Vijay Kumar Named Dean of Penn Engineering

Vijay Kumar has been named dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, effective July 1. The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price.

“Vijay’s superb academic judgment, compelling vision for the future of engineering and applied science, and proven track record as a leader and administrator make him the perfect choice to lead Penn Engineering,” Gutmann said. “Vijay is one of the most recognized figures in his field and has been instrumental in the development of extraordinary new technologies. That experience will be invaluable in leading the School through what we know will be dynamic years ahead.”

Kumar joined the Penn Engineering faculty in 1987 and currently serves as UPS Foundation Professor with appointments in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Computer and Information Science and Electrical and Systems Engineering. As deputy dean for education in 2008-12, he was instrumental in the creation of several innovative master’s degree programs. 

Earlier, he served in 2005-08 as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, in 2000-04 as deputy dean for research and in 1998-2004 as director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception, or GRASP, Laboratory, a multidisciplinary robotics and perception lab. During a scholarly leave in 2012-14, he served in the White House as assistant director for robotics and cyber physical systems in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“I am honored and excited to serve as the next dean of Penn Engineering,” Kumar said. “Technology will play a key role in addressing global challenges in the coming decade, from health care to security to sustainability and beyond. Penn Engineering, with a distinguished faculty and state-of-the-art facilities, is uniquely positioned to make the scientific advances required to develop these technologies and to train students to create innovative solutions to the problems confronting our society. I look forward to partnering with Penn Engineering’s incredible faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends to take our school to even greater heights.”

Kumar is recognized around the world for his groundbreaking work on the development of autonomous robots and on biologically inspired algorithms for collective behavior. The author of more than 400 refereed articles and papers and more than 20 books and book chapters, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, Penn’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the ASME Mechanisms and Robotics Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Distinguished Service Award and the Engelberger Robotics Award. He has mentored doctoral students who are themselves leaders in research and education. He is also an exemplar of Penn’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. He and his students have founded several companies using technologies and tools developed in his research programs.

“Vijay Kumar has the experience and vision – and the deep knowledge of Penn and Penn Engineering – that are critical to moving our engineering and applied science programs to a position of global preeminence,” Price said.

Kumar’s selection concludes a comprehensive search to find a successor to Eduardo Glandt, whose 17-year term as dean is a fitting capstone to a career at Penn that stretches back nearly four decades. 

Under Glandt’s leadership, the School of Engineering and Applied Science has grown in both size and stature, adding superb and diverse faculty and students with a commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship.  The School’s research and teaching facilities have been similarly expanded and upgraded with new modern buildings, including Levine Hall, Skirkanich Hall and most recently the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which The Wall Street Journal called one of the best new buildings in the nation in 2013.



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