A Global Ceremony: the 2020 USC Viterbi Ph.D. Awards

| May 11, 2020

Accomplishments of USC Viterbi Ph.D. students were celebrated in this year’s virtual awards ceremony

Debarghya Sarkar, one of four finalists, was awarded the honor of Best Dissertation

Debarghya Sarkar, one of four finalists, was awarded the honor of Best Dissertation

On May 7, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering held an online ceremony to recognize and honor the work of a group of exceptional Ph.D. candidates. Students from each of USC Viterbi’s eight academic departments were honored for excellence in their dissertations, their research and their teaching. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony was conducted over Zoom.

USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos congratulated the accomplishments of the awardees, speaking of the importance of USC students and faculty, particularly in engineering, to come together and use their skills to make the world a better place.

“With the entire world undertaking an experiment of unprecedented extent and impact,” Yortsos said, “we also have an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and invent; to show our true character and values; and to work even more passionately in our mission to engineer a better world for all of humanity, a goal more urgent than ever before.”

Over 130 people attended the ceremony, including awardees and their family members and friends, along with USC Viterbi professors and faculty.

Debarghya Sarkar of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering took home the prize for best dissertation, the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research. The prize was established in 2015 by Ballhaus, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the USC Viterbi Board of Councilors, who had a renowned career in aerospace.

Several students noted how special it was to celebrate with their family members present during the ceremony, something that would not have been possible if the ceremony occurred in-person in Los Angeles. The virtual ceremony allowed people from all over the world to connect and celebrate the achievements of the talented and hard-working awardees.

Yamrot Amha, a Ph.D. candidate in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and finalist for the best dissertation award. Photo courtesy of Smith Research Group.

Pictures of the awardees can be found here.

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Best Dissertation Finalist
Xiufeng Yang

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
James Croughan

Best Research Assistant
Zhenghong Zhou
Joel Bahena

Department of Astronautical Engineering

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Jeffrey Asher

Best Research Assistant
Daniel Depew

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Jeffrey Tanedo

Best Research Assistant
Joycelyn Yip
Hydari Begum

Department of Computer Science

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Ritesh Ahuja

Best Research Assistant
Chen-Yu Wei
Thomas Groechel

Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Best Dissertation Winner: William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research
Debarghya Sarkar

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Akash Panda

Best Research Assistant
Qian Yu
Yongkui Tang (Eun Sok Kim)

Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Maximilian Zellner

Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science

Best Dissertation Finalist
Lu Wang

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Roya Ermagan

Best Research Assistant
James Joly

Sonny Astani Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Best Dissertation Finalist
Yamrot Amha

Jenny Wang Excellence in Teaching Award
Amirhosein Mousavi Nasabi Shams

Best Research Assistant
Ashrant Aryal

Viterbi Admission & Student Engagement

Viterbi Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award
Thomas Groechel
Sahar Elyahoodayan
Sean Burkitt

Outstanding Mentor Award
Zakiyyah Brown

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