The weather cleared in time to reveal a beautiful blue sky on the evening of May 5, when nearly 200 UC Irvine engineering and information and computer sciences (ICS) alumni, faculty and friends gathered at the Inn at Mission San Juan Capistrano to celebrate six alumni for the 2023 Hall of Fame.
Three people from each school were inducted this year. The alumni were selected for making a significant impact on their profession or bringing distinction to their alma mater. Sixty-one engineering alumni and 49 ICS alumni have now been named Hall of Famers since it was established in 2015 to coincide with UCI’s 50th anniversary.
The event began with a cocktail and networking reception on the Inn’s courtyard, followed by a buffet dinner, an enthusiastic welcome from ICS alumnus Tim Kashani ’86, who served as master of ceremony, and then presentations from both deans, Magnus Egerstedt, engineering, and Marios Papaefthymiou, ICS.
Egerstedt shared information on the Samueli School’s refreshed strategic plan, and how research shows that students who have cohort experiences do better in school, are more likely to finish their degree and have more fun. “This is where I need your help. We’re planning to build a kickass 21st century makerspace for our students to participate in these types of hands-on experiences, so if you’d like to contribute with a gift, we’d very much appreciate your support.”
Papaefthymiou also asked for support, sharing that the footprint of ICS has expanded over the past few years. “You would be hard pressed to not find an area of campus where ICS does not have a joint project, we have many on the sciences side of campus but also on the north side with social sciences, school of education and so forth. ICS has been growing.”
Both deans emphasized that the educational journey or student experience was a priority. “Our No. 1 product we are most proud of is you, our alumni,” noted Egerstedt, “which is why we are here tonight, to honor some amazing alumni.”
Egerstedt and Papaefthymiou each inducted their new Hall of Fame members.
Nenad Medvidović, Ph.D. 1999, M.S. 1995 – Information and Computer Science
Medvidović is a global leader in software engineering and chair of the USC Department of Computer Science. He served a five-year term as editor-in-chief of his field’s leading journal, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. He chaired the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Software Engineering and the steering committees for two premier conferences: the International Conference on Software Engineering and the Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering. Medvidović has been the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the Okawa Foundation Research Grant, the IBM Real-Time Innovation Award, the USC Mellon Mentoring Award, the OCEC Distinguished Engineering Merit Award, and the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Service Award. Medvidović is an ACM Distinguished Scientist and an IEEE Fellow.
Fritz Onion, M.S. 1993 – Computer Science
Onion is a Maine-based philanthropist and angel investor with a focus on the environment, green technology and the arts. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University, Onion came to UCI and studied parallelizing compiler technology with Distinguished Professor of Computer Science Alexandru Nicolau. He then pursued a career in software consulting and teaching with DevelopMentor, a startup co-founded by fellow alumnus Don Box ’91, (M.S.). In 2004, Onion co-founded the classroom-based technology training business Pluralsight, which by 2013, had transitioned into a high-growth online subscription-based company training software developers and IT professionals worldwide. The company went public in 2018, and was purchased and taken private again in 2021 by Vista Equity Partners. Onion and his wife, Susan, created the Onion Foundation as a grant-making organization that connects people in Maine with meaningful experiences in the arts and the natural environment. They then helped launch Pluralsight One as a philanthropic arm of the company with a mission of increasing access to technology skill development and promoting diversity in the technology workforce around the world.
Leysia Palen, Ph.D. 1998, M.S. 1995 – Information and Computer Science
Palen is a crisis informatics pioneer and the founding chair of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Information Science. She brings her training in human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-supported cooperative work and social computing to bear on understanding and advancing socio-technical issues of societal import. In the advancing arena of large-scale online interaction (the big data of crisis response), she adapts quantitative techniques that then allow the application of qualitative methods and an ethnographic eye to closely observe and describe social structures in technology-mediated situations. She was recognized for this work by the Association for Computing Machinery with the 2015 Computer Human Interaction Social Impact Award. In 2016, she was elected to the ACM CHI Academy, an honorary group of individuals who have made substantial contributions to the field of human-computer interaction.
Carlos F. M. Coimbra, Ph.D. 1998 – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Coimbra is a global expert on thermal engineering and chair of the UC San Diego Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Coimbra credits much of his career success to the graduate experience he had at UCI, where he was advised by Roger Rangel and mentored by the late Don Edwards. His research interests cover a wide range of topics related to energy and climate, planetary-scale heat transfer, solar forecasting, atmospheric radiation, multiphase flows and variable order methods. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which is published by the American Institute of Physics. He is also a life member of the American Geophysical Union and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Manu Gulati, M.S. 1995 – Electrical Engineering
After earning his master’s degree under the advisement of UCI Professor Nader Bagherzadeh, Gulati began his career as a chip designer at a small startup in Santa Clara. He went on to serve lead roles at Broadcom, Apple and Google before starting his own company. As lead SOC architect at Apple, he spent nearly eight years directing the architecture of chips that powered iPhones and iPads, making his work there the one with impact to the largest number of end-users. After Google, he and two of his Apple colleagues started Nuvia, a company focused on high performance CPUs and chips for datacenters in 2019. Nuvia exited with a sale to Qualcomm two years later for $1.6 billion. Since then, Gulati has been vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, where the focus of his team is to change the CPU landscape of the industry.
Wendy Robello, B.S. 2004 – Mechanical Engineering
Robello has over 18 years of systems engineering and strategy experience in the aerospace and defense industry, supporting systems across space, air, ground and underwater domains. She is currently national director of systems engineering for Northrop Grumman aeronautics systems, where she leads the long-term strategic planning in training, processes and tools to ensure systems engineering rigor across the sector. Prior to Northrop Grumman, she held program management and systems engineering positions at General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems, Inc.; Boeing Phantom Works; and Boeing Defense Systems. Robello is also an active mentor, participating in numerous diversity and inclusion support groups at Northrop Grumman, and she serves as an executive advocate for the LatinX/Hispanic Employee Advocacy Program. She is an executive board member for the Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit and founder of the Robello California Alliance for Minority Participation Scholarship. After earning her bachelor’s degree at UCI, Robello went on to complete a master’s degree in systems architecture and engineering from USC and a doctorate in systems engineering and engineering management from The George Washington University.
For highlights of the celebration, watch the video.
– Lori Brandt