Logo: University of Southern California

USC Viterbi and Tsinghua University Celebrate 10 Years of Shared Research

Two Universities. One Shared Vision for Better Futures.
By: Mahta Emrani
June 06, 2016 —

(Left to Right) THU Associate Professor Qingshan Jia, USC Viterbi Assistant Professor Paul Bogdan, Lucio Soibelman, chair of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, THU Associate Professor Yongdong Deng and USC Viterbi Professor Mahta Moghaddam. Photo/Rich Schmitt

East met West on May 10 and May 11 when renowned scholars from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and China’s Tsinghua University came together in Ronald Tutor Hall for the 10th annual USC-THU research symposium.

More than 20 engineering scholars, researchers, faculty members and students from the two prestigious schools shared their latest research findings and projects. Researchers covered a range of topics, primarily dealing with energy, informatics, and Big Data.

Dean Yannis C. Yortsos of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering said of the event "it is very gratifying to host the 10th anniversary of the USC Viterbi-Tsinghua symposium." He went on to add "through its decade of existence, the USC-THU partnership has resulted in strong research collaborations between our two faculties and outstanding student exchange programs, including a dual MS degree, that have benefited tremendously both of our institutions. We are indebted to our common alumnus Feng Deng, whose generosity has made it possible."

Professor Cauligi “Raghu” Raghavendra, USC Viterbi's vice dean for global academic initiatives, highlighted the importance of these gatherings, saying that they “will lead to joint projects and educational programs, as well as lasting research collaborations that carry the promise of making a significant positive global impact.”

Professor Philip Yu of University of Illinois at Chicago gave a presentation about the inherent challenges of working with Big Data and presented possible solutions as he shared information about a new approach in fusing “heterogeneous” data sources. USC Viterbi’s Paul Ronney used scientific research to challenge the prevailing thinking in the area of fossil fuels. He concluded that “there is no advocacy group for a holistic, cradle-to-grave view of energy production with the least total environmental impact.” USC Viterbi Associate Professor Yan Liu talked about the importance of computational phenotyping and the application of deep neural networks in healthcare innovation.

In terms of future initiatives, Raghavendra and Professor Zhisheng Niu of THU were very excited about a new, dual-degree master of science program scheduled to launch during the fall of 2016. This two-and-a-half to three-year program will give up to 15 students from each university - USC Viterbi and THU - a chance to experience both cultures and academic institutions as they complete their graduate studies.

In this program, students will complete at least two-thirds of their academic studies at their home university and the remaining one-third at the host institution.

Niu calls this program “the closest to [global] collaboration that the two universities have ever come to."

THU Professor Zhisheng Niu and USC Viterbi Professor Raghu Raghavendra, vice dean for global academic initiatives.

USC and THU hope to establish a joint research center that would build on current collaborations, noted Raghavendra and Niu. This center would act as a think tank where teams of students, faculty and scholars could collaborate on additional projects and expand research efforts. 

Raghavendra and Niu also mentioned the possibility of extending iPodia, USC Viterbi’s award-winning distance learning education program, to include graduate students at both universities.

THU’s Niu underscored the importance of shared resources, saying that the USC-THU collaboration “is about going beyond sharing of the resources in the traditional sense. It is about sharing of the students, sharing of the faculty and sharing of a degree.”

USC Viterbi’s Raghavendra said “the 10th annual USC-THU Research Symposium exemplified another successful year of collaboration between these two universities. The event was packed with excellent presentations and useful interactions, resulting in the germination of new research ideas and plans to explore together in the future.”