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Department News

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. James Usevitch

Meet James Usevitch, a professor who joined our faculty last fall semester. Usevitch hails from El Paso, Texas and currently teaches Nonlinear Control Systems. He also taught the Introduction to Machine Learning class this past fall semester.

Dr. Usevitch was a BYU engineering student for his undergraduate studies before moving to the University of Michigan for his Masters and PhD. Directly before teaching at BYU, he worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for 2 years.

The concepts Dr. Usevitch teaches in his classes are in a similar vein as his PhD research in control theory, where he worked with multi-agent systems. His research involved training teams of robots to complete tasks, and finding the best of both worlds between closed form equations and machine learning. While closed form equations are reliable, they are less able to adapt on their own, and while machine learning is adaptable, it is not as reliable. The goal of Usevitch’s research is to create autonomous systems that are robust, resilient, safe, and intelligent.

Venturing into new territory to do something that has never been done before is something that inspires Dr. Usevitch in his research goals. He enjoys seeing what his work can accomplish when it is put to the test in the real world. Usevitch is also inspired by helping his students to understand difficult topics by breaking it down step by step. “It’s really rewarding to hear students say at the end of the day, ‘Oh! It’s actually not that bad. I can do that,’” he shared.

When asked what his biggest achievement of all time is, Dr. Usevitch answered “Definitely marrying my wife. Hands down. It is absolutely the biggest honor being able to win her over. Coupled with that, being able to be a dad.” Together, Usevitch and his wife have three daughters–all under the age of five. The couple welcomed their third daughter into the world three months ago.

Dr. Usevitch is also grateful for his experiences in earning his PhD from the University of Michigan and earning his Eagle Scout. He attributes the completion of his graduate studies to much determination and faith. His Eagle Scout project involved transplanting native plants from an empty lot to a nature trail to preserve the trail and save the wildlife.

If Dr. Usevitch suddenly was given 10 million dollars, his practical answer would be to invest it and live off the interest. However, his fun answer would be to build a home music studio so that he could record and mix his own music. Composing music is one of his hobbies along with long distance running, getting outdoors with his family, and disc golf. He and his wife also enjoy going down YouTube rabbit holes and watching random videos.

We are privileged to have such a talented addition to our department faculty. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Usevitch!