New Engineering and Science Deans Bring Experience and Vision

Melbourne, Florida. — Dr. John G. Harris, a distinguished academic and proven leader who oversaw dramatic increases in faculty and research funding as president of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida, is the new Dean. .

Harris entered Florida Tech on July 1st.

He spent 29 years at Gainesville College, including his last 11 years as Dean, at UF, which has over 53,000 students. He arrived in the Sunshine State after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds a PhD in Computation and Neural His Systems from Caltech.

Caltech, which is smaller (about 2,400 total students) and offers a more focused education, is “most like” Florida Tech, Harris said.

“One of the things I learned from Caltech is the commitment they have to excellence. For me, what I want to bring to Florida Tech is excellence and influence,” he said. rice field. “I want Florida Tech to be the California Tech of the East.”

Universities already have what Harris calls “pockets of excellence.” He hopes to work with his Executive Vice President and Chancellor, Marco Carvalho, to realize a shared vision.

“He is a big reason I come to Florida Tech. increase. “That’s a big draw for me. Someone with a vision for the future.”

What does that vision look like? COES looks like a university with built-in advantages (small classes, highly regarded faculty, excellent career placement), but these now need to take the next step.It means the ranking moves up US News & World Report,One.

“There are questions about how rankings are done, but people are paying attention. Faculty, students when looking for PhD schools, undergraduates, people look at rankings anyway. Even the Lord considers rankings,” says Harris. “Rankings themselves are not important, but all these rankings are based on very important metrics.”

The department’s annual research spending soared more than 150% during Harris’ tenure as UF’s dean, reaching nearly $24 million. that’s 7th Largest expenditure of all electrical and computer engineering sectors in the United States

“Florida Tech is also ready to expand its research program,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to make an impact.”

Another of Harris’ priorities is to develop students who are more than good engineers and scientists. He believes they need to touch on topics and areas they might not normally explore, from data science to communications.

“Students need to be ready to go out into the real world to keep up with what’s going on in society, industry and research,” he said. “This is the fault of many schools, not putting enough emphasis on the new things that are happening: programming, data he science, algorithm-whatever the engineering discipline, they cannot be ignored.”

Additionally, Harris has seen how international students and many American students benefit from exposure to mock interviews and other soft skills. “This kind of activity was more helpful than taking a more technical course. It can have a greater impact on a student’s career.”

Florida Tech’s location in the burgeoning aerospace sector excites Harris. He did outreach to his alumni associations and corporate visits at his UF, but Gainesville isn’t as industrially thriving as his space coast.

“I’m really looking forward to making that difference at Florida Tech. Given all the companies around me, there’s all sorts of involvement in part-time education, internship programs, industry feedback, and collaboration around curricula and research. It could increase,” he said.

But first on Harris’ to-do list is listening.

“It takes a lot of listening in the beginning. My leadership style is to not make decisions without an opinion,” he said. “I spoke with as many faculty, staff, undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, and industry leaders as I could to find out what was holding us back at Florida Tech and what could be improved. I understand.”

Harris, 61, was born and raised in Holmdel, New Jersey, about an hour away from New York City. His father was a civil engineer, and young John was fond of math and science, so “engineering was a natural progression,” he said.

At MIT, Harris became interested in the brain and the nervous system, and how the brain inspired him to solve engineering problems. He knew people at Caltech, so Harris headed west after graduating with his MIT degree. He got his Ph.D. A program in computation and neural systems co-founded by Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Caltech faculty member Richard Feynman.

“Computational and neural systems are a combination of fields such as electrical engineering, computer science, and neuroscience,” says Harris.

From Caltech, Harris spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. In 1993, he came to the University of Florida as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Outside the classroom, Harris is the father of two adult children. His son graduated from the University of Florida this year majoring in classics, and “students need to go find their passions,” Harris said, before an offer to teach high school at Gainesville’s private Oak Hall School. accepted. His daughter is in her sophomore year at the University of Florida, where she majors in Computer Science. This summer she is interning at National Instruments in Austin, Texas. Harris moves to Melbourne with his fiancée Wendy Juan, a UF alum and experienced software developer.

Also, Harris is very good at chess. He holds his 1700 ranking from the United States Chess Federation (according to, players ranging from 1700 to 1900 “reach a level of proficiency that most chess players never reach. are there”).

He even has a chess tournament named after him, thanks to being 60 years Birthday gifts from over 50 former students last year. The Dr. John G. Harris Chess Championship is held through the Gator Chess Club (where Harris served as faculty advisor). In the first tournament, playing in the top division due to rankings, Harris fared well but lost to the eventual tournament winner.

New Engineering and Science Deans Bring Experience and Vision

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