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2006 Staff and Faculty Awards

Dean Yannis Yortsos recognizes faculty and staff for their extraordinary efforts and support during a time of transition

April 28, 2006 —
Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, who has completed his first year at the helm of the Viterbi School, thanked engineering faculty and staff for their exceptional service and support over the last year at the 2006 Viterbi School of Engineering Staff and Faculty Awards luncheon.

Najm Meshkati, right, receives the Service Award for his tireless efforts to promote the school.

Firdaus Udwadia, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and chairman of the Engineering Faculty Council, introduced Yortsos to about 300 staff and faculty, who gathered April 26 at the university’s Town and Gown conference center for the awards ceremony.

“It has been my privilege the past year – our 100th year – to steer the magnificent ship of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering,” said Yortsos, who initiated a special Centennial Lecture series as a tribute to the school’s centennial milestone. “And the future of the school is, indeed, in good hands, yours!”
The school accomplished many impressive feats on its continuing ascent, he said.  The quality of undergraduates continued to rise; incoming freshmen this fall will have among the highest SAT scores nationwide; and the school hopes to exceed its enrollment targets this fall. A wealth of new and innovative degree programs are also on the horizon: a new degree program in computer science and business has been established, as have degree programs in computer science with emphasis in games, and a new degree in chemical engineering with an emphasis in nanotechnology.   

“We are making significant progress in the restructuring of the math sequence and the teaching of math to engineering students, in collaboration with the College,” Yortsos said, “and in integrating the senior capstone design project with students from business and from communications, thus creating novel models of interdisciplinary programs at the undergraduate level.”

Ari Requicha won the Senior Faculty Research Award.

He also mentioned the Gamepipe Laboratory curriculum, which is another interdisciplinary model program combining engineering, cinema and fine arts, that is “leading the nation, along with the development of a micro-satellites laboratory infrastructure for space.”

    The graduate program is also strong, he said. The number of first-year supported Ph.D. students increased this year, thanks to support from the USC Provost’s block grant program. The number of Ph.D. students is expected to climb, and a new diversity initiative has been launched to attract a more diverse pool of graduate students in the years ahead. The Distance Education Network (DEN) grew by nearly 30 percent this year, with enrollments in master’s level programs in civil and environmental engineering, and in systems architecture and engineering, quadrupling.

Ray Haynes, left, director of University Alliances in the Space Technology Division at Northrop-Grumman, shows off  the Viterbi School's Excellence in Teaching plaque to Dean Yannis Yortsos.

  “And just yesterday, we learned that Len Adleman was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, making him one of four Viterbi faculty ‘trifectas’ — members of NAS, NAE and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” he said. “He joins Sol Golomb, Andy Viterbi and Bob Hellwarth with a distinction that is probably at the top of any engineering school’s list in the nation.”

Before presenting the staff and faculty awards for outstanding work, Yortsos recognized a number of faculty for “bringing great distinction to the Viterbi School.”  They were:

o    Ted Berger, for his Creativity in Research Award, and Hans Kuehl, for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

o    Behrohk Khoshnevis, who was selected as one of the semifinalists for the National Invention Prize, given by the History Channel.

o    Firdaus Udwadia, who won the Outstanding Technical Contribution Award from the Aerospace Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

    o Shri Narayanan, who was a winner of the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s "Best Paper" Award, among many other awards during the year.

o    George Chilingar, who won the Gold Medal of Honor from the Armenian Academy of Sciences.

    o Florian Mansfeld, who won the Vittorio de Nora Award from the Electrochemical Society.

o    Iraj Ershaghi, who won a Regional Service Award from the Society of Petroleum Engineers for his work with CiSoft.
o Joe Devinny, who won an Award for Research Excellence from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.
o    Dan Dapkus, who was award the Nick Holonyak, Jr. Award, one of the highest honors given to researchers by the Optical Society of America.

Tzung K. Hsiai won the Junior Faculty Research Award.

o    John O'Brien, who has been selected as a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Lasers & Electro-Optics Society for the coming year.

o    Nenad Medvidovic and Viktor Prasanna, who won Okawa research grants.

o    Terry Langdon, who won the Somiya Award for International Collaboration.

o    George Bekey, who earned the highest technical award in robotics given by the IEEE, while also earning a distinguished alumnus award from UCLA.

Mary Ordaz, student affairs advisor in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, received the Staff Achievement Award for her professionalism and supportive attitude.

o    Bob Scholtz, who won the 2006 IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award for his pioneering contributions to ultra-wideband communications science and technology.

o    Sol Golomb, who received USC’s Hillel 2006 annual L'Chaim Award.

Staff and faculty awards went to:  

   o  Mary Ordaz, student affairs advisor, Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, received the Staff Achievement Award for her professionalism, supportive attitude, sensitivity and discretion in dealing with student matters.  

   o  Najm Meshkati, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, received the Service Award for his tireless efforts to promote the Viterbi School and his commitment to the welfare of the students.

   o  Tzung K. Hsiai , assistant professor of biomedical engineering and medicine/cardiology, and the first holder of the Robert G. and Mary G. Lane Early Career Chair, received the Junior Faculty Research Award for his research into the mechanisms of coronary artery disease. That work has led to the development of bio MEMS sensors to monitor the interior walls of blood vessels.

   o  Ari Requicha , professor of computer science and the Gordon Marshall Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, who also directs the Laboratory for Molecular Robotics, received the Senior Faculty Research Award. He was recognized for his “tremendous contributions” to the Viterbi School’s reputation in the field of robotics. His lab is developing nanoscale robots of the future and investigating algorithms for programming distributed systems composed of large numbers of nanorobots.

   o  Oussama Sadafi, senior lecturer in aerospace and mechanical engineering, and Alice Parker, professor of electrical engineering systems, who won the 2006 Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award for outstanding instruction in the classroom. The awards were presented by Ray Haynes, director of university alliances, Space Technology Division, Northrop-Grumman.

Oussama Sadafi, center, steps up to the podium to accept the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award from Ray Haynes, Northrop Grumman Space Technology Division director of University Alliances, while Alice Parker, left, the other award recipient, watches.
The challenges facing the school are clear, Yortsos said in his concluding remarks. “We must solidify our place among the elite engineering schools, and shape new paradigms in engineering education and research in a rapidly changing contextual and global landscape.
“Our past accomplishments will be the yardsticks by which we measure our progress,” he said.  “The competition will be relentless…but the path to success has been traced before.”
--Diane Ainsworth