USC Viterbi investigators on the rise
By winning a host of prestigious national awards, junior faculty at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and its institutes continue to distinguish themselves.
In the first half of this year, seven USC Viterbi faculty and staff were recognized as accomplished Young Investigators by the four research agencies of the Department of Defense (DoD).
Each award acknowledges rising young stars in research from a national pool of junior faculty applicants, each within five years of receiving their doctorates or first academic appointments. The awards were accompanied by research grants totaling nearly $3 million.
“USC recruits outstanding junior faculty based on a demonstrated potential to produce research and scholarship that will shape their fields,” said USC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Garrett. “These awards from the Department of Defense speak to the significance and value of the work of our junior faculty at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, whose scholarship sets them apart from their peers across the country and advances technology that will create more peaceful and productive conditions around the world.”
“At USC Viterbi, our philosophy in recruiting junior faculty is to help them succeed to the best of their potential and become national leaders — to become better than us,” said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “This large number of DoD Young Investigator awards provides a resounding demonstration that our philosophy is working. Alongside other recent national distinctions from the National Science Foundation, Technology Review’s annual TR35 list and a plethora of others, we are very proud of our junior faculty.”
This spring, the Office of Naval Research recognized 26 winners of the Young Investigator program across the country. Three of these were members of the USC Viterbi faculty:
• Andrea Hodge, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, who will investigate the formation of new states of matter and interfaces at the nanoscale
• Rahul Jain, assistant professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, who will work to develop optimal decision-making algorithms for use in robotics and games
• Noah Malmstadt, assistant professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, who will study how the unusual conditions encountered in the deep sea environment can damage cell membranes and its health consequences on divers.
At the same time, from a pool of 220 applicants, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research recognized 48 young scientists and engineers. Two are affiliated with USC Viterbi:
• Morteza Dehghani, research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, who will examine the role of religiosity in moral cognition, specifically in the formation of sacred values, researching computational models of analyzing sacred rhetoric and its consequential emotions
• Greg Ver Steeg, computer scientist at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, was selected for his work on “Bell Inequalities for Complex Networks,” in which he will devise tests to unequivocally determine the underlying mechanisms at work in complex networks.
Also this spring, an Army Research Office’s Young Investigator Award was given to Fei Sha, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, whose research will focus on adapting intelligent systems to uncertain and unknown operating environments — work that is paramount to building intelligent agents that are fully autonomous.
In addition, two USC Viterbi faculty were recipients of Young Faculty Awards from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency:
• Andrea Hodge, for her work in new engineered materials, specifically highly nanotwinned ultrahigh-strength aluminum alloys
• Jongseung Yoon, assistant professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering, for his work demonstrating a feasible path to highly integrable vertical cavity surface emitting laser arrays.