University of Southern California

Research

Introducing Ming Hsieh

Ming Hsieh was born and raised in northern China and worked his way to USC, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1983 and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1984. In 1987, he founded AMAX Technology and in 1990 founded the Pasadena-based Cogent Inc., which revolutionized automated fingerprint identification. Hsieh is also a trustee of the University of Southern California.
In 2006, Hsieh donated $35 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to endow the USC Department of Electrical Engineering, which was named in his honor. At the time, it was the largest gift ever for an engineering department. In 2010 Hsieh donated an additional $50 million to establish the Ming Hsieh Institute for Engineering Medicine for Cancer.

Hsieh’s Arrival in the United States

Hsieh is a self-made entrepreneur from China. His life in this country began with a dream, planted long before he ever left his mainland China hometown of Shenyang, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, to seek a better education and make a difference in the world. In 1966, at the age of 10 and the beginning of China’s Cultural Revolution, Hsieh and his family were forced to leave the city and go to a small village near Panjing. His father, a well-educated man, was considered part of China’s upper middle class, as were other intellectuals, all of whom were sent to the countryside to be re-educated.

Hsieh in the lobby of Cogent

In the countryside, and after school, Ming would join his father, Baoyan, who was an electrical engineer, as the senior Hsieh constructed a crude power system to bring electricity to the village. Hsieh was quick to learn electrical engineering and his parents noticed his keen interest in technology, so they gave him a transistor radio to tear apart and reassemble. It wasn’t long before he was repairing TV sets, radios and anything else electronic he could get his hands on.

His uncle, P.Y. Hsieh, had left China and earned an M.S. in mechanical engineering at USC in 1952, fueling Ming’s aspirations to follow. In 1980, after two years of college at the South China Institute of Technology, now known as the South China University of Technology, in Guangzhou, Ming Hsieh used the inheritance that his grandparents in Taiwan had left him to emigrate and enroll in USC’s engineering program. He was a 24-year-old transfer student.

Excerpted from:

Putting a Fingerprint on Electrical Engineering
Cogent Founder Ming Hsieh Donates $50 Million to USC