, and professional with impeccable ethics and the most charming and positive demeanor.” Dragana was one of several research administrators across the school who took on additional faculty from other departments during the staff hiring freeze, providing top quality research administration support to these faculty members while never dropping a ball back in her home department. (Linda Rock)


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Staff award for Excellence: Annie Yu, Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering:.  Her nomination letters speak of the consistently high quality of Annie’s performance right from the beginning of joining USC, and how she consistently goes above and beyond often outside her group to assist faculty. Her support letters included phrases such as “she is the best assistant I have ever worked with;” “She often goes well beyond what is explicitly asked of her;” and “Even though I have a choice of staff to work with, I made a special request to the department to have Annie work with me.” When the staffing freeze was enacted, Annie was another of our research administrators who took on the research administration work of faculty from other departments in addition to her regular workload. "We consistently called on Annie for this sort of support and she never said no.' (Linda Rock)



2011 Viterbi Junior Research Award: Andrea Armani, Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science: Her research involves developing new, high-performance optical sensors for the study of biological and chemical systems, with broad applications ranging from health to defense. The process of sensor development brings about fundamentally new insights and understanding of the physics underlying the many systems of interest. This research is pioneering, broadly interdisciplinary, leading the field, and highly sought after. It has been widely published and recognized with multiple national awards including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the PECASE award, the TR35, the ONR Young Investigator Award, and the CDMRP Award. And she has already received a handshake and a hug from President Obama. (Maja Matarić)


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2011 Use-Inspired Research: Ellis Meng, Department of Biomedical Engineering: Her prolific and prestigious research into biometrically applied biomimetic micro-electronic systems (bioMEMs) is being used to revolutionize the treatment of previously incurable ocular diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. The research also covers novel implantable drug delivery components and systems for activation of neural networks through real-time neuroimaging and linking behavior to drug addition, as well as their therapeutic use in cancer radiation dose reduction and epileptic seizure prevention. This awardee has also made significant impact on the BMES ERC by leading research into seamless engineered interfaces between living tissue and microelectroics to support implantation of prosthetics. This research has already been recognized by the Coulter Early Career Award, the TR35, and has been selected for the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC). The awardee has led the initiation of two start up companies to bring these innovations to patient care as soon as possible. (Maja Matarić)



2011 Viterbi Senior Research Award: Hai Wang, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering: His work is in the area of chemical reaction kinetics for combustion with key contributions to soot modeling that is used in today’s modern engines. The awardee has leveraged nanotechnology to synthesize fine particles of great purity and semiconductor properties that make them the basis for dye-sensitized solar cells. The awardee then developed both the science and the practice of thin film deposition with potential applications to rechargeable battery technology and chemical sensors. The awardee’s work is at the forefront of energy research, spanning combustion, solar cells, and batteries; the work also includes quantum chemistry, aerosol dynamics, and nano-catalysis to enhance ignition. This high-impact work has been broadly and extensively published and cited; as an example, the awardee won the Most Cited Author from 2005-2008 Award from a key journal in the field. (Maja Matarić)




Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award: S. Joe Qin, Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (pictured with Kerri Bennett of Northrop Grumman): Joe demonstrated an exceptional commitment to undergraduate and graduate education. He is committed to personalized learning using a combination of technology and traditional lecturing in the classroom and social media outside the classroom. He has played an important role in renewing the chemical engineering undergraduate curriculum with integrated computing, and he created the process systems engineering program. His students appreciate his efforts. His teaching evaluations are excellent. In fact, I can say that his teaching record is truly outstanding. He has taught difficult courses with consistently impressive results, and his students have clearly communicated their admiration and respect. One student, when asked what the instructor’s strengths were, said: “Being awesome! He was extremely clear in conveying the subject matter and assignments” Another said, Dr. Qin is one of the best professors I’ve had at USC. Another said, I wish I could have Professor Qin for every undergraduate class at USC. Another said simply, “Qin=amazing” (John O'Brien)



Staff Award for Service: Angus McColl, executive director of Corporate and Foundation Giving, External Relations: Angus has been at the Viterbi School for four and a half years doing an exemplary job raising money, assisting our departments with their advisory boards, matching corporations and foundations to specific faculty research programs and many other duties. Angus regularly goes above and beyond his duties, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by faculty, department chairs, or by me. He has given many of you in this room an opportunity to experience memorable visits to Navy nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Angus was described by one nominator as "a tireless champion of VSoE, forever upbeat and personable." Another said that "service is a way of life for Angus, and he takes the concept very seriously." (Yannis Yortsos)




Faculty Award for Service: Peter Beerel, Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering:  In addition to wide responsibilities in his home department and his work as Faculty Director of Innovation Studies at the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation, he performed remarkably as director of the Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition, which completed its first year with a spectacularly successful finale April 15. "Peter demonstrated superb leadership in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship both within and outside the curriculum. He masterfully executed the MEPC competition, in addition to his leadership on the Good Neighbors Campaign. His is an award long overdue." (Yannis Yortsos)