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Two Women Faculty to Join Viterbi in 2008

Experts in nano device technology and health care systems engineering promise to advance the fields

October 30, 2007 — Two women faculty specializing in photonics and health care systems engineering will become assistant professors in the Viterbi School of Engineering in 2008: Michelle Lynn Povinelli of Stanford University and Shinyi Wu of The RAND Corp.

Povinelli is an optics/photonics specialist studying light propagation in nanostructured materials.  Currently she 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

“We are delighted to have Michelle onboard in electrical engineering,” said P. Daniel Dapkus, Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering electrophysics chair. “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, who has been a postdoctoral researcher in Stanford’s electrical engineering department, 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,” she said.

The photonics scholar did her undergraduate work in physics at the University of Chicago, then worked abroad one summer as a researcher at the University of Kyushu, Japan, and later as a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge, England. She continued her graduate work in optics and photonics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a Ph.D. in physics in 2004.

In industrial and systems engineering, the Epstein Department will welcome Wu, who specializes in health care systems analysis. Currently at The RAND Corp., Wu is principal investigator on a project to analyze the cost-effectiveness of physical activity intervention programs in the treatment and prevention of cancer.     

“Shinyi has focused her professional career on identifying and applying fundamental industrial engineering tools and techniques to solve important process improvement problems associated with the health care industry,” said James E. Moore, II, chair of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “Her appointment in our department is representative of an emerging focus on healthcare applications that speaks directly to USC's strategic objectives. We can't wait for her to join us."
Wu did her undergraduate work at Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan, earning a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering in 1992.  She went on to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she earned a Ph.D. in industrial systems, with an emphasis on health care systems, in January 2000.
Shinyi Wu

She joined The RAND Corp. in 1999 and, most recently, had been an engineer in the Health Program & Technology and Applied Sciences Group, and associate director of RAND's Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation.

Recently, Wu was honored by RAND for “outstanding contributions to furthering RAND’s mission of improving policy and decision-making through research and analysis.”

Her award recognized Wu’s success in leading a collaborative made up of multiple research institutions and healthcare organizations to compete for important research contracts with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.