When I was a graduate student at Georgia Tech, the professor who influenced me most was Ron Schafer, a world-renowned professor of signal processing. His teaching was exceptional, and he made everything sound so simple—even when the topic was far from it. He was highly respected by the students and staff.
Schafer was an IEEE Fellow and a member of the IEEE Signal Processing Society. I realized then that being an IEEE Fellow was a stamp of approval for work well done. To achieve it, one must constantly strive to succeed, whether in research or innovation, which was a great motivator to me as a young engineering student. This honor is all the more great because no more than one in 1000 IEEE members are elevated to Fellow each year.
When I became an IEEE Fellow in 1999, I was working at Texas Instruments, in Japan, as director of the company’s research center there. Not only did I appreciate the recognition, but so did my company. It was important to them that they were employing knowledgeable employees worthy of such a title because it gave their customers confidence that the products and services were being made by top engineers.
I was extremely lucky to be employed by Texas Instruments, particularly at that time, because it was introducing low-cost digital signal processing (DSP) chips, and they became a big commercial success in the digital revolution of the cell phones, digital cameras, and MP3 players that we enjoy today. Developing efficient implementations with DSP and educating the company’s engineers about them was my contribution to the field, for which I was elevated to IEEE Fellow.
Being a Fellow became even more essential for me when I decided to switch careers to academia to become a professor. Working in the industry was a lot of fun, but I also greatly enjoyed teaching as an adjunct at different universities. When I was offered the opportunity to move to academia as chair of the electrical engineering department at Southern Methodist University (SMU), in Dallas, I jumped at it.
I learned that the academic environment places even more emphasis on being an IEEE Fellow, as this is a reliable indication of the quality of one’s work. At SMU, I have been teaching and doing research on image, signal, and speech processing, and I am also currently an associate dean of its School of Engineering.
I should note it’s not an easy job selecting Fellows. This responsibility of providing accurate and honest assessment of the nominees’ qualifications places a heavy burden on the Fellow Committee, which is made up of current Fellows who spend untold hours evaluating the candidates’ credentials.
In the end, it is the quality of the people elected to be IEEE Fellows that makes the election a highly sought-after designation. I am honored to be among them.
To learn more about the IEEE Fellows program, read our story "Fifty Years of Recognizing Extraordinary Accomplishments."
Panos Papamichalis chairs the 2014 IEEE Fellow Committee. He is the associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of the electrical engineering department at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. Before joining SMU, he spent 23 year with Texas Instruments and was named a TI Fellow.