It was a busy evening for newly named IEEE Fellows Zoran Zvonar and Milica Stojanovic when I called the married couple at their Boston-area home for an interview in August. They had just finished their last dinner together before Zvonar was to fly to Taiwan for eight days to work with colleagues at his company’s headquarters. Upon his return, Stojanovic would embark on her own flight, to Israel, where she would spend a week and present the results of her recent work at a conference.
“This is your first hint at what our life is like,” Stojanovic says. Their lives are busy because they are each accomplished in their field. Zvonar and Stojanovic are the first husband and wife to become IEEE Fellows in the same year.
Stojanovic, an associate professor at Northeastern University, in Boston, was recognized for her contributions to underwater acoustic communications. “We knew we had both been nominated, but I didn’t realize what I was reading when I got the e-mail announcement that we had been selected.”
Zvonar, a technical leader for MediaTek Wireless of Woburn, Mass., a fabless semiconductor company for wireless communications and digital media, was honored for his leadership in the development of digital signal processing software and hardware for wireless cellular communications
“When I told a long-time colleague of mine about becoming a Fellow, he said there’s only one thing that matters, and that’s what your peers think about you,” Zvonar says. “‘If this is something that your peers expressed about your work,’ he said, ‘then it’s an absolute honor.’”
A LIFE TOGETHER
Zvonar and Stojanovic met in Belgrade, Serbia, their hometown. She was still in high school, while he had just enrolled in the electrical engineering department at the University of Belgrade. Before long, they both were studying electrical engineering.
Although they began working in the same field and even coauthored some early papers together, the two soon found niches of their own. “I went the academia way, and he went the ‘real life’ way,” Stojanovic says. “Our fields are similar, but the work has gone separate ways.”
Zvonar’s research in radio receiver architecture contributed to several generations of today’s cellular communication systems while he was with Analog Devices and later with MediaTek. “It’s a privilege to work in this industry that has contributed so much to modern society,” he says.
Stojanovic’s field is more theoretical. “We have some bright goals for the future,” she says of her work in underwater communications. “If we can make a link that will reliably transmit data from remote sources in the ocean, then we can think about developing a system that could be deployed to monitor climate change or pollution in the ocean, as well as systems that will become useful in deep-sea oil fields or fish farms.”
They both say joining IEEE after they arrived in the United States in 1989 proved to be an important boost to their careers. “It was fascinating for us as young students to be in touch with members who were making so many of the big footprints in industry and contributed to so much research in our fields,” Zvonar says.
Reflecting on his new Fellow status, Zvonar says, “You look back to all those who taught you and inspired you, and you ask yourself: ‘How can I inspire the next generation?’” His answer is simple: “I tell them anything is possible.”
Although the couple does not work on projects together, they do sometimes talk shop at home. “It’s great to be able to talk with a buddy,” Stojanovic says. “It’s fun to be able to have somebody who will listen when you talk about your work over dinner.”
NOMINATE A FELLOW
Do you know a colleague, co-worker, or friend who is already an IEEE senior member and whose career and body of work you consider eligible for elevation to the IEEE Fellow grade?
If so, nominate him or her to be an IEEE Fellow. The deadline for nominations to the Fellow Class of 2012 is 1 March 2011.