EECS Chair Promoted

Former Associate Department Chair for Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Dr. A. Lee Swindlehurst was announced as the new associate dean for research and graduate studies of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.

Kimberly Van | Photography Intern

Kimberly Van | Photography Intern

Though graduate studies used to be the responsibility of Associate Dean for Student Affairs John LaRue, the position was expanded with the new appointment to cover graduate studies, making LaRue the associate dean for undergraduate student affairs. According to an engineering press release, this is the most cost-effective way to manage the large growth of the school’s graduate programs.

“I’m responsible for administration for all the graduate programs in the school. We have seven or eight programs in this school, graduate programs, in different degrees and different departments, so I make sure those programs are operating and running smoothly,”  Swindlehurst said.

His other graduate studies responsibilities include overseeing the process of recruiting new graduate students, managing how graduates are involved in research, setting the requirements for graduation, handling problems the graduate students have and helping set the direction for the programs.

Currently, there are over 900 graduate students in the school of engineering.

“My main job is to try and provide as much help as I can to faculty: to help identify programs they can submit proposals or help link them up to people within the university or outside the university that would support their research. I would be responsible for trying to find opportunities for them to work with industry,” continued Swindlehurst. “If we feel like there’s an area that we should be pursuing or focusing on, it would be my job to help identify that and get it started. I don’t want to get in the way of faculty. Most faculty set their own research agenda and I’m not here to change that. My job would be to help provide them with as many opportunities as I can, stay out of their way, and let them do the good things they normally do.”

He will be carrying on a few programs set up by his predecessor, Dr. William “Bill” Tang. One of these programs is a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. Tang set up this program with OCTANe and Calit2 to connect faculty at the school of engineering with local small businesses and small companies.

Swindehurst describes, “[We help] them write, prepare proposals that can be submitted for funding. So these are seed proposals that are used to help new companies get started or help small companies grow. The idea is to link these small companies with faculty here so that both benefit: the faculty gets research opportunities and the small companies get some intellectual property. Bill was instrumental in setting this SBIR program up.”

This program has been running for the last two years. Another project Swindlehurst hopes to carry on and expand upon is an international research and collaboration program. “[Bill] has initiated some collaborations with Dalian University of Technology and also another university in Korea, a new university in Korea with the initials UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology). So those are two examples of universities where he’s gone and begun to establish a formal cooperation where they’ll be sending some students here, we’ll be sending some students and faculty there.”

As the new associate dean of research and graduate studies, Swindlehurst hopes to collaborate with schools in countries like Europe.

With previous experience as the department chair of electrical engineering and computer sciences, he has experience with making difficult decisions. He explained, “You’re often put in a position where there are competing objectives, they’re both good objectives, and you’re forced to make a decision that could have a big impact. That’s the hardest part of the job, is trying to differentiate between good objectives. As being department chair, you do that all the time. You’re constantly dealing with resources you’re allocated to so how you allocate those resources is a big deal, because there’s not a lot of resources to allocate but those resources are critical to the faculty.”

Another major obstacle he anticipates is the broadness of his new position. “I have to understand issues that cross all of engineering, not just electrical engineering,” he said. “It’s a much bigger enterprise than being department chair.”

Though it has only been a couple of weeks, Swindlehurst already has a few goals set out for his time as an associate dean. These goals include obtaining National Science Foundation and Department of Defense research centers, increasing visibility and reputation of the school, recruiting more quality graduates and having better faculty collaboration in research, not just in UCI but globally.

He will continue teaching signal processing classes and conducting research into different applications for signal processing in wireless communications, biological application and radar.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know more of the faculty. I’ve only been here for six years and I don’t know as many of the engineering faculty as I should. One of the things I’m looking forward to in the position is widening my circle of contacts in this school, getting to know more students and faculty, and also working with Dean Washington. He’s really a very energetic, dynamic guy, and I think I’m going to learn a lot from him, so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to have that experience, and to do what I can to help this school move forward,” Swindlehurst commented.

“Twenty years ago, I think we were totally unknown, really, in Engineering. And we’ve really made big strides at the university to become better known and visible.”