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UCLA Samueli Announces 2020-21 New Faculty

Oct 26, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering is proud to welcome new faculty members to its growing roster of nearly 200 full-time faculty. As the school continues its expansion,  these top-notch specialists in their respective fields will enhance UCLA’s mission of teaching, research and service. This page, originally posted in October 2020, was updated in May 2021 to include Enrique López Droguett. A short profile of each faculty is listed below. Click on a text box to expand the entry.

Omid Abari
, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Omid Abari
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Abari specializes in networked systems, with applications to the internet of things (IoT). His research group, Intelligent Sensing and Connectivity (ICON), develops software-hardware systems that deliver ubiquitous sensing, efficient computing and wireless communication at scale. His research team has solved open problems in networking by developing innovative software-hardware systems for a broad range of applications, from smart greenhouses and smart cities to virtual reality and driverless cars.

Abari received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining UCLA, he was an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, Canada. His research has been featured in popular news venues such as Wired, Engadget, TechCrunch, New Scientist, ACM TechNews and IEEE Spectrum. Abari has won multiple awards, including the Boston Smart City award, Merrill Lynch Fellowship, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship and ACM Student Research Competition (SRC) grand finals.

Bahman Gharesifard, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Bahman Gharesifard
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Gharesifard specializes in systems and control, with intersections in optimization theory, network sciences and mathematics. His current research focuses on distributed control and optimization, particularly in situations where individuals have limited information about the overall system. This line of research has important applications for machine learning and optimization, social and economic networks, and algorithm design.

Gharesifard received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada and held postdoctoral research positions at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and UC San Diego. He was an Alexander von Humboldt research fellow at the University of Stuttgart in 2019-2020. He has received an early career award, jointly granted by the Canadian Applied & Industrial Math Society and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences. Currently, Gharesifard is an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Queen’s University. He will join UCLA Samueli in July 2021.

Aditya Grover, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Aditya Grover
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Grover devotes his research to developing artificial agents that can effectively reason under uncertainty in the real world. His focus includes machine-learning algorithms for probabilistic and causal inference, representation learning in high dimensions and decision making under uncertainty. He has also grounded some of his research findings to address major interdisciplinary challenges in science and sustainability.

Grover is currently a research scientist in the core ML team at Facebook AI Research. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University in 2020, where he was recognized with an inaugural Data Science Scholarship and a Centennial Teaching Award. He has received other honors, including a Google-Simons Institute Research Fellowship at UC Berkeley, a Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship and a Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship. Grover will join UCLA Samueli in 2021.

Brett Lopez

Brett Lopez
Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Lopez focuses on developing the next generation of autonomous systems that can complete complex tasks in diverse and uncertain environments with an emphasis on safety. This includes research in developing control-theoretic approaches for robot perception, state estimation, planning and learning in real-world scenarios. Lopez's other interests include hybrid robot locomotion, advanced flight control of novel aerial robots, as well as spacecraft entry, descent and landing.

Lopez is a postdoctoral scholar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working in the Robotic Aerial Mobility Group. He is the aerial robotics technical lead for a team participating in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge. Lopez received his Ph.D. and S.M. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his B.S. in aerospace engineering at UCLA Samueli, where he was the top graduate in his major. He has also received the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Lopez will join UCLA Samueli in July 2021.

Enrique López Droguett

Enrique López Droguett
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

López Droguett focuses on optimization, Bayesian inference and artificial intelligence supported digital twins and prognostics and health management based on physics informed deep learning for reliability, risk and safety assessment of structural and mechanical systems. His most recent focus has been on quantum computing and quantum machine learning for developing solutions for risk and reliability quantification and energy efficiency of complex systems, particularly those involved in renewable energy production. He has led many major studies on these topics for a broad range of industries, including oil and gas, nuclear energy, defense, civil aviation, mining, renewable and hydro energy production and distribution networks. López Droguett has authored more than 250 papers in archival journals and conference proceedings and serves as the associate editor for both the Journal of Risk and Reliability, and the International Journal of Reliability and Safety. He also serves in the Board of Directors of the International Association for Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management (IAPSAM).

In addition to his position at the engineering school, he will also hold an appointment at UCLA’s B. John Garrick Institute for the Risk Sciences. López Droguett will join UCLA Samueli in July 2021, following nearly six years at the University of Chile, where he was a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Previously, López Droguett was a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Maryland, where he received his Ph.D. in reliability engineering.

Jiaqi Ma, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Jiaqi Ma
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ma utilizes artificial intelligence, control theory, optimization, robotics and machine learning to develop vehicle and transportation systems for smart cities. He has worked on vehicle-highway automation, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), connected vehicles, shared mobility, and large-scale smart system modeling and simulation. Knowledge gained from Ma’s research is important for helping build the transportation and logistics networks and systems to control various aspects of smart cities in the future.

Ma received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in transportation engineering. Prior to UCLA, he was an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Among the many awards he has received are the Leidos Technical Fellows Community Publication Award in 2017, and a Transportation and Air Quality (ADC20) Committee Best Paper in 2018.

Baharan Mirzasoleiman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Baharan Mirzasoleiman
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Mirzasoleiman specializes in developing new methods that enable efficient machine learning from massive datasets. This includes utilizing the underlying data structure and the intricate, higher-order interactions between data points to efficiently and robustly learn from datasets that are too large to be dealt with by traditional approaches. This has broad applications in the medical and health care fields, web and social services, internet of things (IoT) technologies, financial services, recommender systems, urban planning and robotics.

Mirzasoleiman received her Ph.D. in computer science from ETH Zurich. Prior to joining UCLA, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Her many honors include the Rising Star in EECS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation at ETH Zurich and the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship.

Sriram Narasimhan, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Sriram Narasimhan
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Narasimhan’s research expertise spans the areas of structural dynamics, system identification, and condition assessment of structural and mechanical systems. His recent work involves the development and use of autonomous robots and artificial intelligence (AI) to gain a better understanding of the state of infrastructure. He has authored more than 100 journal and conference papers, and serves as an associate editor for both the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering and the ASCE Journal of Bridge Engineering.

Narasimhan will join UCLA Samueli in March 2021, following nearly 15 years at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he has most recently been a professor of civil and environmental engineering, with a cross appointment in mechanical and mechatronics engineering. He also holds the prestigious position of Canada Research Chair in Smart Infrastructure. Narasimhan is a recipient of the 2018 ASCE Associate Editor award and received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Rice University.

Nanyun (Violet) Peng, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Nanyun (Violet) Peng
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Peng specializes in natural language processing, which allows computers to understand the different languages people speak, and thus communicate with human naturally and seamlessly. Her research focuses on natural language generation and low-resource information extraction. She is developing algorithms to quickly analyze massive amounts of corpora written in natural languages, such as news or scientific literature, to obtain knowledge that would have taken a human expert years to read. Her research also helps computers efficiently communicate that knowledge with humans.

Peng received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in computer science, where she received the Fred Jelinek Fellowship in 2016. Before joining UCLA, she worked at USC as a research assistant professor in computer science and as a research lead at the school’s Information Sciences Institute.

Nader Sehatbakhsh, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nader Sehatbakhsh
Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Sehatbakhsh excels in security and privacy, with an emphasis on computer architecture and hardware. His research also focuses on physical and digital side-channels, embedded systems and cyber-physical systems security, and secure remote computing. Through his research, Sehatbakhsh hopes to protect devices such as smart home equipment from attack by malicious hackers.

Sehatbakhsh received his Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in computer science. He has received many honors, including a best paper award at the 2016 IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture.

Yinmin (Morris) Wang, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Yinmin (Morris) Wang
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Wang excels in synthesis of nanostructured materials, device fabrication, and understanding the underlying mechanisms controlling their mechanical and electrical properties. His research focuses on mechanical behavior of nanostructured metals, additive manufacturing, and lithium ion batteries. Findings from his research will help create materials and structures with properties that conventional manufacturing cannot create.

Wang received his Ph.D. in materials science from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to UCLA, Wang was the deputy group leader for nanoscale integration science at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Materials Science Division. In addition to being a fellow of the American Physical Society, Wang has received many awards, including several LLNL Director’s S&T Awards, Nano 50 Innovator Awards and a Harold Graboske Fellowship.

Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering

Wilson specializes in refining and developing computational network models for more efficient drug design through better identification of potential druggable targets based on their protein network effects. Her recent focus has been on utilizing this approach to prioritize novel targets for immune, oncology and schizophrenia indications. She has also developed PathFX, a novel algorithm, which is currently in use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Wilson received her Ph.D. in biological engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She holds a postdoctoral appointment with SPARK, a program within the Chemical and Systems Biology Department at Stanford University. Prior to that, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the UC San Francisco-Stanford Center for Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. Wilson has received many honors, including the Sanofi iDEA Award, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and Koch Cancer Graduate Fellowship. She will join UCLA Samueli in July 2021.

Yang Zhang, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Yang Zhang
Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Zhang works to create smarter computer systems by enhancing their perceptual capabilities of environments and users. This includes sensing technologies on mobile devices and deployed sensors to support natural interactions, informatics, and context awareness, which have been essential for many mobile computing and internet-of-things (IoT) applications.

Zhang will receive his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. Among the honors he has received are a Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship and two best paper awards at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Following a postdoctoral appointment at Apple, he will join UCLA Samueli in July 2021 and will direct the Human-Centered Computing & Intelligent Sensing Laboratory.

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