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Four engineering professors elected to National Academy of Engineering

Matt Hanley, News Bureau
(217) 244-0470; mhanley@illinois.edu


2/29/2000
 
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Four University of Illinois professors were chosen as members of the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest honors an engineer can receive.

Tamer Basar, the Fredric G. and Elizabeth H. Nearing Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; David Daniel, a professor and head of civil and environmental engineering; Richard DeVor, the Grayce Wicall Gauthier Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; and Shung-Wu “Andy” Lee, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, were among the 78 new members elected to NAE’s class of 2000. 

William Schowalter, the dean of the College of Engineering and an NAE member, said that the election of four professors to the NAE in one year was “unprecedented.”  Other prestigious engineering schools – Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley – each had three professors elected.

Election to the NAE recognizes “important contributions to engineering theory and practice, including significant contributions to the literature of engineering,” and/or “demonstration of unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology,” according to the NAE.  Members are nominated and elected by their peers.

Basar, who’s also a research professor in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, said that he was delighted to hear that he was elected to the NAE.

“This is one of the major recognitions a professor in engineering can receive, maybe the ultimate recognition,” Basar said.

Basar was chosen for his work in the development of game theory and application to robust control of systems with uncertainty.

Basar earned his Ph.D. in engineering and applied science from Yale University in 1972, and joined the UI faculty in 1981 from a research position at a university in Istanbul, Turkey.  He decided he wanted to teach so that he could give back to the engineering community.

“I think being a researcher is only one side of the story and you have to contribute to the system by teaching younger minds what you know, and what you have experienced through research,” Basar said.

Daniel was elected to the NAE for his leadership in developing the geoenvironmental engineering field, and major contributions to engineering practice involving landfills and waste-containment systems.

He came to the UI in 1996 from the University of Texas to become the head of the department.  He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Texas and spent three years working in the private sector.

“When I got my Ph.D. I had offers from the private sector and other universities, but I had worked in the private sector and teaching seemed more challenging,” Daniel said.  “I think what really surprised me is now much I enjoyed teaching, especially undergrads.”

DeVor was elected for contributions to the field of manufacturing research and its applications. 

DeVor, who came to UI in 1971, credits the UI and his engineering colleagues for helping him attain this honor, saying that the UI has been a “great place to teach and conduct research over the last 29 years.”

“It [the NAE] is probably the highest recognition that an engineer can receive,” DeVor said.  “So, I’m very honored and very humbled to be part of this small group.”

DeVor, who has received numerous teaching awards for excellence in undergraduate instruction, earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin.

Lee was elected to NAE for contributions to the understanding of radar scattering from complex objects and stealth aircraft technology.

He joined the UI faculty in 1962, and Lee opted for early retirement in 1995 after the research he was doing at the UI led him to open his own company, DEMACO, which was acquired by Science Applications International Corp. 

With the four new members, the UI now has 28 current and past professors elected to the NAE.  There are 2,027 members and 157 foreign associates.

The NAE, established in 1964 under a charter from the National Academy of Sciences as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers, is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that advises the federal government and conducts independent studies that investigate and provide a forum for some of the most important topics in engineering and technology.

One of the projects the NAE recently advised on was how to make the new $20 bills difficult to counterfeit.