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Paging All Doctors of Philosophy, Grand Challenges Beckon

2015 cohort of USC Viterbi Ph.D. recipients urged to solve “the problems of our age”
By: Adam Smith
May 14, 2015 —

Photos by Grad Images
Not all their Ph.D. dissertation titles, as Dean Yannis C. Yortsos observed, could fit neatly into the 140 character constraints of Twitter.

But the “exciting and ingenious” ideas behind those titles could drive the very re-imagination of our world, from providing access to clean water to eliminating poverty.

All under the slightly less Twitter-friendly constraints of physics, chemistry, biology, and even social phenomena, of course.

The 2015 USC Viterbi Ph.D. Hooding and Awards Ceremony, held Thursday at Bovard Auditorium, ushered in a new group of “one percenters,” a select group of Trojans to join the just over 1 percent of the U.S. population named doctors of philosophy, according to the most recent U.S. census data.

In addition to the traditional hooding ceremony, this year’s event saw the inauguration of the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research, awarded to the best doctoral dissertation from all eight departments of engineering.

Ballhaus, a member of USC Viterbi’s Board of Councilors and former CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, joined Yortsos on stage to honor the prize’s first recipient, Seyedhamed M Barghi.

(from left to right) USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; William F. Ballhaus, Jr. and Seyedhamed M Barghi, inaugural winner of the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research.   
Barghi, a newly hooded Ph.D. from the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, was honored for his dissertation entitled, “Hydrogen Storage in Carbon and Silicon Carbide Nanotubes,” under the guidance of Professors Muhammad Sahimi and Theodore Tsotsis.

Liviawati Wu and Dileep Manisseri Kalathil, the two runners-up for the inaugural Ballhaus Prize, were further evidence of what Yortsos referred to as engineers “painting on a grand canvas of physical, chemical, geological, biological and social phenomena.” Wu, for example, whose passion is in optimizing drug research for better patient care, focused her dissertation on aiding patients with hepatitis C, a virus that affects 170 million people globally. Kalathil, now a postdoc in UC Berkeley’s department of electrical engineering and computer science, leverages game theory to more efficiently allocate resources on limited wireless networks.

Said Yortsos, “Of course, after today . . . you will become truly doctors of philosophy — by the way, this does not mean you are philosophy majors, but it does refer to the ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), meaning: love of wisdom. And this is what a Ph.D. is all about.” 


Here are the 2015 winners of important Ph.D. awards:


Best Dissertation:

Name Department Dissertation Title
Babak Haji Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Queueing Loss System with Heterogeneous Skill Based Servers and Discriminating Arrivals
Adam Lammert Department of Computer Science Structure and Function in Speech Production
Haitian Chen Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering (Electrophysics) Nanomaterials for Macroelectronics and Energy Storage Devices
Dileep Manisseri Kalathil* Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering (Systems) Emprical Methods in Control and Optimization
Liviawati Wu* Department of Biomedical Engineering Ribavirin Systemic and Intracellular Exposure and its Role on Viral Response and Anemia in Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 1 Infection.
Seyedhamed M Barghi** Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Hydrogen Storage in Carbon and Silicon Carbide Nanotubes



*finalist for the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research 

**winner, William F. Ballhaus Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research


Best Research Assistants:

Name Department
William Yu Department of Astronautical Engineering
Curtis Dixon Lee Department of Biomedical Engineering
Mary Gertrude Gutierrez Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Sina Hasheminassab Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Mahdi Ebrahimian Dehaghani Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Zheng Yang Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Leandro Soriano Marcolino Department of Computer Science
Luis David Pedrosa Department of Computer Science


 
Best Teaching Assistants:

Name Department
Daoru Han Department of Astronautical Engineering
Jeffrey Tanedo Department of Biomedical Engineering
Lee Hamill Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Aykut Ayca Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dongbin Wang Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Stephanie Kemna Department of Computer Science
Eli Pincus Department of Computer Science
Max Pflueger Department of Computer Science
Saied Jafari Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering
Laith Shalalfeh Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering
John Franklin Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering



Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering - Ming Hsieh Institute Scholars

Name
Shermin Arab
Kunal Datta
Ningfeng Huang
Vasilelos Ntranos
Yan Yan



Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Awards

Name Award
Alan Cheng Hou Tsang Excellence in Research Award
Harshavardhan Mylapilli Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring Award

 

Viterbi Undergraduate Research Mentoring Awards

Name Department
Simin Mehrabani Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Aaron St. Clair Department of Computer Science



University Awards

Name Department Award
Farrokh Jazizadeh Karimi Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering USC Ph.D. Achievement Award
Bo Cheng Jin Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award