New engineering college dean moves to CSUN from Sac State

Liana Aghajanian

With stacked cardboard moving boxes still sitting in his office, Dr. S.K. Ramesh, the new Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, has had a busy first few weeks. It is immediately evident that Ramesh, who comes to CSUN from California State University Sacramento, where he spent 12 years as chair of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering department, is definitely a people person.

“I love working with people,” he said. “Teaching gives you a high that you can’t experience with any other profession.”

He speaks fondly of the students he’s advised and mentored over the years. He said he appreciates the student-centered campus that CSUN, much like CSUS, has to offer.

“Everybody here cares about one thing and one thing only – the students,” he said. Having finished his undergraduate degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the University of Madras in India, and his master’s and Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., Ramesh’s interest is in the area of fiber optic communications, a field which the biomedical industry utilizes on a large scale.

Among his goals for the college, Ramesh is preparing for an accreditation next fall by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, a recognized group that assesses programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology. Faculty development is another priority, Ramesh said.

“To build such high-quality programs requires a team effort in involving faculty, staff and industry,” he said. “In engineering and computer science, the pace of change is very rapid and faculty members need to maintain their professional currency through applied research and other activities to enhance pedagogy in order to be effective. This involves working closely with industry to bring those ‘cutting edge’ experiences back into the classroom to benefit students.”

Ramesh is also looking to establish a deeper connection between engineering students and professionals from the industry, and also between the communities around CSUN. “Given the nature of our programs (a blend of hands-on and theory), students who have the experience of working in industry are better positioned to excel when they graduate,” he said. “This can be accomplished through internships, co-ops and sponsored projects, and partnerships with industry.”

Addressing the problem of the lack of women in science and engineering, Ramesh acknowledged that the college needs more women in the program, adding that it helps to have good examples.

“I think it starts with (having) more role models and definitely more outreach,” he said.

Just last year, Loretto High School, an all-girls college preparatory school in Sacramento, approached the engineering department of CSUS to help with their robotics curriculum, Ramesh said. The school was organizing its first robotics competition, a nationwide contest for high school students.

“When they discovered that we offered the Fundamentals of Engineering course for college credit, they became very interested and (started) working with us to draft a memorandum of understanding and join the program,” he said.

In Spring 2006, 33 students participated in the class and did an outstanding job, Ramesh said. Their requirements included performing laboratory experiments on various areas in engineering such as robotics, mechanical engineering, optics and digital circuits at the CSUS campus.

At CSUN since the start of the semester, Ramesh said he loves the diverse population it has to offer.

“The campus is a wonderful place to meet people from various cultures,” he said, adding that he appreciates the fact that CSUN offers unique facilities that incorporate engineering qualities.

One of those facilities is the Brown Center, an extension for the Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled that opened in 2003 with four treatment-specific schools, which is the only comprehensive facility of its kind in the western United States.

The Brown Center has a movable floor pool, whose floor can be raised to deck level and lowered by seven feet, which allows staff to work more effectively with wheelchair clients, young children and infants. Because of its many engineering components, Ramesh said he believes the Brown Center is a great way for students to get involved in supporting projects that serve the community.

Another way students will be able to be involved in projects is the addition of a new fuel cell energy plant on campus, which is set for completion by December 2006. The plant, which will provide clean energy and aid in CSUN’s green power efforts, will give students in the College of Engineering and Computer Science many opportunities to gain hands-on experience with the latest in energy-efficient technology.

In addition to his new position as Dean, Ramesh is a candidate for director of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

“Ramesh is a wonderful person,” said Cici Mattiuzzi, director of the Career Services Office in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSUS. “He is committed to his working, his teaching and students and is one of the most involved faculty administrators I have ever worked with.”