Logo: University of Southern California

Najmedin Meshkati Named Jefferson Science Fellow

Professor holds appointments in both Astani and Epstein Departments; will join the National Academies Office of Science and Technology Advisors in Washington D.C.
Diane Ainsworth
June 24, 2009 —

The National Academies have selected USC systems safety expert Najmedin Meshkati to serve as a 2009 Jefferson Science Fellow for the U.S. State Department.    

Najmedin Meshkati

The position will take Meshkati to Washington, D.C., where he will join the Office of Science and Technology Advisors to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, specializing in issues related to human-systems integration and the safety, reliability and efficiency of complex, large-scale technological systems.

Meshkati holds appointments in both the Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He analyzes large industrial complexes such as nuclear power and chemical processing plants, aviation systems, highways, railroads, mass transit, ports and waterways  for safety vulnerabilities.
“Professor Meshkati is one of our university’s great teachers and we are all very proud of him,” said USC President Steven B. Sample.

USC Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias extended his "heartfelt congratulations for earning this exceptional distinction after a long evaluation process, ...[he] brings tremendous honor to USC.”    
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Najm to share his engineering expertise in a number of very important fields with the Secretary of State and others at the federal level,” added USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.  “He epitomizes modern engineering, which we call 'engineering plus.' In his case, engineering plus diplomacy.  He’s highly regarded in his profession, a role model for his students and colleagues, and an ambassador of USC engineering in the community.  I know he will contribute in very significant ways to U.S. technical expertise and diplomatic relations overseas.”

George Olah, Nobel laureate and a Viterbi School colleague, said, “Professor Meshkati has … wide knowledge of both the [technical and political] questions relating to energy and ecology problems … to the safety concerns of atomic energy and its socio-economic impacts … He is a well respected, world-renowned expert."

Meshkati is awarded the Epstein Department's Teacher of the Year Award in 2007. His students picked up similar awards.
Department Chairs Jean-Pierre Bardet of the Astani Department and James Moore, II, of the Epstein Department were also elated to hear of Meshkati’s new position.

“Najm carries out some of the most socially relevant technical systems research that the university has to offer and is a shining example of what can be accomplished at the intersection of research, education and purpose,” said Moore.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate person than Najm,” added Bardet.  “He is dedicated to good system design, concerned about human safety, and knows how to communicate his knowledge in very politically intense situations.”

The Jefferson Science Fellowship program, administered by the National Academies, is a partnership between the U.S. State Department and academic institutions designed to enhance expertise in science, technology and engineering within the government and create significant opportunities for tenured scientists and engineers to contribute to the State Department’s work around the world. Begun in 2003, the program is based on the premise that science and technology make fundamental contributions to the security, economic, health, and cultural foundations of modern societies, and are integral to the development and implementation of foreign policy.

This year’s nominations applications were double the number of applications received last year, according to the National Academies.  Fellows serve one-year assignments working full-time, either in the State Department or in the U.S. Agency for International Development.  After that, they return to their academic careers but remain consultants to the State Department for five years.
Meshkati has served in an advisory capacity for various international organizations, United Nations specialized agencies and national boards, such as the National Research Council and, most recently, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board, which conducted an extensive examination of a major accident in 2005 at the British Petroleum refinery in Texas City, Texas.

Featured in New Scientist, July 14, 2007.
Meshkati is an elected Fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), an AT&T Faculty Fellow and a two-time NASA Faculty Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  He is a recipient of the Oliver Keith Hansen Outreach and Research Award from HFES, the Ergonomics of Technology Transfer Award from the International Ergonomics Association, as well as the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. 

He is a Faculty Fellow with the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching, and has received multiple teaching and service awards from the Astani and Epstein departments in the past, as well as the 2000 TRW Teaching and the Service awards from the Viterbi School.  

He has been a staunch Trojan, ever since arriving as a graduate student at USC in 1976, after simultaneously receiving a B.S. in industrial engineering and B.A. in political science in 1976 from Sharif (Arya-Meher) University of Technology and Shahid Beheshti University (National University of Iran), respectively.  He received an M.S. in engineering management in 1978 and a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering in 1983, both from USC.