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Michelle Lynn Povinelli

Dean's Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering


  • Doctoral Degree, Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Master's Degree, Physics, University of Cambridge
  • Bachelor's Degree, Physics, University of Chicago


Dr. Michelle Lynn Povinelli is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy at the University Southern California. She is a Fellow of the OSA and the SPIE.

Povinelli is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and the TR35 Award for innovators under age 35 from MIT's Technology Review magazine. Her research has been funded by a variety of sources including NSF, ARO, NASA, DARPA, NGA, DOE, private companies, and foundations. She was a member of the 2018-19 class of the Defense Science Study Group.

She received a BA from the University of Chicago, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and a PhD from MIT, all in Physics. She was a postdoctoral researcher in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. She has co-authored >100 journal articles, three book chapters, and three US Patents.

Research Summary

My research interest is nanophotonics, the study of light interaction with nanoscale structures. My group studies nanophotonic structures such as photonic crystals, microresonators, and nanowires for applications in security, optical communications, energy, and biology. We use both theoretical and experimental techniques to study the basic science of nanophotonic materials, design novel devices, and optimize them for various applications. My work has been funded by the federal government, companies, and foundations.

I am also interested in the relationship of science and technology to national security issues. I serve as Director of the USC IC CAE, where I collaborate with our faculty team to develop educational programming on national security issues, with particular emphasis on outreach to underrepresented groups. I am strongly interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within STEM.

Michelle Povinelli Research Summary


  • 2018 IDA / DARPA Defense Science Study Group
  • 2012 USC Viterbi School Junior Research Award
  • 2010 The White House Office of Science Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
  • 2010 MIT Technology Review MIT TR35 Award
  • 2009 Army Research Office Army Research Office Young Investigator Award
  • 2009 National Science Foundation NSF CAREER Award
  • 2009 USC Powell Faculty Award
  • 2008 University of Southern California WISE Jr. Gabilan Chair
  • 2006 L'Oreal L'Oreal for Women in Science Fellowship
  • 1998 Lucent Technologies Lucent Technologies GRPW Fellowship
  • 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT Karl Taylor Compton Fellowship
  • 1998 National Science Foundation NSF Graduate Fellowship
  • 1998 Phi Beta Kappa
  • 1998 Sigma Xi
  • 1997 Churchill Foundation Churchill Fellowship
  • 1997 University of Chicago Student Marshal
  • 1993 University of Chicago College Honor Scholarship
  • 1993 National Merit Foundation National Merit Scholarship
  • 1993 The White House Presidential Scholar
  • 1993 United States Department of Education Robert Byrd Scholarship
  • Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • PHE 614
  • Charles Lee Powell Hall
  • 3737 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089
  • USC Mail Code: 271
Contact Information
  • (213) 740-8682