Featured Student of Winter Quarter 2017: Maurice Filo

  Hometown: Zahle, Lebanon        

  B.S. Degree: Electrical Engineering, Lebanese University

  Degree sought from UCSB and Progress: Master’s and PhD in Mechanical Engineering

  Important Awards and Honors:

Institute for Energy Efficiency Holbrook Foundation Fellowship

Best Teacher Assistant Award at the ME Department of UCSB

  Graduate Study Area:Dynamic Systems, Control & Robotics (DSCR), Computational Science & Engineering (CSE)

  Main Area of Research: Applying control theory on spatially distributed dynamical systems

  Advisor and Lab: Bassam Bamieh

  Research Interests: Spatially Distributed Dynamical Systems, Optimal Control, Cochlear Modeling

  Professional Memberships: IEEE Student Member

  Hobbies: Piano, Guitar, Saxophone

Currently what are you working on?

I am currently working on three different topics:

(1) Mobile sensors in distributed stochastic environments.

(2) Investigating cochlear instabilities using structured stochastic uncertainties and interpreting the results as related to emissions from the ear and tinnitus.

(3) A preconditioned constrained gradient descent for optimal control problems.

What is your education background?

I obtained a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Lebanese University and a Master’s degree in ECE from the American University of Beirut (AUB).

What are your long-term research goals?

My goal is to conduct research in academia in various areas of control engineering and dynamical systems. I would also like to collaborate with otologists to better understand the ear from an engineering point of view.

List some of your favorite publications.

(1) Experiments in Hearing, by the Nobel Prize Winner, Georg von Békésy.

(2) Optimization by Vector Space Methods, by Luenberger.

(3) Spectral Methods in MATLAB, by Trefethen.

(4) Introduction to Linear Algebra, by Gilbert Strang.

Tell us about your research.

My current research focuses on designing optimal trajectories for mobile sensors to maximize the estimation accuracy of unknown fields that are dynamically evolving in a spatially distributed environment. The optimization problem can be cast as a large scale optimal control problem. The high dimensionality of the optimal control problem challenged us to design a practical numerical method that has rapid convergence rates.  On the other hand, we are also investigating the possible mechanisms of Spontaneous OtoAcoustic Emissions (SOAEs) that arise due to biological inhomogeneities along the inner ear. We carry out the analysis using a control theory framework of structured stochastic uncertainty.

How and why did you get into your area of research?

When I was a graduate student at the American University of Beirut, professor Bamieh was a visiting professor there, for a couple of months, offering a course on system analysis and design. I was already very interested in control theory and dynamical systems, but after I took his class, I quickly realized that this is my passion. Professor Bamieh’s teaching style inspired me to pursue my passion.

Why did you select UCSB and ME in regards to your research?

I believe that control engineering speaks a language that touches upon different disciplines be it electrical, mechanical, chemical engineering, economics or even social sciences. For this reason, the best environment to immerse a control engineer in is an institution that motivates interdisciplinary research with no rigid boundaries between different departments. UCSB is one of the best research institutions worldwide that motivates this kind of cooperation and at the same time promotes constructive competency. All of this is possible because of the world-class professors whose research areas span an outstanding range of topics.

What do you find rewarding about your research?

Research is helping me enhance the skills of problem solving and finding answers to questions. On the personal level, this is by itself very rewarding.

UCSB prides itself on its collaborative atmosphere, give some examples of how you collaborate

The weekly CCDC seminars gave us the opportunity to exchange ideas with various researchers who are working on similar problems as ours. We are planning to collaborate with several speakers. Moreover, we are planning to collaborate with my colleague in professor Bamieh’s lab in the area of periodic optimal control.


What are your thoughts on working in a group research environment and your experience working with an advisor?

In research, especially in engineering disciplines, one has to ask a question, formulate the problem and finally attempt to solve it. At many times, researchers hit a wall that feels unbreakable. A professor at AUB once told me that for this reason exactly, we call it “re-search”: re-attack the problem and solutions are inevitable. Working with professor Bassam Bamieh, walls never felt unbreakable. He helped me develop a sense of confidence that every problem can be tackled.

Where will your research take you next?

I am willing to stay in academia and apply for professor positions.

Describe life as a graduate student and how you balance school, work, social, and family life?

I am an international student. So I get to see my family and wife a couple of times every year. But UCSB also feels like home. I have friends here that quickly became like family. Most of the time I spend out of work is either with them, on skype or playing piano.

What is your social life like and where have you lived?

Music is essential for me on a daily basis. Back in my home country I used to be a Piano teacher. UCSB has many places I can visit to play piano.

The beautiful environment that UCSB offers is invaluable. It is easy to make friends here. The people are nice and the campus is breathtaking. I mean if you’re tired of work, just make a phone call and head to the lagoon! It’s like hitting the “refresh” button.

I lived in my hometown, Zahle, for most of my life. I also spent all of my university life in Beirut before I moved here.