Four years in, Jelena Kovačević has compiled a powerful track record … and she's not slowing down
The honors keep accruing for Kovačević, who recently received a 2022 EMBS Career Achievement Award and was named to the Power Women and Brooklyn Power 100 lists
As Dean Jelena Kovačević approaches year five of her tenure, she has fueled NYU Tandon’s upward trajectory, powering the school’s contributions to vital fields and empowering a new generation of engineers and technologists. Along the way, she has also garnered an impressive portfolio of accolades — Kovačević recently received a 2022 IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBS) Career Achievement Award recognizing pioneering and outstanding academic leadership in biomedical imaging research and education, was acknowledged by the National Science Foundation for her leadership in diversifying STEM faculty, and was named to the amNY/PoliticsNY Power Women and City & State’s 2022 Brooklyn Power 100 lists. These add to her already considerable list of accomplishments, including founding and co-chairing the Northeast Regional Deans (NeRDs) council.
And it’s no wonder, given the influence she’s had since becoming Dean in 2018, a decade after the two storied institutions — New York University & Polytechnic University, known as Brooklyn Poly — had formed the modern partnership that created the foundation for today’s NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Now, as she heads into her fifth year as Dean and the fifteenth year since the affiliation of these two schools, it is clear what makes her one of the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn and it the fastest rising institution in the country.
Where unconventional engineers intersect
We're collaborating to build a safer, healthier, more sustainable world.
NYU Tandon is home to unconventional engineers — a vibrant group of researchers, students, technologists, and innovators working at the intersections of vital fields to engineer creative and smart, connected and secure, sustainable and healthy urban communities.
Illuminating a path for the next generation of engineers
Since Dean Jelena, as students warmly refer to her, joined NYU Tandon, she laid out an ambitious strategic plan for engineering creative & smart, connected & secure, sustainable & healthy global urban communities.
In addition to continued investment in foundational elements of the school, Kovačević outlined three pillars to further solidify Tandon as a place where accomplished and innovative engineers and technologists could make key advancements in their fields and beyond, and she has made unprecedented strides in all three:
Build a curious, engaged and inclusive global community
During her tenure, Kovacevic has overseen the development of the Office of Inclusive Excellence, led by Tandon’s Chief Inclusivity Officers. She has also empowered the expansion of the Cyber Fellows & NYU Tandon Bridge programs offering non-traditional students new pathways in STEM, and seen an incoming class of 46% women, to name just a few ways she has opened Tandon’s doors to a more inclusive community that has continued elevating Tandon’s already exceptional standards of excellence.
Educate career-ready critical thinkers and global citizens
In the last five years under Kovačević’s leadership, NYU Tandon has launched a re-imagined honors program focused on problem-solving with global perspective, an Experiential Learning Center aimed at encouraging access to teamwork-driven, hands-on learning experiences for all students, and a rapidly-expanding Vertically Integrated Projects program that empowers 40+ teams to collaborate on building real solutions to real-world needs in the NYU Tandon MakerSpace.
Be catalysts in solving strategic challenges of global society
Kovačević has been a champion for increased research collaboration across disciplines within NYU Tandon and the NYU ecosystem. With Kovačević’s encouragement & support, researchers at Tandon have increasingly focused on vital fields — and particularly in the intersections between them — that will ultimately result in the foundational discoveries and translational breakthroughs that will benefit society most.
With Kovačević’s encouragement & support, researchers at Tandon have increasingly focused on vital fields — and particularly in the intersections between them — that will ultimately result in the foundational discoveries and translational breakthroughs that will benefit society most.
Transformational changes in AI, data science, and robotics
NYU Tandon researchers have made strides in creating more responsible AI including informing the passing of new laws regulating technology in hiring; they have utilized data to shine a light on the firearms ecosystem and implications of state- vs federal-level gun regulation; and they are making teams of lightweight, lower-cost robots a possibility by putting AI in the cloud with colleagues at NYU WIRELESS. Student teams are also making breakthroughs in stroke recovery, prosthetics, and space exploration leveraging next-generation robotics.
Advancements in cybersecurity
Tandon researchers have made software updates safer and more secure; supply chains more impenetrable to hackers, and misinformation harder to spread. This has all been done against the backdrop of CSAW, one of the world's largest, most comprehensive student-run cybersecurity competitions with more than 1,400 teams from 5 global regions, ensuring that students are central to advancements and prepared for a workforce that has too few experts for the jobs that are open and expected.
Explorations in emerging media
NYU Tandon has established one of the only tech-focused emerging media programs in the country, boasting major industry collaborations and advanced motion capture and production facilities. Researchers are leading the way in educating the next generation of metaverse creators on how to take advantage of working with the latest technology — and be the dreamers and makers of next-generation content — while making technology more accessible to the differently-abled.
Breakthroughs in the future of health
Tandon researchers, students, and alumni are making telehealth services more equitable, inventing more targeted & effective cancer treatments and wound care technologies, and pioneering wearables that can detect & control stress. Incoming student teams can receive mentoring and compete for funding to launch new health-driven products through the Tandon Made Challenge before they even matriculate or in some cases arrive on campus.
Impactful progress towards sustainability
Under Kovačević, NYU Tandon has launched a Sustainable Engineering Initiative involving more than 20 faculty and external partners to clean up chemical manufacturing, detect and mitigate environmental contamination, make solar cells super-flexible, durable, & efficient, and make cleantech start-ups market-ready — including partnering with a new offshore wind innovation hub to New York. Tandon students and alumni are also working toward planet-friendly innovation, including urban farming, through our rapidly-growing Vertically Integrated Projects program.
The next evolution of wireless communication and IT
Wireless innovators are collaborating with colleagues across the school to build the foundation for faster, more sustainable, more secure next-generation wireless, from 5G to 6G and beyond. Wireless researchers and students are working with roboticists to enable aerial and legged robots to navigate difficult terrain in real-time for purposes like more efficient construction and safer search & rescue; they are collaborating with cybersecurity experts to create resilient networks; and they are consulting with fellow faculty to explore how to reduce energy consumption that results from massive data transmission.
Developments in urban resilience and innovation
Tandon researchers and students are collaborating with city governments and companies to advance the frontier of urban science and make cities healthier and more sustainable, find innovative ways to inform urban planning, and make urban infrastructure more resilient against disasters.