A March 23 reception on the USC University Park campus saluted Paul Debevec, associate director for graphics research at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and a research associate professor in the Computer Science Department of the Viterbi School of Engineering. Debevec this year received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the development of the Light Stage technologies used create believable digital faces in major motion pictures, including the blockbuster Avatar.
From left: CS Chair Shanghua Teng, Academy Award winner Paul Debevec, ICT Executive Director Randall HIll, Viterbi School Senior Associate Dean John O'Brien.
The event was held at the conclusion of the Computer Science department’s annual research review day. In a room filled with professors, Ph.D. candidates and undergraduates, CS Chair Shanghua Teng praised Debevec not only for his achievements but for providing inspiration for students — and future inventors.
“I am so honored that we decided to co-locate this celebration with our computer science event,” said Teng. “We tell our students to aim high and Paul’s achievements are a great example of what that means.”
ICT Executive Director Randall W. Hill, Jr. congratulated Debevec and noted how uncommon it is for a computer scientist to win an Academy Award. He highlighted the unique environment at ICT, Viterbi and USC that enabled him to conduct his groundbreaking research.
“What made it possible for Paul to pursue his wonderful work was having the support of our sponsors, the encouragement of colleagues at ICT and in the depth of computer science and an overall culture of creativity at USC and in Los Angeles that drives this kind of innovation,” he said. "I don’t believe this could have happened anywhere else.”
Viterbi School Senior Associate Dean John O’Brien remarked that art and science are not as far apart as it would seem, particularly considering advances in technologies for creating new artistic opportunities.
“The last century and a half have seen the emergence of totally new artistic forms, growing directly out of the work of scientists and engineers like Paul,” he said. “Interactive games are now emerging and even more are in the pipeline, thanks to departments like the one gathered here today and remarkable minds like Paul’s.”
Debevec brought his plaque to the stage and encouraged the assembled students to follow their passions.
“Find something fun and try to do something new,” he told them. “Grab on and keep pushing and enjoy all the possibilities before you.”