Two New Department Chairs Assume Leadership

Jean-Daniel Saphores (left) is the new chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Lee Swindlehurst heads the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

July 11, 2022 - Two Samueli School departments have new leaders this month. Jean-Daniel Saphores has become chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Lee Swindlehurst heads the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Their appointments began July 1, 2022, and in each case, the chair is responsible for managing the department’s teaching, research and outreach efforts.

Saphores is replacing outgoing department chair Sunny Jiang, professor, who served for five years. Saphores looks forward to the new role and says he intends to collaborate with students, postdocs, faculty, staff and the CEE affiliates to continue the department’s trajectory of excellence grounded in diversity, equity and inclusion and the need to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. As a first-generation college student himself (his parents did not complete high school), Saphores is especially attuned to the importance of higher education as an engine of upward social mobility.

“I want to continue our previous chair’s efforts to diversify and grow the department,” he said. “We need to help students from a broad range of backgrounds, especially Californians who are first-generation college students or historically underrepresented minorities obtain an excellent engineering education. There has never been a better time to work as a civil engineer and make key contributions to society.”

Saphores and his students have conducted research on a broad range of topics, including the management of electronic waste; the nexus between air pollution, transportation and health; carlessness; the electrification of transportation; housing and commuting; and the impact of online shopping on travel behavior and the environment.

Saphores earned an undergraduate degree in civil engineering with a specialization in applied mathematics from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, France, which is the oldest engineering school in Europe. He came to the U.S. to work for geotechnical and environmental engineering firm Woodward Clyde Consultants (WCC) in Denver, where he contributed to a variety of environmental and transportation engineering projects. Saphores has a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of Colorado in Boulder; and a master’s degree in environmental systems engineering, a master’s degree in economics and a doctorate in environmental and natural resource economics from Cornell University. He has participated in World Bank projects and serves on various standing committees of the Transportation Research Board, which is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Swindlehurst succeeds Athina Markopoulou, UCI Chancellor’s Fellow, who is stepping down as chair to become the school’s associate dean of graduate and professional studies.

Swindlehurst joined the UCI engineering faculty in 2007 and served as associate department chair before becoming the school’s associate dean for research and graduate studies in 2013. His research focuses on multisensor signal processing, with particular emphasis on MIMO wireless communications, sensor networks, localization and tracking in radar systems, and biomedical signal analysis. A fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and active in IEEE Signal Processing Society affairs, he is the recipient of numerous teaching, research and best paper awards, most recently winning a 2021 IEEE Signal Processing Society’s Best Paper Award.

Swindlehurst earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Brigham Young University, and his doctorate from Stanford University. He worked as an electrical engineer in the defense industry, then joined the faculty at BYU in 1990, eventually serving as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 2003-2006. He then took leave from BYU to serve as vice president of research for ArrayComm LLC in San Jose, where he managed a staff of 17 engineers working on advanced techniques for MIMO wireless communications.

“I am looking forward to working with Dean Magnus Egerstedt and all of our EECS faculty to maintain the momentum that Athina and her predecessors have established for the department,” said Swindlehurst. “I feel like there will be a lot of reflected glory coming my way!” 

– Lori Brandt