Professor Shankar Sastry steps down as dean of College of Engineering

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Electrical engineering, computer science and bioengineering professor Shankar Sastry will be stepping down from his position as dean of the College of Engineering, as announced in an email addressed to campus by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos on Oct. 13.

Sastry is stepping down in order to focus on research, according to Scott Moura, an assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering and director of eCAL who was also a campus undergraduate from 2002 to 2006.

“My understanding is that he felt like he has made a phenomenal impact,” Moura said.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, Shankar will “remain in office for the next seven months,” leaving “ample time for an orderly transition.”

According to Tarek Zohdi, a chancellor’s professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the campus Computational and Data Science and Engineering Program, during Sastry’s nearly 10 years as dean, Sastry created entrepreneurial programs and pushed for industry engagement, which dramatically improved the College of Engineering’s world ranking.

“He encouraged the faculty to engage with companies and brought companies to campus,” Zohdi said, describing Sastry as an “exceptionally warm, caring person.”

Under Sastry’s leadership, the UC Berkeley College of Engineering rose to its current position as the number one public institution for engineering in the world, according to Zohdi. Moura added that the college is also a notably profitable “moneymaker” in regards to funding and research.

“(Sastry) woke this sleeping giant,” Moura said. “I saw and lived what the College of Engineering was like prior to his leadership; it’s become more entrepreneurial.”

Sastry’s executive advisory board included CEOs from Apple, Microsoft, Qualcomm and a number of other tech companies in Silicon Valley and used its input to “steer the ship” of engineering education and research, according to Moura.

“Before he became dean, we were more of a theory-based university,” Zohdi said.

Moura credits Sastry in developing significant theories, including a theory of hybrid systems. “It’s about dynamical systems that are governed by continual and discrete time dynamics,” Moura said.

Moura predicts that the the next dean will be someone who also has vision and understands the campus culture well.

“Shankar Sastry was truly an exceptional dean. He was a visionary who saw that need for UCB to strongly connect to industry and society in more tangible ways,”  Zohdi said in an email. “Through his intellect, charisma and sheer will, he was able to harness the talents of the Engineering faculty so that the COE reached unprecedented heights under his leadership.”

According to Mogulof, the campus will provide updates once decisions have been made in the search process for a new dean.

Contact Elise Ulwelling at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EMarieulwelling.