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Illinois mechanical science and engineering professor wins Humboldt Prize

Naira Hovakimyan
Photo courtesy
College of Engineering

Professor Naira Hovakimyan was honored with a Humboldt Research Award for her work with adaptive flight control systems.

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6/3/2014 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois mechanical science and engineering professor Naira Hovakimyan has been chosen to receive the prestigious Humboldt Research Award (or Humboldt Prize) honoring a career of research achievements.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany, annually honors up to 100 researchers elected by a multinational, multidisciplinary panel of scholars. According to the foundation, the recipients are “academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge academic achievements in the future.”

Hovakimyan is a leading researcher in the field of control theory and engineering. Her work supports safety-critical applications in various industries, including aerospace, marine, health care, oil production and many others. Her research group developed the L1 adaptive control system for flight control, which reacts quickly to changing conditions and could provide a pilot with the crucial few seconds of control needed to avoid a crash. For this work, Hovakimyan received the Mechanics and Control of Flight Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2011.

Humboldt award recipients are each awarded a prize of 60,000 Euros (nearly $80,000 at current exchange rates) and extended an invitation to pursue research of their choice with colleagues in Germany. Hovakimyan will use her award to work with professor Florian Holzapfel at the Technical University of Munich. There they will collaborate to improve state-of-the-art, in-flight control systems, and in particular pursue the flight tests of the L1 adaptive controller on various industrial platforms in Germany.

“We look forward to accomplishing a number of ambitious goals in Germany, and we are both excited by the opportunity that this award avails,” Hovakimyan said. “We have been collaborating with professor Holzapfel for the past 15 years on various projects and have co-authored a number of papers. His students regularly work in our lab for few months for in-depth understanding of our methods, which are useful to practitioners in various industries, including a few in Germany.”

Hovakimyan earned her doctorate in physics and mathematics in 1992 at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She joined the faculty at Illinois in 2008. She is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Editor's note: To reach Naira Hovakimyan, call 217-244-1672; email:
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