Logo: University of Southern California

Talent and innovation sync at annual faculty and staff awards

Faculty and staff gather to celebrate the best and brightest at USC Viterbi
By: Daniel Druhora
April 29, 2016 —
USC Viterbi professors Cyrus Shahabi, Shrikanth (Shri) S. Narayanan and Bhaskar Krishnamachari at the annual Faculty and Staff Awards Luncheon. (Photo/D. Druhora)

USC Viterbi faculty and staff were front and center on April 26 at Town and Gown, celebrating this year’s school achievements and individual excellence at the 2016 Faculty and Staff Awards Luncheon.

“Talent, value, thought leadership, impact. These are the drivers for our school,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, who, with other senior administrators, honored the following faculty and staff achievements:

Petros Ioannou - Senior Research Award

Burcin Becerik-Gerber - Junior Research Award

Shrikanth Narayanan - Use-Inspired Research Award

Muhammad Sahimi - Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award

Sanjay Madhav - Dean's Award for Innovation in Teaching and Education

Asad Madni - Dean's Special Award for Service

Andy Chen - Dean's Staff Early Career Award

Maria Arazeli Dorado - Dean's Staff Award for Excellence

Yvette Barnett - Dean's Staff Award for Service

Distinguished guests included Ming Hsieh, M.S. EE '84, USC trustee and the namesake of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering that celebrates its ten-year anniversary later this year.

(L-R) Maja Matarić, vice dean of research; Petros Ioannou, professor of electrical engineering and aerospace and mechanical engineering - recipient of the Senior Research Award; and Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/D. Druhora)
The Era of Engineering+

It is the best of times for engineering.

“We live in an unprecedented era for engineering and technology,” said Yortsos, who positioned the school at the zenith of engineering’s convergence with virtually any discipline, something he coined “the engineering+ era – an era that is reshaping the world, and one that we want to continue to lead.”

He cited the exponential pace of technological discovery and the enabling capacity it offers, making engineering a powerful catalyst for enhancing other disciplines.

(L-R) Maja Matarić, vice dean of research; Burcin Becerik-Gerber, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering - recipient of the Junior Research Award; Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/D. Druhora)
Changing the conversation

Thanks to a recent wave of USC Viterbi initiatives, USC has also become a leader in changing the conversation about engineers: who they are, what they do and how they affect the world. Today, 35 percent of USC Viterbi engineering undergraduates are women — nearly double the national average of 18 percent. Computer Science, a traditionally underrepresented field, now has a female undergraduate population of 29 percent.

Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked USC Viterbi as the number one school in the nation with the most female graduate students.

Of note is "The Next MacGyver" – a global crowdsourcing competition that resulted in five winning TV pilot scripts that are now being considered at major Hollywood networks. A creative partnership between USC Viterbi, the National Academy of Engineering and MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff, "The Next MacGyver" has become an incubator for the next great engineering TV series. Except, this time, the engineering superhero will be a woman.

(L-R) Maja Matarić, vice dean of research; Shrikanth (Shri) S. Narayanan, Andrew J. Viterbi professor of engineering - recipient of the Use-Inspired Research Award; Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/D. Druhora)
A generation of Grand Challenges Scholars

As a co-founder of the National Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP), USC Viterbi is regarded as a national leader in preparing students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century.

GCSP is now pursued by more than 120 U.S. schools, and is spreading globally. Pioneered by USC Viterbi with Duke University and Olin College of Engineering, the program consists of five components: research, interdisciplinary engagement, entrepreneurship, global context and service learning.

(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; James E. Moore, vice dean for academic programs; Muhammad Sahimi, professor of chemical engineering and materials science - recipient of the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award; and Frank Flores, vice president of engineering at Northrop Grumman. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Students who graduate as Grand Challenges Scholars are equipped to tackle social, environmental and political issues that shape our world. GCSP has inspired other non-engineering schools to adopt similar agendas. An example is the USC School of Social Work, which, under the leadership of Dean Marilyn Flynn, has led to the articulation of 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, including ending homelessness. Engineers and social workers are now joining forces to rise up to this grand challenge.

(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Sanjay Madhav, senior lecturer in the Information Technology Program - recipient of the Dean's Award for Innovation in Teaching and Education. (Photo/D. Druhora)
SCilicon Beach

Faculty and staff were also recognized for their contribution to USC entrepreneurship.

With technology at the core of practically every innovation, USC Viterbi has taken a leadership role to cultivate an unparalleled innovation ecosystem in Southern California. With two research powerhouses — the Information Sciences Institute and the Institute for Creative Technologies — located in the heart of Silicon Beach, USC is in pole position to drive technology innovation in Southern California.

“In the process, we’re transforming Silicon Beach into SCilicon Beach,” added Yortsos.

Galvanizing this transformation are the Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition; the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute; the Viterbi Startup Garage; HTE@USC; the USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program; and the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Node. In addition, USC Viterbi recently launched the Min Family Engineering Social Entrepreneurship Challenge to solve societal issues through sustainable business practices.

Another great inciter is Andrea Belz, NSF I-Corps Node director and an emerging national leader in entrepreneurship education, who will be the first vice dean for technology innovation and entrepreneurship in the school’s history starting July, 2016.

Asad Madni, former chair of Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering Department Advisory Board, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) received the Dean's Special Award for Service. (Photo/ D. Druhora)
Engineering empowers X

Yortsos branded this transformational trend in entrepreneurship, social engagement, diversity and innovation as Engineering to X (E2X): where engineering empowers X.

“Digital media and communications are great examples of E2X,” said Yortsos. “Medicine is another E2X paradigm. Often E2X is the digitization of everything – with Internet of Things (IoT) fast rising in the horizon as the new disruption.”

Yortsos noted that USC is likely one the few places in the world with so many “Xs” present on campus.

Indeed, it has been a fabulous year so far for USC Viterbi, highlighted by some of the most significant individual faculty accomplishments that personify E2X. Few engineering schools can boast of such a collection of national awards:

Mark Humayun, who holds joint appoints at USC Viterbi and the Keck School of Medicine, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for developing a device that helps people with a certain type of blindness see.

Andrew Viterbi won the National Academy of Engineering's 2016 Charles Stark Draper Prize - recognized as the Nobel Prize for engineers.

Sol Golomb received the Franklin Institute’s 2016 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering.

(L-R) Linda Rock, vice dean for administration; Andy Chen, director of student affairs in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science - recipient of Dean's Staff Early Career Award; and Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Alan Willner was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest honor in the engineering profession. Willner is the 11th USC Viterbi faculty member elected to the NAE since 2008. He was also among only 15 members appointed by the US Department of Defense as National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows. In a fantastic year for Willner, he also received a PhiKappaPhi USC Faculty award.

Three faculty were elected to the National Academy of Inventors: Scott Fraser, who was also elected as Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE); Dan Dapkus; and Andy Molisch.

Ted Berger received the "Pioneer Award in Medicine" given by the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics. Berger will also receive the Australian Society for Medical Research 2016 Medal.

(L-R) Linda Rock, vice dean for administration; Maria Arazeli Dorado, payroll and personnel coordinator in USC Viterbi Business Affairs - recipient of the Dean's Staff Award for Excellence; and Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Shanghua Teng is a second-time-winner of the American Mathematical Society’s prestigious Godel Prize.

Najm Meshkati received the Ernest Amory Codman Award Lectureship from the Joint Commission’s Physician Leadership Forum

Berok Khoshnevis was inducted in the European Union Academy of Sciences and also won First Place in the NASA In-Situ Materials Challenge.

Costas Synolakis was inducted in the Academy of Athens.

John Slaughter received the Provost Mentoring Award, and the HENAAC Chairman’s Award.

Jay Kuo received the 2016 IEEE Circuits and Systems Society John Choma Education Award (named after our own late John Choma), as well as the USC Associates Teaching Award.

Petros Ioannou, installed as the Inaugural holder of the A.V. “Bal” Balakrishnan Chair, also received the 2016 IEEE Transportation Technologies Award.

Yvette Barnett, research administrator in the Department of Biomedical Engineering received the Dean's Staff Award for Service. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Prem Natarajian was installed as the Inaugural Keston Executive Director of the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI).

Milind Tambe won the Innovative Application of AI Award for Deployed Application. 

Suvrajeet Sen and Julie Higle won the INFORMS Computing Society Award. 

Urbashi Mitra is the Recipient of a Fulbright U.S Scholar Grant and she also received a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship 2016 from the UK Royal Academy of Engineering.

James Moore won the 2016 WTS Los Angeles Secretary Ray LaHood Award. 

Salman Avesti Mehr and Hao Li received Okawa Foundation Research Grants.

Nenad Medvidovic was recognized as Distinguished Scientist by ACM.

Ellis Meng and Nenad Medvidovic were named IEEE Fellows.

Scott Fraser and Krishna Nayak were named American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow.

Stacey Finley won an NSF Career Award.

Nora Ayanian won an NSF Career Award.

Professor Najm Meshkati of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) received the Ernest Amory Codman Award Lectureship from the Joint Commission’s Physician Leadership Forum earlier this year. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Rehan Kapadia received an AFOSR Young Investigator Award.

John Gunnar Carlsson received the AFOSR Young Investigator Award. 

Shri Narayanan received a Google Faculty Research Award.

Fred Aminzadeh won the Regional Formation Evaluation Award of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Ashutosh Nayyar and Ketan Savla received the George S. Axelby Outstanding Paper Award.

David Traum, Ron Artstein, Paul Debevec, Kallirroi Georgila, Anton Leuski, and Bill Swartout received the Best Paper award from the 8th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling.

David Traum, Kallirroi Georgila, Ron Artstein, Anton Leuski, and David Devault received the Best Paper Award from the 16th Annual SIGDIAL Conference.

Honoree Shri Narayanan, director of the Ming Hsieh Institute (MHI) with the institute's namesake, Ming Hsieh. (Photo/D. Druhora)

Nitin Kale received the 2016 Madji Najm Award from the SAP University Alliances.

Erik Johnson received the 2016 University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Aerospace Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Murali Annavaram was inducted into the ACM SIGMICRO Hall of Fame.

Dan Erwin was named an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

“Each and every one of you has played a key role in advancing our mission,” Yortsos told an audience of over 270 faculty and staff present. "Warmest congratulations to all!"