New executive director to lead ISI
After a nationwide search, USC officials announced on April 30 that Prem Natarajan has been appointed as the new executive director of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI).
Natarajan, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering from Tufts University, currently serves as executive vice president of Raytheon BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass. He will begin his new position on July 1.
“The Information Sciences Institute is the jewel of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi. “Under the leadership of two visionary leaders — Keith Uncapher and Herb Schorr — it has grown into a powerhouse of scientific and technological research in the general area of information sciences. In the person of Dr. Natarajan, we look for the continuation and growth of the Uncapher and Schorr legacies and the development of a truly exciting new vision for the institute.”
During his 17 years with BBN, Natarajan rose through the technical, managerial and leadership ranks. He started as a member of the research staff at BBN, dedicating his first years to conducting government funded research in optical character recognition, speech recognition, video text recognition and topic classification.
In 2001, Natarajan was promoted to manager of speech engineering and senior scientist, and in 2004 he was named deputy manager of the speech and language processing department and lead scientist. In the latter role, he led the development of technical strategy, identifying new research areas and galvanizing the team behind a compelling vision.
In subsequent years, Natarajan was promoted to vice president, principal scientist and executive vice president – one of three at BBN. He holds several patents, including one for a method and apparatus for training an automated speech recognition-based system.
At ISI, Natarajan will succeed USC Viterbi Executive Vice Dean John O’Brien, who has served as acting director since September 2012. O’Brien will remain available to help Natarajan as needed in his new role.
“For more than 40 years, researchers at ISI have helped shape the future in computer science and information technology, spanning such diverse fields as computer networks, robotics, health informatics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, electronics and machine translation, to name just a few. It is a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to serve as the leader of this pioneering research institute and to succeed its visionary leaders Keith Uncapher and Herb Schorr,” Natarajan said. “I look forward to working closely with every single member of ISI faculty, staff and students, and with the [University Park Campus] faculty in advancing the mission of ISI, the Viterbi School and USC, and shaping an exciting new vision for the institute.”
ISI is one of the nation’s largest and most successful university-affiliated computer research institutes, attracting nearly $60 million from corporations and government agencies for basic and applied research.
At its Marina del Rey, Calif., and Arlington, Va., campuses, more than 350 engineers, research scientists, graduate students and staff explore research frontiers in intelligent systems, informatics, computational systems and advanced electronics.
ISI was on the ground floor of helping to conceive and create the Internet, developing communications protocols that remain in use today.
“The enabling power of engineering is transforming the world in unprecedented ways and with exponential speed,” Yortsos said. “We are committed for ISI to continue being the nerve-center of this evolution, to shape the important questions facing us and to solve the grand challenges of our times, utilizing the power of computer science and information technology.”