Dr. Fariba Ariaei, Professor in Electrical Engineering-Systems
How did you get to your position at USC?
I did my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering-Systems. My specialty is in Control and Dynamical Systems. I studied celestial mechanics, under-actuated mechanical systems, sensor networks, and hyperbolic geometry before finally focusing on my Ph.D. thesis on analyzing (human) heart dynamics. Then, I continued my research during my postdoctoral fellowship in cardiology/electrophysiology at the Johns Hopkins University. After completing my fellowship, I started teaching courses in Physics, Controls and Information Theory at Pennsylvania State University before coming to USC.
What ideas in your field excite you and what do you currently work on?
I have always been fascinated by the elegance and complexity of the universe, dreaming of the day when traveling to outer space will be as ordinary as driving your car to work! Living in that dream, I started profoundly studying dynamical systems; that was when I realized the beauty and power of mathematics in modeling and analyzing complex/chaotic systems, with broad applications from space to the human body. I am truly amazed to see how research in science and engineering can change human lives and their futures. My current research is in analyzing the heart as a complex dynamical system with the focus on studying electrophysiology and ECG signal processing to detect and prevent arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
What are some challenges you face as a female engineer?
We, female engineers, are living in a male dominated world of engineering! I, as one, have had many challenges to reach my goals. One of the most highlighted challenges that I have been facing, and I think that is the same for many other female engineers, is to prove my proficiency and capabilities.
Female engineers are underestimated; they have to work very hard in their fields to earn the trust and respect of others compared to their male peers. I hope one day, engineers and scientists will be evaluated merely based on their knowledge rather than their gender.
What is one piece of advice you would give to other women in engineering?
Advancement of technology, especially robotics, will change the world in a few years. The next generation of engineers, scientists and educators will face a world very different from what we are living in! Imagine this new world, with robots replacing the laborers, automatic transportation, warehouses maintained and managed by robots, and medical science revolutionized by computer science. But the fact is, robots and software cannot make decisions; despite all of these advancements, we will need leaders and decision makers who are scientists and engineers with superior social skills to lead the world with their passion and knowledge.
My advice to the young female engineers is to believe in themselves and that they have all those abilities needed to lead the future world in the right direction. So, be passionate, be knowledgeable, be critical thinkers. Be the leaders!