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When I first interacted with students from Viterbi at an ExploreUSC event in March of 2020, I was struck by how intelligent and accomplished they were. In particular, I was very impressed by their research. The students were working in nanotechnology labs; they were conducting experiments on rocket engines; they were programming AI. I had dabbled in research in high school, but the scope of the Viterbi students’ projects blew me away. Viterbi places a huge emphasis on undergraduate research, and the span of available programs reflect that. In the fall of 2020 when I began classes, I knew I wanted to get involved in research. However, I was a bit uncertain what that might look like for me. 

I thought that their research projects were cool, but they were not what I was looking for.

I value a strong interdisciplinary education. Calculus, circuitry and other technical topics are very useful skills, and I genuinely enjoy learning them. However, I am also interested in anthropology, social justice, and other subjects under the umbrella of the humanities. I was in a general education class about screenwriting, but the rest of my classes were engineering or math. I reached out to upperclassmen in clubs I was involved with to ask about their experience with research. Their answers taught me a lot about the wide range of research topics that USC students engage in.

I learned that not all research done by engineering students has to be technical. 

In fact, It doesn’t have to be through Viterbi at all. One of the greatest things about undergraduate research at USC is its flexibility. If you are studying Mechanical Engineering but have an interest in cinema, you can reach out to professors at the School of Cinematic Arts and join one of their projects. It is all up to YOU. You can shape your educational experience. Viterbi is not only willing to support you, but further encourages you to pursue your passions outside of engineering. 


I reached out to one of my Industrial Engineering professors about her interdisciplinary research with the School of Social Work as well as Viterbi. She has a joint appointment with both schools — a concept I had never heard of before coming to USC. I became actively involved in one of her projects studying the impact of COVID on various demographics of people. Solving and studying inequalities in healthcare systems is something I care a lot about. It was very rewarding to apply concepts of optimization and data analysis that I learned in ISE classes to a very social, human topic. I will be continuing my work with this professor this summer as an employee of the School of Social Work. 


Engineering+ is a big thing at Viterbi. It really describes the unique interests, passions, and skills that each student brings to the school and community.

I am an industrial engineer with a passion for public health and equality.

Engaging in interdisciplinary research is one way I am adding to my engineering education and making it my own. Other students are minoring in dance or creating films in their free time. Regardless of what it is, everyone at Viterbi is a unique and dynamic individual. The opportunities are endless. 

You can do whatever you set your mind to. 

USC has enough resources and a variety of programs to cater to each unique passion. Approaching college with this mindset is incredibly important. My experience in interdisciplinary undergraduate research has been extremely rewarding, and Viterbi offers an opportunity for everyone to have a similar experience exploring their passion.


Fight on!

Timothy Harrington