Engineer-turned-Artist Named Associate Director of Interdisciplinary Institute

“The most interesting project outcomes generally come from collaborations at the intersections across disciplines and departments,” said Yadegari, a professor in the Department of Music at UC San Diego, where he received his Ph.D. in Music in 2004. Previously, he earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University, and an MS degree in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT’s Media Lab. 

Shahrokh Yadegari, Qualcomm Institute Associate Director

“Shahrokh Yadegari has pushed the envelope of interdisciplinary education and research,” said QI director Ramesh Rao in announcing the appointment. “As both an engineer and an artist, he is the right blend of researcher and practitioner to help QI build up new alliances across disciplines, not just in research but also in integrating educational programs into our research mission.”

A longtime academic participant in QI, Yadegari already leads two of the institute’s highest-profile research efforts at the intersection of art and science: the Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS), and the Sonic Arts R&D group, where he leads advanced acoustical modelling and research on audio spatialization techniques. He will continue in both roles in addition to his broader mandate as Associate Director of the institute.

Yadegari has been involved in QI from early on as a member and later as interim director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), one of the oldest interdisciplinary research centers at UC San Diego. When CRCA was phased out in 2013, QI appointed Yadegari to lead its new Initiative for Digital Exploration of Arts and Sciences (IDEAS). QI’s goal: to re-affirm the institute’s desire to foster collaborations among performative and visual artists, critifcal theorists, designers, scientists and engineers.

“QI has supported the involvement of artists within the institute and with many its affiliated researchers at the institute by fostering interdisciplinary and experimental pieces,” noted Yadegari. “Programs such as IDEAS, Crossing Boundaries and the Gallery@Calit2 have provided a context for artists to conceive, develop, and present those works to the community via engagement with the technologies and state-of-the-art facilities developed at QI.” Since 2017 Yadegari has also directed QI’s Sonic Arts R&D group, which has been a leader in the field of audio ‘beamforming’, 3D audio speaker arrays, and sptialization technologies.

While the Qualcomm Institute will continue to be a research enterprise, the institute sees the nexus of the arts and sciences as a critical factor in instruction as well. 

“We are being called to play a growing academic role,” said QI director Ramesh Rao. “Our research projects and shared-use facilities give the institute a unique way to embed students into the research enterprise while also developing new courses in areas at the interface of the arts, engineering and the sciences.” 

“From even before the institute was founded 20 years ago, arts faculty members helped design an interdisciplinary approach that has been a hallmark of QI’s success,” recalled Yadegari. “It facilitates research and practice that can go beyond what is possible within the confines of individual academic departments.”

“The boundaries between canons and disciplines are more and more becoming blurred, even as the separation of research and instruction is disappearing,” he added. “QI is very well poised to provide what I call a nonlinear approach to research and education.”

He predicts that QI will implement new educational programs that will allow students from many different disciplines to “come here and define their own course of studies based on synergies available at QI and at UC San Diego at large,” he said. “Many of these synergies are already happening through collaboration at both the faculty and graduate student levels.”  

Yadegari cited examples of students who have already benefited from access to QI’s remarkable facilities: “I am currently co-advising a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering with professor Bhaskar Rao, and although the student is getting an engineering degree, most of his doctoral research is taking place in Sonic Arts at QI. I have also advised a number of interdisciplinary students who have been able to pursue and develop their research careers through mounting major innovative portfolio pieces supported by the available  technologies and the interdisciplinary climate at QI.”

Yadegari is one of the founders and artistic director of Kereshmeh Records and Persian Arts Society, organizations dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Persian traditional and new music. At Kereshmeh, he has produced work for a long list of legendary Persian musicians.

As a practitioner, he composed a multi-disciplinary dance-theater piece, The Scarlet Stone, based on ancient Persian mythology related to the contemporary political climate in Iran. He directed a production of the piece at UCLA’s Royce Hall in 2015. The following year The Scarlet Stone was broadcast on BBC Persian, and it is soon to be released on Blu-Ray and streaming services. 

Yadegari recently composed and directed Becoming, an operatic virtual-reality piece, with support from the San Diego Opera through its Opera Hack program. A workshop of the piece was presented by Opera America in August 2020. He is also working as a sound designer for the soon-to-premiere movie project, Vimalakirti: The Body is So Impermanent, currently in post-production and directed by Peter Sellars.

Yadegari has also worked at France’s prestigious Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) and has collaborated with such artists as Peter Sellars, Robert Woodruff, Ann Hamilton, Christine Brewer, Gabor Tompa, Maya Beiser, Steven Schick, Lucie Tiberghien, Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam, Keyavash Nourai, and Siamak Shajarian. He has performed and his productions, compositions, and designs have been presented internationally in such venues as the Carnegie Hall, Royce Hall, Festival of Arts and Ideas, OFF-D’Avignon Festival, International Theatre Festival in Cluj Romania, Ravinia Festival, Ruhr-Triennale, Vienna Festival, Holland Festival, Tirgan Festival, Forum Barcelona, Aga Khan Museum, the Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung (Darmstadt), La Jolla Playhouse, Japan America Theatre, and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.                                 

Among his contributions to the campus community, Yadegari has served as chair of the Committee on Campus and Community Environment, vice chair of the Graduate Council, and UC San Diego's representative at the UC system wide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs.