A digital special section of | Subscribe

Petros Ioannou

Petros Ioannou

USC Professor of Electrical Engineering Systems | Director, Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies | Class of 1978

If he had to do it all over again, Petros Ioannou wouldn’t change a thing about his master’s and Ph.D. path — “despite the fact that (Champaign-Urbana) was a small place in the middle of corn fields with harsh weather I never experienced before.”

He didn’t get out much, so the lack of scenery (and warmth) weren’t deal breakers for the future southern Californian back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

As an electric engineering grad student, he stuck to a strict schedule — “close to a military one,” he says. “Office, gym, some time with friends — all timed and scheduled on a daily basis.”

The rest of the time, the future USC professor could usually be found in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, learning from some of the best engineering minds in academia.

“I was very lucky to have a dynamic and enthusiastic advisor, Professor Petar Kokotovic, and become part of the Coordinated Science Laboratory, where I took courses from top faculty — Joe Cruz, Bill Perkins, Vince Poor and others. The frequent seminar speakers, as well as the overall research environment, were continuous reminders of hard work and research excellence.

“It was the best place for me to reach my capabilities and what I was able to achieve then and later on in my career. Looking back, I was lucky to work with Professor Kokotovic as our views of hard work as a way to excel were identical.

“I always felt that he was working harder than me and that established trust and motivation. His enthusiasm and ability to see value in what I was working on and maintain a strong encouragement were crucial at times of disappointment. There were times he called me at 7 a.m. and I translated that as an indication that I was doing something important.

“Overall, the environment at CSL was ideal for research and cannot be easily found in most universities. I am very fortunate to be part of that.”