5 questions with the dean of engineering

Born and raised in Greece, John L. Volakis arrived in the United States as a teenager knowing only a few words of English. Today, he is dean of the College of Engineering and Computing and internationally recognized for introducing hybrid finite element methods, now widely used in the design of antennas and smart devices. Volakis earned his bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from The Ohio State University, where he most recently served as the Chope Chair Professor in engineering. Previously, he was a professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for 19 years. He arrived at FIU in 2017.

What are the college’s strengths and how do you plan to capitalize on them?

With nearly 6,000 students, including 1,000 graduate students, we are one of the largest engineering and computing colleges in the nation. We have expertise in most technologies and offer degrees in most engineering and computing areas of specialization. Our faculty are research-oriented and leaders in their fields. Coupled with our diverse student body, we are well positioned to support the aspirations of top students and leading faculty. We are building on all of this to attain standing across a variety of metrics and make our college and university great.

What are your priorities for the College of Engineering and Computing?
I am committed to a dynamic environment in which students have every opportunity to pursue their dreams. In this rapidly changing technological period, we are pushing innovations in education, and research that is interdisciplinary and leads to entrepreneurial endeavors. Above all, we are committed to strong community engagement and in finnding better ways to stay industry-relevant. With this in mind, we have launched new degrees, such as the bachelor’s in the Internet of Things, and we are expanding our online programs. We are also boosting our research enterprise by starting new centers with greater industry participation and by hiring faculty that have a record of proven success.

What goals have you established?
Our immediate goal is to support the university-wide effort to attain preeminent status within the State University System of Florida. Concurrently, we are growing our reputation and improving our national rankings by focusing on strengths in cybersecurity, infrastructure and resilience, sensors and sensing, biomedical technologies and wireless communications, among other areas. And we are pursuing initiatives to expand our facilities for teaching and research.

You’re still new here. What stands out to you about FIU?
This is truly an international university, and therefore a great platform for educating future world leaders. I wish I were a student today at FIU to experience the diversity of thought and cultures, and to engage in projects bound to make our lives better, healthier and more productive via automation, 3D printing, nanomanufacturing, and software innovations, to name a few.

What are you enjoying in South Florida?
I grew up on a Mediterranean island in the Aegean Sea. Miami has comparable weather, and the people are friendly and expressive. I feel quite at home.