Before an appreciative crowd at the elegant California Club, S.K. Gupta was on March 6, named the Smith International Professor in Mechanical Engineering. The endowed chair recognizes Gupta’s work as a leader in the field of robotics and automation, including serving as the founding director of USC Viterbi’s new Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM).
A pioneer in advanced manufacturing and a professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Gupta studies robotics, computer-aided design and manufacturing automation.
“It is truly special, that today’s new chair holder is a trail-blazing technologist in robotics and a specialist in Advanced Manufacturing,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos said.
Also in attendance was USC Vice Provost Michael Quick who said he thought Gupta would reflect well on the university.
“The chair is the highest honor we can provide to a faculty member, and there’s no one better to hold this chair than S.K Gupta,” he said. “His work puts Viterbi on the cutting-edge of technology and is leading us into the 21st century.”
Historically, Smith International was a giant in the oil and gas sector. The firm grew from a small blacksmith shop started in 1902 by Smith International founder, Herman C Smith, to become a Fortune 500 company. In 2010, Schlumberger acquired it for $11.3 billion.
Created in 1976, the Smith International Chair was established through a donation by Delphine Smith, widow of Herman C. Smith. The chair was sustained by gifts from Smith International under the guidance of Smith International’s former Chief Operating Officer and USC trustee, Jerry Neely.
Neely, who spoke at the installation, said he thought Gupta would flourish as the new chair.
“I’ve been representing Smith International in one way or another for over 50 years none as enjoyable as this evening,” he said. “I know S.K. will fill the chair well.”
For Gupta, the honor marks another distinction in his long and decorated career. Gupta’s interest in robotics and automation started when he interned on an automated assembly line for a truck company in his native country of India in 1987. He later went on to earn his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he taught for 17 years.
In addition to serving as the founding director of the Maryland Robotics Center, Gupta was the program director of the NSF National Robotics Initiative. Among his many accolades, he received an Excellence in Research Award from ASME Computers and Information in Engineering Division in 2013 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee in 2014. He has authored and co-authored over 300 articles appearing in journals, books and conferences worldwide.
“We are living in very exciting times, things are changing at a rapid pace and new breakthroughs are driving rapid innovation,” Gupta said. “It is truly an honor to now hold the Smith International Professorship, and I know we are going to do exciting, great work.”