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Kumar named interim dean of CIT

Newly-named interim Dean of the College of Engineering Vijayakumar Bhagavatula has been at Carnegie Mellon for over 30 years. Over the course of his career, he’s taught 10 courses, graduated almost 40 Ph.D. students, and been involved with the university as a student, faculty member, and administrator. (credit: Courtesy of Vijayakumar Bhagavatula) Newly-named interim Dean of the College of Engineering Vijayakumar Bhagavatula has been at Carnegie Mellon for over 30 years. Over the course of his career, he’s taught 10 courses, graduated almost 40 Ph.D. students, and been involved with the university as a student, faculty member, and administrator. (credit: Courtesy of Vijayakumar Bhagavatula)

Electrical and computer engineering professor Vijayakumar Bhagavatula has been named the interim dean of the College of Engineering. Kumar, who is also the associate dean of Faculty and Graduate Affairs, is taking over from former Dean Pradeep Khosla. Khosla left Carnegie Mellon in August to take a position as chancellor of the University of California in San Diego.

“That came about relatively quickly and somewhat unexpectedly,” said University Provost Mark Kamlet, who appointed Kumar on behalf of himself and University President Jared Cohon. “Kumar is aware of that timetable, and is graciously willing to stay as interim dean until a new dean is appointed.”

Kumar came to Carnegie Mellon as a Ph.D. student in 1977, and joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty in 1982. During his 30 years as a faculty member, Kumar has taught many courses, but he said that his favorite was Signals and Systems.

“It involves challenging mathematics,” Kumar said. “It uses a lot of complex numbers, complex variables, and these are not always the most appealing things to students, so the challenge is to make the subject interesting and providing information on why we need to know this stuff. It’s challenging, but if you do it well, at the end of the semester, you can see students go on to more advanced courses in this area, and that’s always satisfying to see.”

Between his work as interim dean and his ongoing research responsibilities, Kumar is a busy man. “I still have 10 Ph.D. students that work with me. I still have a very thriving research program in signal processing.... I intend to maintain that research productivity,” he said.

Andres Rodriguez-Perez, one of Kumar’s Ph.D. students, said that he is privileged to have him as an adviser.

“Rumor has it that he is the best adviser in the department,” Rodriguez-Perez said. “He makes every student feel important, and he is very committed to their research projects. He makes, I think, all of us feel as though we’re his only student.”

Rodriguez-Perez said that Kumar is always available to see his students, despite his busy schedule. “He seems to have an open-door policy, where whenever we had a question outside of our regular meeting time, we can just go and ask him. I imagine that might change a little now that he’s the dean, but we will see.”

Kamlet said that Kumar is a strong choice for interim dean. “He’s a very straightforward person, very easy to get along with. Very sharp, very smart. Somebody who I think all the parts of the engineering school will feel very comfortable with. He’s hardworking, very efficient, and a very nice guy. He’s a real gentleman.”

According to Kamlet, the search for a permanent replacement for former Dean Khosla will soon be underway. A search committee headed by civil and environmental engineering professor Jacobo Bielak will research candidates for the position.

“That committee will be in position to hit the ground running as soon as fall semester starts,” Kamlet said. “Those search committees do their thing, and then they bring to the president and myself their recommendations, and we take it from there. That process will take several months.”

In the meantime, Kumar will take on one more role for the university he says he loves.

“I’ve taught 10 different courses and graduated close to 40 Ph.D. students,” Kumar said. “I’ve been on the faculty for 30 years. I’ve been involved in teaching, research, and administration, and enjoyed all of them. It’s been a very supportive place for me personally.”