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Engineering: Max Nikias succeeds Len Silverman as dean

Photo by Irene Fertik

Chrysostomos L. “Max” Nikias, an electrical engineer and nationally recognized leader in multimedia and Internet technologies, will be the new dean of the USC School of Engineering. Nikias will replace Leonard Silverman who has been the longest serving dean in the school’s history.

“Max is the perfect choice to lead the school to the next level of excellence, building on Dean Silverman’s 17 years of accomplishments,” said USC Provost Lloyd Armstrong Jr. in announcing the appointment, effective July 1. “Max has sketched a powerful vision of excellence for the school, a vision filled with daunting challenges and exciting opportunities.”

Nikias, 48, has been the director of the school’s Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC) since it began in 1996. He led the USC School of Engineering’s successful effort to secure the center in an intense national competition conducted by the National Science Foundation that included 116 other proposals.

“Now I want to move USC into the top tier of elite engineering schools by raising individual departments,” Nikias said. “We can do this with cross- disciplinary research initiatives that will also provide a unique and rich educational experience for our students.”

Nikias has been a professor of electrical engineering systems at USC since 1991 and associate dean since 1992. While his research work has ranged from signal processing and biomedical engineering to digital communications and military radar and sonar, he is best known for his passionate commitment to multimedia and the IMSC.

Nikias said the new technologies that IMSC is developing would transform today’s two-dimensional computers, television and film into a three-dimensional Internet environment.

“We will interact with remarkably life-like avatars. We’ll touch and feel objects across the Internet,” he said. “’Immersipresence’ will touch the lives of everyone.”

Nikias previously held academic appointments at Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Connecticut in Storrs. A native of Cyprus, he graduated from the National Technical University of Athens in 1977 with a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“My Ph.D. and my wife’s MBA are actually signed by Steven B. Sample,” said Nikias. Sample, president of USC, was president of SUNY-Buffalo when Nikias received his doctoral degree in 1982. Sample and Nikias both came to USC in 1991.

Nikias, who holds eight patents, has published more than 100 academic articles, 180 conference papers and three textbooks. As a result of his research achievements in digital signal processing, he was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1991 when he was 38. Fewer than 2 percent of IEEE’s 350,000 members have been named fellow, and only 5 percent of those achieved that honor by age 38.

Nikias has received two best paper awards from prestigious professional societies, one in signal processing and one in military communications. He has also received an Outstanding Teacher Award from the National Technological University, a distance learning university.

“I couldn’t be more pleased by the appointment of Max Nikias as my successor,” said Silverman. “I have worked closely with Max since he arrived at USC and have no doubt that the school of engineering is in the best possible hands. It will rise to even greater heights under Max’s guidance.”

Silverman, who is a professor of electrical engineering systems, said he would begin a sabbatical when he officially relinquishes his deanship on June 30. Under Silverman, the USC School of Engineering rose to 11th in the latest U.S. News & World Report graduate rankings.

Ulrich Neumann, a faculty member in computer science and IMSC’s associate director for research in sensory interfaces, will be IMSC’s interim director when Nikias becomes dean on July 1.

Nikias said IMSC’s management team unanimously supported Neumann for the post. A national search for a permanent director will begin in July, and he anticipates both internal and external candidates to apply.

Nikias lives in Rancho Palos Verdes with his wife, Niki, and two daughters, Georgiana and Maria.

Engineering: Max Nikias succeeds Len Silverman as dean

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