News | METRANS Associate Director, Petros Ioannou, Inducted into NAE

Stop the Video



by Jacob Wong, USC Master of Public Policy, 2023

USC Viterbi Professor Petros Ioannou is one of 11 recent inductees into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Ioannou has long been a leading figure within the METRANS Transportation Consortium, which he was instrumental in founding and where he serves as Associate Director of Research today.


As a member of the NAE, a nonprofit institution with more than 2,000 peer-elected members including 34 Viterbi-affiliated faculty, Ioannou is receiving one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The Academy states that “membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including significant contributions to the engineering literature.”



Ioannou has a PhD in Electrical Engineering, is the A.V. “Bal” Balakrishnan Chair of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and has spent the majority of his career making research contributions to the fields of transportation and control systems. For Ioannou’s colleagues at METRANS, his contributions to the consortium have been just as significant as what he has done for the field of transportation research as a whole. 


“Professor Ioannou is one of our most valued colleagues,” said METRANS Director Genevieve Giuliano. “In addition to his research contributions, he has been a constant voice for rigor in all of our center activities.”


Reflecting on his involvement with METRANS, Ioannou cites the opportunity to work with colleagues from a variety of educational backgrounds and disciplines as one of his favorite parts of the role, “I’m very lucky to be involved with METRANS,” he notes. “Under the leadership of Gen [Giuliano] we have achieved a lot, and it has been a very positive environment. I learn a lot by interacting with other colleagues, especially from the policy side. I understand the value of their work since mine is more mathematical and data-oriented.”


In the 1980s, when Ioannou became a professor at USC, his work focused on the more technical aspects of transportation systems. During this time, he served as a consultant for several automotive companies and related industries. Through these relationships, Ioannou received funding to conduct research on technologies such as adaptive cruise control and Drive by Wire. At the time, these were novel concepts in the transportation field, as Ioannou says, “All these technologies materialized a few decades later.”


In 1991, Caltrans approached USC for assistance with research on Automated Highway System technologies. Out of this partnership, the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) was born, and Ioannou was selected to lead the effort due to his expertise in vehicle dynamics and automation. In the coming years, CATT would partner with the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) at UC Berkeley, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and major automobile companies in its research. 


Ioannou received another major opportunity in 1996, when CATT partnered with the Center for Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies (CCDoTT), a research consortium at California State University, Long Beach. Ioannou saw the Long Beach center’s ties to the federal government, which USC lacked, as a chance to increase USC’s presence in the transportation research field. 


That partnership eventually led to the establishment of the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research in 1998 through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The center was later renamed METRANS, and the original partnership of USC and CSULB has expanded to include research collaborations with universities and institutes around the world. 


Decades after playing a part in founding METRANS, Ioannou views the research consortium as a tremendous success. “It [has allowed] different schools and departments to work together on projects and has engaged many PhD students and postdocs,” he says. Giuliano notes the success of their interdisciplinary research.  Ioannou, Giuliano and METRANS Associate Director of Special Programs Maged Dessouky are currently working on a National Science Foundation-funded project that brings together control theory and optimization with travel behavior. 


Today, Ioannou remains firmly engaged with the consortium as Associate Director for Research and knows that there is still much work left to accomplish in the field of transportation systems. 


“There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system, a lack of coordination,” says Ioannou in reference to the state of Southern California’s transportation infrastructure. “But the future prospects are very good in the sense that a lot of these technologies that have been tested and shown to work are slowly being adopted.” Under the guidance of Professor Ioannou and his wealth of experience and knowledge, METRANS appears well-poised to be at the forefront of this process.


About the Author:

Jacob Wong is a first-year graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Price School of Public Policy. He is curious about issues in urban policy and transportation planning. He is a recent LA transplant, and in his free time he enjoys exploring the area and the local food scene.