Former chair of UC Berkeley EECS department to take over as director of CITRIS

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A multicampus UC research center will see new leadership next month when a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences takes charge.

Costas Spanos, a former chair of the EECS department, will take over as director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society on Feb. 1.

CITRIS is one of four Governor Gray Davis Institutes for Science and Innovation, which are located at UC campuses across the state and develop technology to solve social problems. CITRIS is headquartered at UC Berkeley and brings together researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced. It has developed technologies to help deliver health care remotely, oversee water systems and manage traffic flow as well as other technological advances.

“Being the director of CITRIS is trying to find the proper balance, making sure the resources are used wisely,” Spanos said.

Spanos, who has done research on semiconductors, integrated circuits and novel sensors, started at UC Berkeley in 1988 as a faculty member in the EECS department. He served as associate dean for research in the College of Engineering from 2004 to 2008, associate chair for the EECS department from 2008 to 2010 and chair of the department from 2010 to 2012.

“CITRIS is effectively an organization that tries to bring together the known engineers with the technologists to address societal problems,” Spanos said. “We engineers need nonengineers to give us context on what we do. We’re looking for big problems where technical solutions can make a difference if they’re put in the proper context.”

Spanos is replacing UC Berkeley professor Paul Wright, who stepped down to lead the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, a hub for UC Berkeley’s energy and climate research.

During Wright’s seven years as director, the center launched the Foundry, a one-year incubator program for students, faculty members and entrepreneurs to help turn their ideas into viable companies. The center also launched its Invention Lab in Sutardja Dai Hall to give students, faculty members and the community a space as well as devices such as 3-D printers to invent new devices.

“CITRIS has flourished and is now very much an integral part of its four UC campuses,” Wright said in an email. “That was a wonderful seven year experience with the very best of the best faculty, staff and students.”

Now, more than a decade after CITRIS was founded in 2001, Camille Crittenden, the center’s deputy director,  said she believes the center has succeeded in its mission to create meaningful change for the people of California.

“CITRIS is in a very stable position right now,” Crittenden said. “(Spanos) has a good opportunity to lead it to the next stage and really create more impacts on society through technology and innovations.”

Mitchell Handler covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @mitchellhandler.