Joseph Barba ’75 EE, ’77, PhD ’81

Joseph Barba

Alumnus, Professor, Dean, Mentor, Role Model

“We want to address culture shock that the students are going through as they transition; students come here to a completely new environment, and they feel alienated, don’t know where resources are, and tend to be more isolated.”

Joseph Barba, professor of electrical engineering at the Grove School of Engineering, is advancing the aims of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program by building a social media platform designed specifically for students entering, continuing, or transferring into STEM majors at The City College of New York. Funded by a $1.5 million grant over five years from the National Science Foundation. Barba and his co-principal investigators will develop a social media platform specifically designed for Hispanic students – the largest ethnic group at City College.  The platform will support community building and information sharing, and interventions assisting students during critical transitions early on.

“We want to address culture shock that the students are going through as they transition; students come here to a completely new environment, and they feel alienated, don’t know where resources are, and tend to be more isolated,” said Barba. “These challenges can be amplified at urban institutions, where commuting and working outside the classroom present added obstacles.”

The New York City son of immigrants from Mexico, Joe Barba is a true son of City College, rising from humble beginnings to the top, and along the way pulling others up after him. In high school he performed well ahead of his grade in the sciences and mathematics, but like so many of his classmates and CCNY students today, he could not afford tuition. City College was the only college he applied to – and the one where he received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD. in electrical engineering in 1975, 1977, and 1981 respectively.  (His doctorate comes from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, but that program was always entirely on the CCNY campus with CCNY professors, and in 19XX the College formally became the granter of the degree.)

Barba remembers his undergraduate days at City fondly: playing frisbee on the south campus lawn, listening to music in the Finley Student Center during club hours; talking with Raymond the Bagel Man; walking the catacombs from building to building on the North Campus to avoid the rain or winter cold; the student cafeteria in Shepard Hall full of arguments in a multitude of languages; and attending the last concert – the Beach boys – in Lewisohn Stadium, before it was demolished to make room for the NAC.

Joining the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1982, Barba has served the Grove School of Engineering as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Acting Dean and Dean of Engineering – and the entire College as Deputy Provost. After serving for seven years as Dean of the Grove School, in 2013 he returned to the electrical engineering faculty and now serves as the Director of Student Entrepreneurship at the college, working closely with the Zahn Center for Innovation to launch student led startup companies.  

Barba’s research interests focus on the development of image and signal processing algorithms for biomedical applications. These include image segmentation, contour extraction, and quantitative measure of image shape, color and texture for use in classification of cell image in pathology. He is the author or co-author of over ?? scientific papers and has been Principal Investigator for both research and institutional grants, including a NASA-funded project for Advancing Minorities in Science and Engineering. He has generated $? million in research grants and contracts over his career.

Barba has served the students as professor, mentor and role model. He is the faculty advisor for the Latin American Engineering Student Association-Society of Professional Engineers (LAESA-SHPE), as the director of the New York STEM Institute, a summer enrichment program for New York City high school students interested in math, science and engineering careers.  He has been instrumental in making the Grove School one of the top producers of Hispanic engineers in the Unites States.