Leadership Position Reinforces Acton’s Commitment to Mentorship
Scott T. Acton will be the next chair of the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Acton, professor of electrical and computer engineering, joined UVA’s faculty in 2000. He holds a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering and leads the Virginia Image and Video Analysis research group.
“Scott is dedicated to providing students meaningful coursework, experiential learning and research opportunities,” UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West said. “I am confident he has the knowledge, skills and experience to create a department where faculty, staff and students can thrive.”
As incoming chair, Acton is charged with maintaining the department’s legacy and positive trajectory in world-class photonics, high-frequency semiconductor devices, signal processing and materials science — research strengths that bridge quantum computing and communication. He will also steward strategic investments to upgrade programs in data science and machine learning.
“Having proudly served UVA as a professor, mentor, leader and collaborator for over two decades, it is my honor to lead the department and elevate our programs,” Acton said. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence the dean has shown in me and extend my thanks to all who participated in the search process.”
Acton has distinguished himself in research in the areas of signal, image and video processing and analysis, authoring or co-authoring more than 300 publications. The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense and private industry have awarded grants to support his research.
For the past several years Acton has split his responsibilities between UVA and the National Science Foundation, which he joined in 2019 as a program director in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. His leadership skills earned him the NSF Director’s Award for Superior Achievement and a promotion to acting deputy division director in fall 2021. Among his accomplishments, Acton helped establish the Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention program, awarding grants aimed at tackling grand challenges in global infectious diseases.
Acton will complete his term at NSF this summer, stepping into his role as ECE’s department chair in September. James H. Aylor, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering and UVA Engineering dean emeritus, serves as interim chair.
In his new leadership role, Acton’s priorities include focusing the department’s research program; accelerating undergraduate research and innovating undergraduate education; cultivating a rich, challenging and supportive environment for faculty and staff; attracting the next generation of leaders to ECE’s graduate programs; and delivering excellence through diversity.
“I am passionate about opening doors for students traditionally underrepresented in engineering,” Acton said. “My experience at NSF has broadened my view; I have learned that diversity is an opportunity to leverage differences that provide a competitive advantage to our department.”