Full Speed Ahead


Dean Stella Batalama, Ph.D.

Florida Atlantic: Full Speed Ahead

Dean Leads One of Nation's 'Fastest Progressing' Engineering Colleges

Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science is now ranked among U.S. News & World Report's top three fastest progressing engineering colleges in the country. And its ascension continues at an incredible pace under the leadership of Dean Stella Batalama, Ph.D.

Since joining FAU in 2017, Batalama has spearheaded the college's increase in robust research and education programs to ensure students' success. She oversees the college's 34 degree programs and disciplines, which include modern specializations in areas of national priority such as cybersecurity, data science, Internet of Things, transportation and supply chain management. In 2021, she introduced the state of Florida's first Master of Science degree in artificial intelligence (AI). Both regionally and nationally, the college also is known for its strong teaching and advising methods, diversity of the student body, effective K-12 outreach programs, meaningful collaborations with business and industry, and quality and quantity of research.

"From driving discoveries to treat malaria in developing babies in the womb, to innovating bioinspired materials that mimic mangroves to guard coastlines, to leading interdisciplinary teams that develop a first-of-its-kind bioengineered robotic hand, the college is pioneering big ideas that impact the global good," Batalama said.

In addition, Batalama's accomplishments in the college are due to her wide-ranging expertise in areas that include cognitive and cooperative communications and networks, underwater signal processing, and covert communications. Her contributions in these fields have been reported in more than 170 technical papers and she has been awarded more than $9 million in sponsored research funding.

In the engineering field, Batalama's rise is something of a rarity. When she arrived at FAU, there were only 57 female engineering deans or directors in the U.S. — or 15 percent of total engineering college leaders, according to the Society of Women Engineers. Today, there are more than 80 (26 percent) including Batalama. As an active member of the society, she said she is passionate about increasing the representation and advancement of women and underrepresented minorities in academic careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Among her goals, Batalama said she is enthusiastic about elevating excellence within the college and helping drive the university forward. In the past four years, her achievements include a 164 percent increase in external research funding, a 480 percent increase in student internships, and a 185 percent growth in graduate degrees awarded in computer science.

Batalama also is trailblazing a path in cutting-edge research and technologies focused on AI and autonomy, data science and machine learning. In spring 2021, the college launched the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (CCA-AI) on the Boca Raton campus to accelerate the development of innovative AI and autonomy solutions. The projects taking place at the CCA- AI focus on underwater, surface, air and space applications that are supported by autonomous resilient machine-to-machine wireless networking. The center is supported by the Schmidt Family Foundation, FAU's Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. industry, totaling more than $5 million in funding. Already, it has garnered more than $9 million in basic research federal funding.

"It will enable us to deliver on the full promise and potential of this technology that is transforming industry from government and public services to life sciences and health care to transportation, financial services, energy and other fields," Batalama said.

The college also has benefitted from the generosity of the GANGALS nonprofit Foundation, Inc., which has given approximately $1.5 million in recent years. This includes $500,000 in 2018 to establish the Gangal Family Endowed Scholarship Fund to support talented students as they prepare for professional careers in STEM, and $750,000 in 2019 to name the Lata and Shiva Gangal Global Innovation Hall in the Engineering East building, a space that fosters learning, creativity and collaboration; and showcases student innovations and research achievements.

"As we move toward the fourth industrial revolution, which is expected to have a tremendous economic impact on our world, FAU's College of Engineering and Computer Science is poised to become an international leader in STEM education," said FAU President Stacy Volnick. "This is taking place through new investments that build our ongoing innovations and technological expansions, as well as the incredible direction of Dean Batalama. I am confident that the College will continue its upward trajectory under her leadership, as we work to create an exciting new future for all."

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.

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This story comes from the Florida Atlantic magazine. View stories like this and more at www.fau.edu/newsdesk/magazine.

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Over the past four years, College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Stella Batalama, Ph.D., has led the college on an upward trajectory, including: