MHI Ph.D. Scholars

By: Danielle Hamra
MHI Ph.D. Scholars……Past and Present

Each year a group of Ph.D. students from the electrical engineering department are selected as Ming Hsieh Institute Ph.D. Scholars. These students are chosen by a faculty committee on the basis of their research accomplishments and desire for an academic career beyond the Ph.D. The MHI Ph.D. Scholars are considered the top students in the department and prove to be leaders.

To help scholars in their career development, each of them receives:

  • a cash award
  • mentor-ship and recommendations from department faculty (eg. one-on-one faculty lunch meetings)
  • research presentation critiquing and filming – view scholar research videos
  • funding for travel to give talks at other institutions where they can develop collaborations, increase visibility and receive feedback on their work
  • funding to develop and organize a workshop/project to encourage student collaboration, initiate innovative ideas and demonstrate remarkable research


The current 2012-13 scholars used their project funding to create the Ph.D. Student Seminar Series to improve and foster a tight-knit community among electrical engineering students. The ultimate goal for the seminar series is to establish new student-level collaborations among different research groups in the department. Students benefit by giving talks to a broad audience which train them for job interviews, qualifying exams and other research talks.

Since the seminar series began, eight students and visiting speaker Martin Lavery, Glasgow University, UK gave presentations. There was also a seminar on Proposal Writing, where Professors Krishna Nayak and Steve Cronin described the process of writing proposals to federal agencies such as NSF and NIH and how panels review them. Kartik Audhkhasi filmed several of the student presentations, which will be showcased on the MHI website in the near future.

2012-13 Scholars (left – right): Moh Amer, Kartik Audhkhasi, Daphney-Stavroula Zois, Hao Huang and Osonde Osoba

The current scholars are doing an excellent job of continuing student engagement, one of the goals that the 2011-12 scholars developed. The 2011-12 scholars enhanced student collaboration by organizing the first ever students-only social with over 100 Ph.D. students in attendance, and by supporting registration fees for EE students and postdocs to attend NSF Day at USC, which gave attendees the opportunity to network with program managers and build connections. Among the 2011-12 scholars, Bardia Zandian and Srinivas Yerramalli are now Senior Engineers at Qualcomm and Matthew Black is an Actuarial Analyst at Farmers Insurance Group. Chenxi Lin plans to stay at USC for another semester with plans to pursue a postdoc position and Sunil Kumar is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Electrical Engineering at USC.

2011-12 Scholars (left – right): Matthew Black, Bardia Zandian, Sunil Kumar, Srinivas Yerramalli and Chenxi Lin

In addition to continuing student engagement, the current scholars are also focusing on connections with past scholars. To begin collaboration, the scholars invited Chuan Wang, one of the first MHI Ph.D. Scholars who is now a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Berkley, to give a talk at an upcoming seminar on April 23, 2013. “Considering Chuan has been among the first generation of MHI scholars here at USC, I am excited to invite him to give a talk regarding his recent research and career accomplishments” says current MHI scholar Moh Amer.

Selected in 2010, the first generation of scholars successfully organized the First Annual Department Research Festival and the Retreat. They created a great foundation and showcased exceptional leadership skills. We are excited for Chuan Wang’s visit to USC to collaborate with current students and scholars. Some of the other 2010-11 scholars who are pursuing academic careers include Firooz Aflatouni, Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech; Samir Sharma, Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Wisconsin and Prasanta Kumar Ghosh, INSPIRE faculty fellow at Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

2010-11 Scholars at the 1st Annual Research Festival (left – right): Samir Sharma, Omer Faruk Yilmaz and Chuan Wang with MHI Director Shri Narayanan

The Ming Hsieh Institute is excited to have connections with three generations of leaders and showcase their accomplishments.