Andrea Armani
Dr Andrea Armani
Irani Chair and Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

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  • What I Do

    As a professor, I lead a research group which invents new types of optical devices, like lasers, to study living cells and proteins. I also teach an undergraduate class on nanomaterials.

  • Why Engineering?

    While I really enjoyed my undergraduate and graduate coursework in physics and biology, I am more interested in applying this knowledge to real-life applications. Engineering allows me to do this.

  • School Days

    University of Chicago, BA physics California Institute of Technology, PhD Applied Physics, minor Biology

  • My Day At Work

    One of the best things about engineering is that every day is different. Some days are filled with success and excitement, when experiments work, but some days are filled with learning moments, when things fail. This variability is exciting!

  • Best Part

    When something works, and I make a real difference in society!

  • Proud Moments

    There are so many! Mentoring several undergraduates to successfully complete their degrees and continue on to graduate school. Seeing several of my inventions being adopted by companies and translated to society. Developing curriculum for middle and high schools to improve education.

  • Challenges

    Discovering and inventing new things isn't easy, but the adage "try, try again" is extremely appropriate in the field of engineering. You should never give up on an experiment because it fails the first time.

  • My Family

    I'm from Memphis TN and married to another engineer.

  • Dreams and Goals

    Short term: see my students graduate and be fabulously successful. Long term: see my students help other students to be successful.

  • Inspiration

    There are three main people. A graduate student (Dr. Ward Lopes) that I met when I was an undergraduate and my two post-doc advisors (Prof. Scott Fraser and Prof. Richard Flagan, both at Caltech). But this list could include many people. It is impossible to list all of the people who have inspired and motivated me at key points in my life.

  • Want to be an Engineer?

    Never give up.

  • Additional Thoughts

    Engineering is one of the few degrees that trains you to learn. In that sense, it is a springboard into any field. My undergrads have stayed in engineering, but they have also moved into business, law, medicine, finance, cooking (yes! one is a pastry chef), and many other fields. So, getting a degree in engineering sets the stage for the rest of your career - whether it is in engineering or something else!

  • Hobbies

    In addition to a husband, I have two dogs and a cat. I also run.

Andrea Armani grew up in Memphis, TN. From there, she moved to Chicago, where she received her BA in physics from the University of Chicago (2001) and her PhD in applied physics with a minor in biology from the California Institute of Technology (2007). After spending a couple additional years at Caltech for her post-doc in biology and chemical engineering, she joined the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California. She is currently the Ray Irani Chair of Engineering and Materials Science and a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Electrical Engineering-Electrophysics at the University of Southern California. Her research group, which includes undergraduate students, PhD students and post-docs, develops new types of optical devices (like lasers) and uses them to study how biological systems work. This research is very interdisciplinary and requires students to draw on all fields of science and engineering. Prof. Armani has received several awards and has been recognized by numerous agencies, including the ONR Young Investigator Award, Technology Review Top 35 Innovators under 35, USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Undergraduate Mentoring, NIH New Innovator Award, Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, Popular Science's Brilliant 10, World Economic Forum's Young Scientist Award, World Economic Forum's Young Global Leader, STS Forum Future Leader, and the Hanna Reisler Award for Mentoring. She spends her free time with her husband, her two dogs and her cat, and enjoys running in the Los Angeles area.
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PhD in Applied Physics, California Institute of Technology; BA in Physics, University of Chicago
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
  • I am willing to answer written interview questions to be posted on the EngineerGirl website.
Latest Questions
  • Andrea Armani, University of Southern California
    Answered Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 7:23 PM
    What an action packed question! I’ll try to separate it a little bit. You are really asking a couple different questions: 1) what makes a good electronics (electrical) engineer, 2) how can you go to Cambridge, and 3) how important is math? These are all ...
    Read More
  • Mercy, San Jose,CA

    Added Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 4:22 PM

    I'm currently a 2nd year college student at San Jose State University. I'm in the electrical engineering program but I don't think I enjoy this major. At first, I thought I didn't want to do electrical engineering because I was struggling in Calculus and programming. I have now realized that I don't want to do electrical engineering but I do want to pursue a major in the engineering field. My question is, how do you find the right engineering major without wasting time. And if someone ...
    Answers 1
    Andrea Armani, University of Southern California
    Answered Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 4:22 PM
    Thank you for asking an excellent question that I’m confident many other engineering students also struggle with.  It actually touches on a few different topics – many of which are the focus of a larger national debate about how undergraduates are ...
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  • Dustin , Little Rock

    Added Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    I work full time as a electrician to pay the bills but I want to go to school for an electrical engineering degree but the college I was thinking about going to (Pulaski Technical College) a local cheapish community college, doesn't seem to offer any engineering program of study so does that mean that I will not be able to go to this school and work towards a electrical engineering degree? also I am interested in electronics and kinda dabble with robotic kits and circuit boards as a hobby what ...
    Answers 1
    Andrea Armani, University of Southern California
    Answered Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM
    Hi Dustin,
    Fabulous question!  Unfortunately, yes, you will not be able to become an electrical engineer if the college/university does not offer that degree program.  However, that does not preclude you from taking classes at a local community ...
    Read More
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