Logo: University of Southern California

Asad M. Madni

Asad M. Madni
President and COO, BEI Technologies, Inc.
When Trojan dad Asad Madni ran into his distinguished old friend, George Bekey, on a flight in 2002 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, their chance reunion turned quickly to techno talk and a new partnership.   
“I asked him to serve on my company’s scientific advisory board, which he enthusiastically accepted,” says Madni, president and chief operating officer of BEI Technologies, Inc., a leading manufacturer of precision sensors, motors and actuators for automotive stability control systems and commercial, industrial and aerospace industries. “Then I started to learn all about USC’s engineering school and its progressive attitude toward reaching out to industry.”   
Before long, Madni had accepted a reciprocal offer from Professor Cauligi S. Raghavendra, chair of Electrical Engineering Systems Department and Bekey, emeritus professor of computer science, electrical engineering and biomedical engineering, and founder of USC's robotics research program, to join the advisory board of the Viterbi School's electrical engineering department. His paternal interests, with Jamal, now entering his third year of computer engineering/computer science, and professional interests in wireless and embedded sensors fueled a desire to "help mold an engineering curricula at USC that would have a direct impact on him."
The perfect match
Madni was a perfect match for USC’s electrical engineering advisory board, bringing practicality and balance to decisions about the department’s academic programs.  His company — BEI Technologies, Inc. — is the world’s largest independent supplier of yaw rate sensors for automotive stability control and is well known for its revolutionary MEMS-based quartz rate sensor, the GyroChip®.  The miniature sensor is used by a wide variety of international car manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Toyota and Honda, to increase stability and prevent rollovers. The same technology developed at BEI has been used to upgrade Boeing 737 airplanes as well as stabilize NASA’s 1997 Sojourner rover while it traversed rocks and hills on the surface of Mars.
“We are striving to forge new partnerships with industry, so we were truly fortunate to have Dr. Madni join the board,” says Bekey.  “He is a technically sophisticated executive and gets very involved in helping us find solutions to our technical problems. It’s an ideal connection for a research laboratory.”
The place to be
Madni came to the United States in 1966, when he was a teenager, because he believed that “this was the place where science and technology had its basis and its future.”  He attended UCLA, where he earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering.  At California Coast University he earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and he graduated from the MIT Sloan School of Management’ Program for the Senior Executives. In 1975, he joined Systron Donner Corporation, where he held senior technical and executive positions for 18 years, eventually becoming Chairman, President and CEO.  Over the years, he saw the quickening pace of competition — with companies scrambling over each other to be first on the market with new technologies. He says it’s not about to let up.  “Students will need every advantage they can get to compete,” the Trojan dad says. “They’ll be judged on the breadth and depth of knowledge they have in engineering, as well as on the experience they’ve gained working in industry.”
But Madni isn’t about to let up, either.  To support USC, his company donated equipment to several departments in the School.  In 2004, the Robotic Embedded Systems Lab (RESL) received a full inertial navigation system and angular rate sensors — “the best around,” says lab director Gaurav Sukhatme — to develop a robotic helicopter and a new hopping, self-balancing robot. 
Last fall, Madni’s interests led to some company-sponsored research.  After meeting with researchers to learn about their areas of specialization, he seized on some very promising work in the development of next-generation miniaturized silicon gyroscopes, then decided to sponsor the work.  “The faculty are accomplished and they work outside-of-the-box,” Madni says.  “I was very impressed with the research, because it’s practical and down-to-earth, focusing on technologies that have an obvious impact on society.”
New R&D paradigm
Madni believes R&D will be driven by a new paradigm in years to come, one in which speed to commercialization becomes the hallmark of success.  “Commercializing products in a timely and cost-effective way will be the key,” he says. “Universities and industry will have to partner to stay competitive in the future.”  Fortunately, he says, Viterbi School faculty are “refreshingly open and conducive” to industry partnerships. That attitude will serve students well, “because they’ll get some exposure to industry problems and issues rather than becoming isolated in their ivory towers.” 
He adds that parents of engineering students should get involved with Viterbi School events and networking opportunities, especially if they work in the industry, to help support the school’s goals.   “We need to build many more partnerships with business, and by doing that, we will be able to create more internships for our students, more opportunities for research collaboration, and more networking opportunities for students.  We have the best of all worlds at USC to make that happen,” he says. “Open-minded faculty, brilliant new faculty coming on board, very bright students and one of the most strategic locations in the world for technological innovation.” 
- Diane Ainsworth