The USC Viterbi Initiative

Honoring Exceptional Faculty

A top priority for USC is to increase the number of exceptional faculty and to ensure that current stellar faculty thrive in their teaching, research and creative work.

Visit the USC Viterbi Initiative page for more information.

Like the catalyst in a chain reaction, USC faculty set off a cascade of effects: the more accomplished they are, the better the Ph.D., graduate and undergraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty they attract to the university; the more creative their collaborations; the more external funding they receive; and the more consequential their research.

“Having endowed chairs and professorships plays an integral part in attracting and supporting outstanding and diverse faculty who have a commitment to excellence in research and teaching,” said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “They create the foundation for USC Viterbi as it strives to cultivate a rich culture of discovery, creativity and entrepreneurship in the classroom, the laboratory and beyond.”

Earlier this year, USC Viterbi celebrated the significance of endowed chairs and professorships with three new appointments.

Shrikanth (Shri) Narayanan was named the inaugural holder of the Niki and Max Nikias Chair in Engineering, an endowment given anonymously in honor of USC’s president and first lady. Narayanan’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab works on a variety of interdisciplinary projects aimed at improving society and the human condition, from identifying gender bias in media, to helping therapists better evaluate patients, to improving autism diagnoses in children.

As holder of the Dr. Teh Fu Yen Early Career Chair, Kelly Sanders aims through her research to ease tensions between human and natural systems through technical, regulatory and market intervention. She has a particular emphasis on reducing the environmental impacts of providing energy and water services. Dr. Shiao-Ping Yen created this endowed chair in honor and memory of her husband, a professor of environmental engineering at USC Viterbi for many years.

S.K. Gupta, a trailblazing technologist in robotics and a specialist in advanced manufacturing, was installed as the Smith International Chair, established at USC in 1976. Smith International was a Fortune 500 company in oil and gas equipment that was acquired by Schlumberger in 2010.

“The academic environment created by these outstanding faculty both equips and challenges students and faculty to push the frontiers of knowledge and pursue research that makes the world a better place,” Dean Yortsos said. “We are grateful to all our donors who have created endowed chairs at USC Viterbi.”

Added Professor Narayanan: “It is an immense honor to have a named faculty position. To have held the inaugural Viterbi Professorship and now the inaugural Niki and Max Nikias Chair in Engineering is so meaningful to me. Professionally, it represents some of the giants in my own field; personally, they are named in honor of great humans who have done so much for USC.”