Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (2006-2016): The Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering

Ten years ago, Ming Hsieh, B.S. EE ’83, M.S. EE ’84, gave back to his alma mater in the form of a $35 million gift to the electrical engineering department. The donation was the largest ever given to name an engineering department in the country. In the decade since, the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering has continued to develop into a leading institution in the field. Here is a sampling of some of the department’s biggest achievements over the past decade.

Body Engineering Los Angeles brings USC grad students into Middle School Classrooms
In 2012 professor Krishna Nayak, along with colleagues Maja Mataric, Gisele Ragusa, and Andrea Hodge won a $1.3 million grant to put engineering graduate fellows into the classroom with L.A. middle schoolers. The program helps to train graduate fellows with the communication and cultural skills to become future STEM leaders, while developing an interest in STEM among young students at a critical age.

Young guns recognized as top innovators under the age of 35
Michelle Povinelli, Maryam Shanechi and Bhaskar Krishnamachari have all been selected to the MIT Technology Review’s top innovators under the age of 35 (TR35). An elite group of researchers, TR35 members exemplify the spirit of innovation in work that is changing our world.

Giga-advances in nanotech researcH
The department has become a leader in nanotech research thanks to the hard work of Chongwu Zhou, Stephen Cronin, Han Wang and Rehan Kapadia. This field is impacting energy efficiency, communications, biological systems and more.

Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab (SAIL) wins an unprecedented fourth consecutive INTERSPEECH ComParE Award
INTERSPEECH is the world’s largest interdisciplinary conference on the science of speech and language. Led by Shri Narayanan, Andrew J. Viterbi Professor of Engineering, SAIL conducts research in human-centered information processing. 2014 marked the team’s fourth win in as many years. Recently, Narayanan and his team have focused on how engineering can play a role in addressing mental health and autism.

Alan Willner’s twisted waves of wonder
In 2014, building on his groundbreaking work with twisted light beams, Professor Alan Willner and his team applied a similar technique to radio waves with the goal of improving data speed. The result? The ability to send data across these radio waves at the breakneck speed of 32 gigabytes per second. That’s 10 hour-and-a-half-long HD-quality movies per second! This year, Willner became the 10th USC Viterbi faculty member to join the National Academy of Engineering since 2008.

Mahta Moghaddam leads NASA’s SoilSCAPE to help tackle California’s drought
Understanding drought is more than just compiling data on rainfall. In 2012, Professor Mahta Moghaddam was chosen by NASA to lead a team of researchers from USC, MIT and the University of Michigan in designing a smart-sensor web, called SoilSCAPE, to understand how moisture is stored and distributed in the Earth’s soils. With climate change already impacting our world, information like this helps humanity prepare and plan for these unprecedented challenges.

Operational Quantum Computing Center established at USC
In 2011, USC and Lockheed Martin joined forces to study cutting-edge quantum computing technology. The center houses D-Wave’s revolutionary quantum computer, the largest functional quantum information processor ever built. The Quantum Computing Center was upgraded to the world’s most advanced commercially available quantum optimization processor in January. Want to know how many superconducting flux qubits the D-Wave processor has? Of course you do.

Maryam Shanechi wins $11.25 million DoD grant to study brain-machine interface
Maryam Shanechi’s MURI grant in 2016 to lead an international super-team of engineers, computer scientists and neuroscientists will help bring about the next generation in human-machine interfaces. Shanechi’s work will focus on enhancing decision making through these interfaces — meaning that soon, finally, the technology will exist to help you decide which one of your children is your favorite.

Department of Energy Frontier Research Center
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy designated USC as the site of a new Energy Frontier Research Center. With this five-year, $12.5 million grant, the Center for Emerging Materials for Solar Energy Conversion and Solid State Lighting has greatly enhanced our understanding of alternative energy. Led by Professor Daniel Dapkus, the center is a shining example of how the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering has grown into one of the most influential engineering institutions in the country.

Sol Golomb receives the National Medal of Science
In 2013, Sol Golomb received the National Medal of Science, the highest award in the U.S. for scientific innovation, from President Obama. Cited for his work in mathematics and communications, Golomb joined Andrew J. Viterbi, the school’s namesake and fellow electrical engineer, as the only representatives from USC to win the award. Sadly, Golomb passed away earlier this year after 53 years in USC’s electrical engineering department. He chose USC, he once said, because “I believed that at USC I had a chance to make a difference and to help it achieve its potential. And I stayed because there has been steady progress on this path — in fact, more than I could have imagined 50 years ago.” True words, indeed.