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Maja Matarić Receives Presidential Mentoring Award from President Obama

Obama honors the Viterbi School professor for "helping to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers"
Eric Mankin
January 28, 2011 —

The  Viterbi School's Maja J. Matarić received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring at a White House ceremony January 27.

The President welcomes the Viterbi School's Maja J. Matarić to the White House. (official White House photo by Pete Souza)
On January 21, President  Barack Obama named 11 individuals, including Matarić, and four organizations as recipients of the awards, given each year by the White House to recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields.

"By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect the full diversity of the United States," said the White House announcement.

Matarić is a professor of computer science, neuroscience, and pediatrics, as well as senior associate dean for research at the Viterbi School of Engineering. She is also founding director of the USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems and director of the USC Robotics Research Lab,

"Mentoring is irresistible," said Matarić. "It is a generally powerful yet always a unique and individual opportunity to positively impact people —  kids, students, colleagues — and to leave a meaningful legacy. It is an honor to be part of this wonderful group of presidential awardees."

Maja J. Matarić, center, with OSTP Director John Holdren, left, and National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh. (photo: James Miccolo Johnson)

While the Presidential Award specifically honors Matarić's career achievements through the entire mentoring pipeline, from K-12 to Ph.D. faculty, her gifts have also enriched USC Viterbi. "Maja has been a pioneer in mentoring her students and all of our younger faculty," said Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. "Her efforts are richly rewarded by their continuing success. We are very proud that she is part of the dean's office and advances this crucial part of the school's mission."

Candidates for the presidential mentoring awards are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students in their home institutions. The mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive awards of $10,000 to advance their mentoring efforts.

“These individuals and organizations have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the United States remains on the cutting edge of science and engineering for years to come,” President Barack Obama said. “Their devotion to the educational enrichment and personal growth of their students is remarkable, and these awards represent just a small token of our enormous gratitude.”

Back row:, Jim Schwarz for Grinnell Science Project, Michelle A. Williams, Douglass L. Henderson, Anthony Carpi, Dr. Subra Suresh, NSF Director, Dr. John P. Holden, President’s Advisor for Science and Technology and OSTP Director, Dr. Cora Marrett, NSF Deputy Director, Isaiah J. Crumbly, Julio J. Ramirez, Bruce A. Jackson, Front Row:, Richard L. Cardenas, Jo Handelsman, Stacie Geller for Women in Science and Engineering Mentoring Initiative, Marigold Linton, Maja J. Matarić, Beth McGrath for Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Joseph Skrivanek for Baccalaureate & Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, Gerard F.R. Parkin. (Photo: Jason MIccolo Johnson)