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03/14/2013 10:01:43

USC and Caltech Announce International Scholarship Focused on Engineering Global Challenges

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are establishing Vest Scholarships at their institutions, along with six other universities around the country.

The announcement was made at the inaugural Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) in London. The new scholarship program, named after outgoing National Academy of Engineering (NAE) president Charles M. Vest, will foster international collaborations among graduate students whose studies are focused on tackling some of the world's biggest challenges. The scholarship has been endorsed by both the NAE and the U.K.'s Royal Academy of Engineering.

The participating universities are all conducting leading research toward addressing the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering, 14 "game-changing" goals with the potential to dramatically improve life in the 21st century, identified by a blue-ribbon committee of leading technological thinkers and doers. The challenges are also the inspiration for the GGCS.

"The NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering address global issues that transcend national boundaries," says Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. "They are timely, inspirational, and interdisciplinary. Their solutions are also within reach in this time of exponential technology gains. The Vest Scholarships will provide the glue that will enable the engagement of the international engineering and scientific communities in pursuits that will benefit all of humanity."

Both Southern California schools offer opportunities for students to research a number of the Global Grand Challenges. Caltech and the Viterbi School have extensive expertise and resources in the Grand Challenge of securing cyberspace, and each houses multiple groundbreaking projects focused on protecting digital assets. The Viterbi School also provides opportunities for Vest Scholars to conduct research in the areas of reverse-engineering the brain and enhancing virtual reality. At Caltech the scholars can also choose to investigate ways to make solar energy economical and to engineer the basic tools of scientific discovery. These basic engineering tools could, for instance, be used to design flexible and foldable space structures, to develop high-performance composite cathodes for solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) applications, or to demonstrate the effectiveness of a community seismic network for analyzing earthquakes as they occur.

"The Vest Scholarship is a superb opportunity for high-powered international graduate students to work with faculty and researchers who are international leaders in their engineering disciplines," says Ares Rosakis, chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science. "At Caltech, due to its small size and strong interdisciplinary philosophy, the students will have the opportunity to work closely with not only these international leaders in engineering research, but also with their collaborators in all areas of science and technology."

The NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering are already being incorporated into education at all levels—including an undergraduate Grand Challenges Scholars Program being implemented at several colleges and universities across the United States—and Vest has been an influential leader in raising the visibility of these goals.

In the first year, students from schools attending the Global Grand Challenges Summit will be eligible to apply for the scholarships. In later years, the program will be expanded to additional schools. Students who are chosen will receive an expense-paid year to pursue research opportunities related to the 14 NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering at one of those institutions.

Other participating schools are Duke University, Illinois Institute of Technology, MIT, North Carolina State University, Olin College, and the University of Washington.

Additional details about the Vest Scholarships can be found at


USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. Consistently ranked among the top graduate programs in the world, the school enrolls more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, taught by 177 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 60 endowed chairs and professorships.

Caltech Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Caltech's Division of Engineering & Applied Science (EAS) brings together professors, postdocs, and graduate students to work at the edge of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future. EAS researchers collaborate with colleagues in all the academic divisions at Caltech. Among its 76 faculty members, the EAS division has six National Medal of Science recipients, two National Medal of Technology recipients, 33 National Academy of Engineering members, 10 National Academy of Sciences members, and 17 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. EAS is also home to several Institute-wide research centers, including the Resnick Sustainability Institute, the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, the Keck Institute for Space Studies, the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and the Information Science and Technology initiative. Through its close association with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it also drives forward the fundamental sciences of space and earth exploration. Caltech has been ranked number one in the areas of engineering and technology by the Times Higher Education world university rankings for the past three years.


Megan Hazle, Media Relations Specialist, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Trity Pourbahrami, Director of Communications, Division of Engineering and Applied Science, California Institute of Technology