Roboticist Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., Named University Dean

Ayanna Howard

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., an accomplished roboticist and Fellow of the African Scientific Institute, was named dean of the College of Engineering at Ohio State University, effective March 1, 2021.

She will be the first woman to hold the position. She will also be a tenured professor in the college’s department of electrical and computer engineering, with a joint appointment in computer science and engineering.

The College of Engineering serves more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students; employs 950 faculty, research scientists and staff; and operates a $150 million-a-year research program. It works with strategic partners, including Battelle, Boeing, GE, Honda, NetJets, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and NASA Glenn Research Center.

Howard will join it from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is chair of the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing, as well as founder and director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAnS).

Among other roles at Georgia Tech, she was program director of the nation’s first multidisciplinary robotics PhD program; associate chair for faculty development in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and associate director of research at the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines.

“I’m thrilled to join Ohio State at a time in which there is so much potential to strengthen and build new partnerships in order to expand access and enhance opportunities for the next generation of students, alumni, and for economic development throughout Ohio,” Howard says.

She is the founder and president of the board of directors of Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech spin-off company that develops mobile therapy and educational products for children with special needs.

Zyrobotics products are based on Howard’s research. founded in 2013, it spun off as a nonprofit in 2020.

From 1993 to 2005, Howard worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she held multiple roles, including senior robotics researcher and deputy manager in the Office of the Chief Scientist. There she developed small robotic devices for research on Mars.

A graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, she earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Claremont Graduate University in California.  Forbes named Howard to its America’s Top 50 Women In Tech list.