Six Accomplished Alumni Inducted into Hall of Fame

Guests and honorees gather on the Captain’s Deck for a cocktail reception at the 2024  Hall of Fame celebration on board the legendary Queen Mary in the Port of Long Beach.

June 6, 2024 - Alumni, family, faculty and friends of UC Irvine’s schools of engineering, and information and computer sciences were all aboard the legendary Queen Mary in Long Beach for the ninth annual Alumni Hall of Fame Celebration on May 17, 2024.

Six alumni were inducted and honored for making a significant impact on their profession and bringing distinction to their alma mater. Guests and honorees gathered for a cocktail reception on the Captain’s Deck before making their way to the Queen’s Salon for a buffet dinner. ICS alumnus Tim Kashani ’86 was the master of ceremonies who welcomed everyone to the grand event. He asked previous Hall of Fame inductees to stand for a round of applause, and told the audience, “We are here to honor some incredible alumni tonight.”

Six UCI alumni were inducted into the Engineering and ICS Hall of Fame in May, from left: Rabi Narula, Tasha Higgins, Jean-Pierre Delplanque, Kevin Thompson, Douglas C. Schmidt and Darya Chudova.

ICS Dean Marios Papaefthymiou presented remarks that he’d prepared with the help of Chat GPT for fun and to showcase the possibilities of the popular artificial intelligence tool. He said the ICS school has come a long way and has a legacy of excellence.

“Focusing on the curiosity of science underlying the data and the foundational approach to data more so than the application – these are things I learned at UCI,” said ICS honoree Darya Chudova, ’02 M.S., ’07 Ph.D., who said she was humbled and appreciative of the recognition.

Engineering Dean Magnus Egerstedt reminded the room full of engineers and computer scientists that their fields are profoundly creative. “Our job is to imagine solutions to some of the hardest problems that exist on the planet. These are solutions that don’t exist yet.”

Engineering honoree Taha Higgins ’93, a principal engineer at Caltrans, was surrounded by family, colleagues and friends. She could barely contain her excitement: “Wow, I thought being Mace Marshall at last year’s commencement was the pinnacle, this is like winning an Oscar!”

Here are the 2024 Hall of Fame inductees.

ICS Inductees

Darya Chudova, Ph.D. 2007, M.S. 2002 – Computer Science

Darya Chudova is chief technology officer at Guardant Health, where she oversees technology strategy and operations. At the medical technology company, Chudova has served as the senior vice president and led the technical development of Shield, Guardant360 LDT and CDx products. Prior to this, Chudova developed tools for clinical diagnostics and interpretation of genomic expression and sequencing data in the context of molecular cytology at Veracyte, Inc., and noninvasive prenatal testing at Illumina, Inc.

Douglas C. Schmidt, Ph.D. 1994, M.S. 1989 – Computer Science

Douglas C. Schmidt is the director of Operational Test and Evaluation for the U.S. Department of Defense. He is on leave from Vanderbilt University where he is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Computer Science and from the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he is a visiting scientist and former chief technology officer. Schmidt’s research over the past four decades covers a range of software-related topics, including patterns, optimization techniques and quality assurance of middleware frameworks and model-driven engineering tools for cyberphysical systems and mobile cloud computing applications. His recent work focuses on prompt engineering patterns that enhance the accuracy and expressiveness of large language models and generative augmented intelligence platforms.

Kevin Thompson, M.S. 1988 – Computer Science

Kevin Thompson is a tech executive with several decades of experience in software development. He has a track record of building and managing innovative engineering teams that push impactful software with a strong emphasis on data and machine learning. He most recently served as vice president of engineering of Uber’s Marketplace team. Prior to that he was at Google for 12 years, the last six as vice president of engineering, scaling its enormous YouTube Ads business. Before Google, Thompson played key roles at a series of companies, including co-founding a VC-funded dotcom in 1999. During his graduate career, he worked as a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, where he published multiple papers in machine learning.

Engineering Inductees

Jean-Pierre Delplanque, M.S./Ph.D. 1993 – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Jean-Pierre Delplanque is vice provost and dean of graduate studies at UC Davis. A professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Delplanque’s research and educational activities focus on the modeling and numerical simulation of complex fluid and thermal processes such as rocket propulsion, respiratory flows and additive manufacturing. A first-generation college student, he has become a leader in graduate education and supports the development of inclusive, equitable learning environments for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars equipping them to spearhead discoveries with global impact.

Tasha Higgins, B.S. 1993 – Civil Engineering

Tasha Higgins has three decades of experience in traffic, transportation and construction projects, working in multiple industries including ports, aviation, rail and highways. At the Port of Long Beach, Higgins oversaw a $2.3 billion capital improvement program as director of the Program Management Division, and at Los Angeles County Metro she administered the $20 billion Measure R Highway Program. Today, she is principal engineer at Caltrans where she leads the planning, design and implementation of improvements to state and federal highway facilities in preparation for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Rabi Narula, B.S. 1992 – Mechanical Engineering

Rabi Narula has been an intellectual property attorney and partner at Knobbe Martens for over 25 years. He has developed intellectual property portfolios and strategies for clients involved in a wide range of technologies including medical devices, semiconductor fabrication, food science, automobile technologies and robotics. Within the medical device space, Narula has been the lead IP counsel with emerging and large companies in the aesthetics, cardiovascular, spine, dental and prosthetic fields. Narula earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford and then a JD from UCLA School of Law.

The Hall of Fame was established in 2015 to coincide with UCI’s 50th anniversary. Sixty-four engineering alumni and 52 ICS alumni have now been inducted.

– Lori Brandt