Four New Fellows: 'We Owe It to IEEE'

Learn about their work on robotics, electromagnetics, and more

6 May 2010

Four new IEEE Fellows from the class of 2010 each cite their involvement with IEEE as contributing to their success. They earned the recognition of their peers in different fields: modeling power transmission systems, exploring the nature of electromagnetics, building life-saving robots, and developing high-performance computer systems.

The work of Pouyan Pourbeik can be found in some of today’s commercially available power-system simulation programs. He helped develop models of combined-cycle power plants and the modeling of shunt compensation flexible AC transmission devices, known as FACTS, for short. One of the youngest Fellows in recent years, at 37, he was elevated in the Application Engineer/Practitioner category for his “contributions to modeling of power generation and transmission equipment.”

Pourbeik is a technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute in Charlotte, N.C. He has a long history of volunteering for IEEE, which he says played a crucial role in his career. “I joined IEEE when I was a postgraduate student at the University of Adelaide, in Australia,” he says. “Since then, I have been heavily involved with many subcommittees, committees, task forces, and working groups. I have met and worked with some of the most talented and highly motivated engineers in my discipline. And many of the senior engineers I worked with also became my mentors.”

Zhizhang Chen, a professor of wireless technology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., Canada, was elevated in the Educator category for his “contributions to time-domain electromagnetic modeling and simulation.”

His interest in electromagnetics stems from the fact that it’s the foundation and first principle of electrical and computer engineering. “Without it, there would be no modern communication networks, no cellular phones, no computers, no power grids, and no IEEE, all of which have shaped the ways we live and work,” he says.

Chen and his research team are developing a framework to unify and bridge different numerical methods for handling finite element computation, including meshless node-based methods that do not use conventional numerical grids but can interface with them. They are also working on pulse-based ultra-wide-band radio systems, which are time-domain systems that process digital pulses directly.

Chen’s involvement with IEEE began when he immigrated to Canada from China in 1989 to pursue his doctorate. Attending IEEE conferences and gatherings allows him, he says, “to get encouragement from the work of colleagues in other universities and companies around the globe,” a big benefit for someone at a relatively small university.

One of the founders of the field of rescue robotics, Robin Murphy helped introduce ground, oceangoing, and air robots to disaster relief around the world. Through the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, she helped locate people in the rubble of the 2001 World Trade Center bombing in New York City, conduct the first unmanned aerial vehicle searches after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and use unmanned marine vehicles to assess structural damage to bridges following Hurricane Ike in 2008.

She says her career in rescue robots was inspired by two 1995 events: the Oklahoma City bombing and the earthquake in Kobe, Japan. “Those disasters made it clear that small robots could go deep into the rubble, where rescuers and dogs could not,” Murphy says. “I felt a humanistic imperative to explore that field.”

Murphy is a professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University, College Station. She was elevated in the Research Engineer/Scientist category “for contributions to rescue robotics and insertion of robots into major disasters.”

According to Murphy, IEEE began shaping her career when she was a graduate student attending the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation and the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The conferences exposed her to “an array of fantastic research,” she says.

She was the first woman on the IEEE AdCom executive committee, which helps implement new programs, oversees technical and educational activities, and stays in touch with members to ensure the mission of the organization is fulfilled. She also worked on the editorial board of IEEE Intelligent Systems. “As I served on the editorial board, I began to see the importance of meta-research, not just creating algorithms but also sharing an understanding of issues with the larger community,” she says. “This also reinforced my move into human–robot interaction, where the issue isn’t just the robot or the interface but the entire system.”

She says her elevation to Fellow helps reinforce for female students and junior faculty that good work is rewarded.

Ashwini Nanda’s work at IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., led to several noteworthy computing innovations. The first was the design and architecture of cache memory systems for server-class machines, including coherence controllers that make sure data cached in multiple processors stay consistent. He and his team developed low-latency coherence controllers in the mid-1990s—which form the basis of many controllers in today’s multicore chips. His work also affected the architecture, design, and application of low-power, high-efficiency commodity computer clusters. “We built the world’s first petaFLOP supercomputer, Roadrunner, from the same processors that went into ordinary PlayStations, paving the way for some of the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world,” he says.

Nanda was elevated in the Technical Leader category “for leadership in high-performance computer systems.”

He recently moved back to India to form a new company, HPC Links, which is applying parallel programming to solve business problems.

Nanda credits his IEEE membership with helping him stay on top of his rapidly developing field. “The greatest advantage of being involved with IEEE,” he says, “is its peer network of researchers, academicians, and industry leaders, from whom I learn new things every day.”

Nanda calls his elevation to Fellow a humbling experience, and says the honor encourages him to “keep doing more of what I have been doing for the benefit of society.”

In any given year, the rules permit no more than one tenth of one percent of IEEE voting members to qualify for elevation to Fellow. For the entire list of 2010 IEEE Fellows, and information on nominating a colleague, visit the Fellows Web site.

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