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Fourteen engineering faculty members honored for excellence

Mare Payne, News Bureau
(217) 333-0567;  m-payne@illinois.edu

4/10/2000

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Fourteen faculty members of the University of Illinois College of Engineering were honored Friday (April 7) at the 36th annual Engineering Awards Convocation for their excellence in research and teaching.

The winner of the Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award, which recognizes faculty members who have received national or international acclaim for dedication to academic excellence through teaching and research and have made exemplary contributions to the understanding of their fields:

·  Richard Blahut, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, is internationally renowned for his research work in error-control coding, communication systems, signal processing and information theory, and for his outstanding series of graduate-level textbooks that have illuminated the common threads and themes underlying these research areas.  Blahut came to the UI in 1995 after a long and distinguished career with IBM Corp., including an appointment as an IBM fellow, the highest scientific recognition within the company.  In 1980, he was elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and in 1990 to the National Academy of Engineering.

The winner of the Stanley H. Pierce Award for developing student-faculty cooperation:

• Patricia Jones, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, has a poster of Rosie the Riveter, with the words “We can do it,” hanging on her always-open office door.  Students feel that the “we” refers to a partnership they have with Jones, who places one-on-one mentoring near the top of her list of priorities.  She has a reputation among students as one who truly cares and is eager to facilitate growth through learning.  Equally notable is the outstanding reputation she has as a good instructor.  She is one of the most popular instructors in the department for independent study courses and undergraduate research projects.  She engages students and faculty members with her unselfish contributions of time, effort and other resources.

The winner of the College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award, chosen by departmental nomination:

• Gary Gladding, a professor of physics, led a four-year, 40-faculty-member massive curriculum revision that transformed the way introductory physics is taught to some 2,500 students per semester.  In addition, he has created an exciting new physics pedagogy that he calls “interactive examples”– Web-based Socratic dialogues that patiently lead students to develop problem-solving strategies based on conceptual understanding.  Along with Jon Thaler, Gladding co-developed a new course that addresses the dual problems of inadequate secondary school preparation for some incoming students and retention of minority students in science, engineering and mathematics.

The winners of the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence, chosen by undergraduates:

• Philippe Geubelle, a professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering, inspires and motivates students and faculty members through his enthusiasm for teaching and excellent methods.  His lectures are well organized and supported by clear lecture notes, allowing the students to concentrate on the topics being discussed rather than on merely writing down the material presented.  He created a Web-based version of Aerospace Structures II, designed a new computational methods course that has been well received, and instituted a 300-level course in his specialty that attracts students from across the college. 

• Edward Reingold, a professor of computer science, says he has been addicted to computers since his high school days.  He loves to teach, and even now, after more than 40 years of mentoring and teaching, is thrilled at the prospect of making ideas accessible.  Although he teaches mostly theory courses, he always links real-world applications to even the most theoretical topics and talks about problems from diverse sources so that students can see the theoretical techniques in situ.  Students respond well to his approach.  Citing their initial fear of the dreaded theory classes, they discovered an understanding and caring professor who presented difficult technical material in a clear, crisp way.

The winners of the Xerox Awards for Faculty Research (associate professors):

• David Cahill, a professor of materials science and engineering, has established himself as an international leader in the thin film, crystal growth and thermophysical properties communities.  His research combines the ability to recognize areas of high-potential science and engineering payoff and to attack them at size scales ranging from atomistic mechanisms to continuum behavior.  In the past year, he was elected vice chair of the Gordon Research Conference on thin films and crystal growth mechanisms and to the Executive Committee of the Electronic Materials and Processing Division of the American Vacuum Society.

• Jianming Jin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, conducts research in all aspects of computational electromagnetics and its applications to antennas, radar scattering, microwave circuits and biomedical technology.  In 1995, Jin and colleagues were awarded a grant from the Department of Defense to establish at the UI the nation’s first Center for Computational Electromagnetics.  Jin has served the center as an associate director.

• A professor of computer science, Josep Torrellas is one of the country’s best known computer architects.  He has an international reputation for his contributions to the architecture of distributed shared-memory parallel machines.  His work has contributed directly to the current popularization of shared-memory multiprocessors.  Torrellas has received, among other awards, the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award and the IBM Partnership Award.  In 1998, he spent a sabbatical at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center researching IBM’s next-generation processors and parallel machines.

The winners of the Xerox Awards for Faculty Research (assistant professors):

• Andrew Alleyne, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, has made significant contributions in several areas of dynamics and controls using mathematically rigorous elements of control theory to solve technological problems.  He combines advanced analytical tools with detailed modeling to address highly relevant engineering problems.  His initial area of application was vehicle dynamics, and he has expanded his research, making major contributions in the control of fluid-power systems and manufacturing systems.  Alleyne’s national and international reputation is extraordinary for someone who received his Ph.D. only five years ago.

• Paul Selvin, a professor of physics, has initiated several groundbreaking studies of considerable biological interest using an optical technique he developed.  This method is capable of measuring subnanometer-scale shape changes in biomolecules, achieving a resolution 1,000 times better than conventional light-based techniques.  Using his powerful technique, Selvin has recently published fundamental studies that help explain how nerves fire and muscles contract.  In the past year, he received the Biophysical Society’s Young Fluorescence Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

• Bharghavan Vaduvur, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, heads a networking research group in the Coordinated Sciences Laboratory.  He has made fundamental contributions to wireless networking, including wireless medium access, scheduling in cellular packet networks for quality of service, routing protocols in ad hoc networks, and reliable transport protocols in wide-area cellular networks.  His recent research includes the design of quality-of-service Internet architectures.  He received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 1997.

The winner of the Rose Award for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes teachers who excel at motivating undergraduates to learn and appreciate engineering:

• Jason Zych, a lecturer in computer science, teaches two of the most important core courses in the undergraduate computer science curriculum:  Introduction to Programming for majors and Data Structures.  Simultaneously teaching these two large and complex introductory classes requires an array of skills seldom found in a single individual.  Students cite Zych’s enthusiasm, approachability, patience and knowledge of the material.  He suggested and implemented a shift in course assignments to emphasize applying the classroom material to example problems, integrated a textbook into one class while augmenting it with supplemental material, and created his own series of lecture notes and written tutorials to supplement the course text.

The winner of the Collins Award for Innovative Teaching:

• Aida El-Khadra, a professor of physics, has exploited the power of the Internet to make her teaching more responsive to her students’ needs.  She has taken a concept called Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) and developed it into a powerful and effective pedagogical technique.  The rationale for JiTT is to engage the students with the course material early, before they hear lectures on it.  Students answer, on the Web, sets of questions related to reading assignments the week before the lecture on a particular topic.  After reviewing their answers, she adjusts her lectures so that she can spend more time explaining concepts that are not clear.

The winner of the BP Amoco Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Instruction:

• Thomas Overbye, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, has developed an extremely innovative software package for illustrating the operation and design of electrical power grids.  This package, now known as PowerWorld (PW) Simulator, has had a major impact on undergraduate power system education not only at Illinois but throughout the world.  PW Simulator is an extremely user-friendly, highly graphical, interactive program that allows students to graphically construct and simulate power systems ranging from small educational systems up to those that accurately model very large systems, such as the network in the eastern portion of North America.  Animation is used so that objects, such as the arrows on the transmission lines, actually move, thus making it easy to see the networkwide flow of power.  PW Simulator has been the subject of a number of journal and conference papers, and it has received wide attention from industry.