The Year of “Hugging the Exponential”

| May 2, 2019

Faculty and staff gather to celebrate USC Viterbi’s growing achievements and excellence

(Photo/Steve Cohn)

USC Viterbi faculty and staff were celebrated for their achievements and individual excellence at the 2019 Faculty and Staff Awards luncheon. Two hundred and seventy people attended the 40th annual ceremony that took place on April 24 at Town and Gown.

“Today, we celebrate the achievements of some remarkable women and men among you who are making USC Viterbi a special place, who are helping inspire us on what is possible, who are uplifting us and who are leading us navigate the exciting future ahead,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, who, with other senior administrators, honored the following faculty and staff achievements:

(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Tim Gotimer, Associate Director of Advisement and Recruitment – recipient of the Staff Early Career Award; and Linda Rock Vice Dean for Administration (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Tim Gotimer– Staff Early Career Award

Jorge Castilla– Staff Award for Excellence

Emilio Ferrara– Junior Research Award

Maryam Shanechi– Junior Research Award

Alan Willner– Senior Research Award

Petros Ioannou– Use-Inspired Research Award

John Carlsson– Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award

Elisabeth Weiss– Dean’s Award for Innovation in Teaching and Education

Teresita “Tessie” Jamanila– Staff Award for Service

Leana Golubchik– John O’Brien Faculty Award for Service

Patrick Prince– Special Recognition Award 

Varun Soni– Special Recognition Award


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Jorge Castilla, Business Manager at the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering – recipient of the Staff Award for Excellence; and Linda Rock Vice Dean for Administration (Photo/Steve Cohn)

 A Year in Review

It has been a successful year for USC Viterbi, thanks to its numerous initiatives. Today, 45 percent of Viterbi students are women, 23 percent come from underrepresented groups, and 17 percent are first generation college students. In this year’s U.S. News and World Report (USNWR), Viterbi ranked as the #9 engineering school in the nation and was in the top 5 list of private engineering schools, along with MIT, Stanford, Caltech, and CMU. Additionally, USC Viterbi was the only U.S. engineering school on three USNWR top 10 engineering lists: Best Graduate Schools, Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs, and Best Online Information Technology Programs.

This year USC Viterbi initiatives have included outreach and empowering local underrepresented communities, and opening its doors to transfers from community colleges, being recognized with the ASEE President’s Award, a rare distinction for an engineering school.


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Maryam Shanechi, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering – recipient of the Junior Research Award; and Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research (Photo/Steve Cohn)


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Emilio Ferrara, Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science – recipient of the Junior Research Award; and Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Engineering+: Changing the Conversation about Engineering

“USC, with its more than 18 professional schools, from medicine to policy, from law to cinematic arts, and from business to social work, provide the canvas for Viterbi engineering to paint brilliant pictures of such interwoven futures, including bringing the data sciences and AI revolutions across the university,” said dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

An example of promoting interdisciplinarity is the course designed by USC Viterbi and dedicated to the Min Family Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, an initiative that allows students to use innovations in engineering and technology to develop sustainable and effective solutions to global problems. The Innovation in Engineering Design for Global Challengesclass, the first of its kind at any engineering school, aims to teach students the system-thinking and design-thinking approach to design and build products and services aimed at alleviating the suffering of the world’s 68.5 million refugees.

(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Petros Ioannou, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering – recipient of the Use-inspired Research Award; and Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research (Photo/Steve Cohn)


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Alan Willner, Professor of Electrical Engineering-Systems – recipient of the Senior Research Award; and Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research (Photo/Steve Cohn)

It has, indeed, been a fruitful year for USC Viterbi, highlighted by some of the most significant individual faculty accomplishments that signify this interdisciplinarity. Some of the featured awardees were:

Mahta Moghaddam and Berok Khoshnevis were elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the highest honor in the field of engineering. This brings to 11 the USC faculty elected to the NAE since 2008. Mahta is also the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society President-Elect, while she also won the EC Distinguished Achievement Award.

Ellis Meng and Michael Waterman were inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.

Mahdi Soltanolkotabi won a Sloan Research Fellow Award, an NSF Career Award, and a Packard Foundation Fellowship, the latter being the first awarded at USC Viterbi in the last 20 years.

John Slaughter was given the Presidential Medallion, USC’s highest award.

Vice Dean Maja Matarić  was appointed a USC Distinguished Professor.


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Steve Lau, Engineering Director at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems; John Carlsson, Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering – recipient of the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award; and Erik Johnson, Professor of Civil Engineering (Photo/Steve Cohn)


Shri Narayanan won the Research Associates Award.

Ousama Safadi won the Associates Award – Excellence in Teaching.

Kelly Sanders, Pierluigi Nuzzo, and Mahdi Soltanolkotabi won an NSF Career Award.

Maryam Shanechi won an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.

Eunji Chung received an NIH New Innovator Award.

Han Wang received an Army Research Office Young Investigator Award.


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Elisabeth Weiss, Associate Professor of Technical Communication Practice – recipient of the Dean’s Award for Innovation in Teaching and Education; and Erik Johnson, Professor of Civil Engineering (Photo/Steve Cohn)


Megan McCain received the BMES Young Innovators of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Award.

Mihailo Jovanovic, Hossein Hashemi, Mike Zyda, and Qifa Zhou were elected as IEEE Fellows.

Roger Ghanem was elected as a SIAM Fellow.

Amy Childress was elected as an Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors (ASEEP) Fellow.

Burcin Becerik-Gerber was one of 18 admitted to the Drexel University ELATES Program.

Yan Liu was among 20 selected as New Voices of National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.


Teresita “Tessie” Jamanila, Department Business Manager at Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – recipient of the Staff Award for Service (Photo/Steve Cohn)


Paul Debevec won the AMPAS Technical Achievement Award.

Andreas Molisch won the IEEE Communications Society Edwin Howard Armstrong Achievement Award.

Milind Tambe won the AAAI Robert S. Engelmore Memorial Lecture Award.

Gigi Ragusa won the ASEE Pacific Southwest Outstanding Teaching Award.

Paul Rosenbloom won the Cognitive Systems Foundation & Herbert Simon Society, Herbert A. Simon Prize for Advances in Cognitive Systems.

Azad Madni won the EC William B. Johnson International Inter-Professional Founders Award.


(L-R) Dean Yannis C. Yortsos; Varun Soni, Vice Provost for Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention and Dean of Religious Life; Patrick Prince, Associate Vice Provost for Threat Assessment and Intervention. Both recipients of the Special Recognition Award (Photo/Steve Cohn)


Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and Leana Golubchik, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering-Systems – recipient of the John O’Brien Faculty Award for Service (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Many of Viterbi’s faculty and staff won distinctions at the OCEC awards this year, including Dan Erwin, Azad Madni, Mahta Moghaddam, Mark Redekopp, Katie Mills, Shanghua Teng and Lucio Soibelman.

“It is because of this phenomenal talent, that USC Viterbi has been recognized as among the top engineering schools in the nation,” Yortsos said. “We are changing the conversation about engineering: who we are, what we do, and what we look like!”

Published on May 2nd, 2019

Last updated on May 23rd, 2022

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