Ayanna Howard, professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) to chair its School of Interactive Computing.


Following a national search, the Georgia Tech College of Computing has selected Ayanna Howard, professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) to chair its School of Interactive Computing.

Howard, who is also associate chair for faculty development in ECE, will succeed Professor Annie Antón, who served in the role from 2012-17. Antón finished her five-year term in June 2017 and remains a professor within the school. Professor Amy Bruckman has served as the interim chair since July.

“Ayanna Howard is the perfect individual to lead our School of Interactive Computing, and we are excited to welcome her to the College,” said Zvi Galil, John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing. “She brings a wealth of experience in research and administration, and she has consistently succeeded in leadership opportunities both inside and outside Georgia Tech. Her vision and energy will help ensure that IC will continue to be a national leader in computing research and education.”

As a testimony to her interdisciplinary focus, Howard has collaborated with a number of IC researchers in the past and said the she is looking forward to fostering new – and fruitful –  relationships with the school’s faculty and staff.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with the amazing faculty, staff, and students within the School of Interactive Computing,” Howard said. “They are already national leaders in some of the most important fields of modern computing, and I look forward to building on that foundation and continuing to pursue research and innovation that addresses real challenges facing our world today.”

Howard received her bachelor’s degree in engineering from Brown University, her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1999.

Her research is highlighted by her focus on technology development for intelligent agents that must interact with and in a human-centered world. This work, which addresses issues of human-robot interaction, learning, and autonomous control, has resulted in more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. To date, her accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in Time, Black Enterprise, and USA Today. She was named an MIT Technology Review top young innovator and recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider.

She has more than 20 years of research and development experience covering a number of projects that have been supported by organizations like the National Science Foundation, Procter and Gamble, NASA, ExxonMobil, Intel, and the Grammy Foundation.

Howard is the director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAnS), and in 2015 founded a $3 million traineeship initiative in health care robotics. In 2013, she founded Zyrobotics as a university spin-off and holds a position in the company as chief technology officer. Zyrobotics is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released its first suite of mobile therapy and educational products for children with differing needs.

From 1993-2005, Howard worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she was a senior robotics researcher and deputy manager in the Office of the Chief Scientist. She has also served as the associate director of research for Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and as chair of the multidisciplinary robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech.

Howard will assume her new role in January 2018. Her appointment is contingent upon approval by Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. She will retain her current Linda J. and Mark C. Smith endowment after transitioning to the School of Interactive Computing.