ICT’s Newly-Minted PhDs Participate in USC Viterbi School of Engineering “hooding” Ceremony

Published: May 8, 2024
Category: News
USC Commencement ceremony

By Dr. Randall HIll, Vice Dean, Viterbi School of Engineering, Omar B. Milligan Professor in Computer Science (Games and Interactive Media), Executive Director

We are very proud of our three newly-minted ICT PhDs: Yufeng Yin, Kushal Chawla, and Jessie Hoegen, who all wore the traditional cardinal and gold hoods for the first time today, on stage at USC’s Bovard Auditorium. The “hooding” ceremony was part of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s events, launching Commencement 2024. In case you were curious about the provenance of “hooding” PhDs, according to Adam Smith, VSOE’s Chief Creative Content Officer: “[this is a] centuries old tradition…going back to the 13th century, [as] the hooded robes were required for warmth in unheated medieval libraries.”

Also, as per the medieval tradition, each PhD was “hooded” by their advisor.


[waiting on official photo to arrive!]

Throughout his time at ICT, Dr. Yufeng Yin was part of Prof. Mohammad Soleymani’s Intelligent Human Perception Lab, focusing on areas such as affective computing, multimodal learning, facial expression analysis, transfer learning, and personalization. Dr. Yin also took on research scientist intern positions at both TikTok and Meta.

“We have been very lucky to have him and are happy to see him grow, graduate and seek new adventures in industry,” said Dr. Mohammad Soleymani.



Dr. Kushal Chawla‘s advisor was Prof. Gale M. Lucas and was Co-advised by Prof. Jonathan Gratch. He worked in both Prof. Gratch’s Affective Computing Lab, and Prof. Lucas’s Technology Evaluation Lab, focusing on computational models for dialogue agents to negotiate with humans. Previously he was a researcher at Adobe and at Amazon Alexa. 

“I work at the overlap between Natural Language Processing and Human-Computer Interaction,” explained Dr. Chawla. “Focusing on the design and innovation of AI-driven systems that comprehend, participate in, and prepare us for our everyday social interactions. This includes conversational AI assistants and tools for practitioners such as investors, therapists, lawyers, and educators.”

“Kushal helped to establish the field of Social Influence Dialogue systems,” said Dr. Gale Lucas. “He has already made a mark on our discipline, and I know he will continue to do so. I am so very proud of Kushal. He is a credit to our field.”



Jonathan Gratch “hooded” Dr. Jessie Hoegen. Initially visiting ICT as a summer intern, Jessie was recruited as a PhD student into Prof. Gratch’s Affecting Computing Lab, where she worked on the automatic analysis and interpretation of facial expressions in human and human-machine social tasks. Previously, Dr. Jessie Hoegen worked as an intern at Microsoft Research, Hume AI, and Oxford University. 

We are enormously proud of these three researchers, and wish them all the best in their future careers!