MELBOURNE, FL. — John G. Harris, Ph.D., a distinguished scholar and accomplished leader who led dramatic increases in faculty and research funding as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida, is the new dean of the Florida Tech College of Engineering and Science.

Harris started at Florida Tech on July 1.

He spent 29 years at UF, a Gainesville institution of more than 53,000 students, including the last 11 years as department chair. He arrived in the Sunshine State after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in computing and neural systems from the California Institute of Technology.

With its small size — about 2,400 total students — and more focused educational offerings, Caltech is “most similar” to Florida Tech, Harris said.

“One of the things I took away from Caltech is their commitment to excellence. To me, that’s the excellence and impact I want to bring to Florida Tech,” he said. “I want to make Florida Tech the Cal Institute of Technology of the East.”

The university already has what Harris called “pockets of excellence,” and he’s ready to work with Marco Carvalho, executive vice president and provost, to realize the shared vision.

“He’s a big reason why I came to Florida Tech. We bonded while I was talking to him; our vision for Florida Tech was similar,” Harris said of Carvalho. “For me, that’s a big draw — someone with a vision for the future.”

What does that vision look like? COES looks like a college with built-in advantages—smaller class sizes, highly rated faculty, great careers—that now needs to take the next step. This means promotion in the ranking from US News and World Reportfor example.

“Even though there are questions about how the ranking is done, people are paying attention. of the Faculty, Ph.D. students, when looking for a school, students – anyway, people look at the ratings. Even employers consider ratings,” Harris said. “The ratings themselves are not important, but all of these ratings are based on metrics that are very important.”

The department’s annual research spending has grown more than 150 percent during Harris’ tenure as UF department chair, approaching nearly $24 million. That means 7thousand the largest expenses of all electrical and computer engineering departments in the US

“Florida Tech is poised to expand its research program,” he said. “I see a great opportunity to make an impact.”

Another of Harris’ priorities is developing students who are more than just excellent engineers and scientists. They need to be exposed to topics and fields they wouldn’t normally study, from data science to communications, he believes.

“To keep up with what’s happening in society, in industry, in research, we have to prepare students to go out into the real world,” he said. “This is a shortcoming of many, many schools – insufficient attention to what is happening. Programming, data science, algorithms – you can’t ignore them, no matter what industry you’re in.”

In addition, Harris has seen international students and many American students benefit from mock interviews and other communication skills. “These classes were more beneficial than taking more technical courses. They can make a much bigger impact on students’ careers.”

Florida Tech’s location among the burgeoning aerospace sector excites Harris. He’s held alumni outreach events and visited companies at UF, but Gainesville isn’t as rich in industry as the Space Coast.

“I’m really looking forward to making that difference at Florida Tech. “With all the companies around, there can be more involvement — additional training, internship programs, industry feedback and cooperation in training programs and research, all kinds of things,” he said.

But first on the to-do list for Harris: auditions.

“In the beginning, there will be a lot of listening. My leadership style is not to make rash decisions,” he said. “I’ll be talking to as many faculty, staff, students, graduate students, alumni and industry leaders as possible to find out what’s holding us back at Florida Tech and what can be improved.” .

Harris, 61, was born and raised in Holmdel, New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from New York. His father was a civil engineer, and young John had a passion for math and science, “so it was natural to go into engineering,” he said.

At MIT, Harris became interested in the brain and nervous systems, and how to solve engineering problems using the brain. He knew people at Caltech, so with a degree from MIT, Harris headed west. He started in Ph.D. program co-founded by Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Caltech professor Richard Feynman, Computational and Neural Systems.

“Computational and neural systems bring together disciplines such as electrical engineering, computer science and neuroscience,” Harris said.

From Caltech, Harris spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. In 1993, he came to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering as an associate professor.

Outside of the classroom, Harris is the father of two grown children. His son graduated from UF this year with a degree in classics — “students need to go and find their passion,” Harris said — and accepted an offer to teach high school at Oak Hall Private School in Gainesville. His daughter, a sophomore, is studying computer science at UF. This summer she is working as an intern at National Instruments in Austin, Texas. Harris is moving to Melbourne with his fiancée, Wendy Huang, a UF graduate and accomplished software developer.

In addition, Harris is a very good chess player. He is ranked 1700 by the US Chess Federation (players in the 1700-1900 range “have reached a level of mastery that most chess players will never reach,” according to

He even has a chess tournament named after him, thanks to 60thousand a birthday present last year from more than 50 of his former students. The Dr. John G. Harris Chess Championship is held through the Gator Chess Club (where Harris was faculty advisor). In the first tournament, playing in the top division due to his ranking, Harris performed well, but lost to the eventual winner of the tournament.

Previous articleNOAA says the Atlantic hurricane season is still expected to be above normal
Next articleA Russian court found Britney Griner guilty and sentenced her to 9 years