2011 ISR Awards Ceremony winners announced

ISR recognized the outstanding work of its faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students at its annual awards ceremony on Friday, May 27.

Outstanding ISR Faculty Award: Sennur Ulukus

Sennur Ulukus was nominated by Tony Ephremides, who says, “Sennur is one of the strongest and most valuable faculty members in the ISR and the ECE department.”

Sennur joined the university in fall 2001 and was recently promoted to full professor, effective July 1. Tony notes that Sennur has accumulated an impressive record of accomplishments during this time.

Sennur has sustained an output of outstanding scholarly contributions published in the most prestigious journals of the wireless networking field. She has mentored, graduated and placed a succession of excellent students.

In addition, she has amassed an impressive amount of funding in support of her research projects over the years. These include awards for dynamic ad-hoc wireless networking, wireless sensor networks, secure and reliable wireless systems, intelligent embedded systems, correlation in multi-user wireless networks, rechargeable wireless networks, and delay minimization in wireless networks.

Tony also points out that Sennur has played a central role in ISR activities from service to research. Most recently she has been a pivotal member of the Green Communications initiative and has pioneered fundamental interdisciplinary research in energy harvesting for communication systems. She has interacted with several ISR faculty and continues to attract students and colleagues who wish to explore joint research projects.

Sennur won the IEEE Marconi Paper Prize Award in Wireless Communications in 2003 and an NSF CAREER Award in 2005. This year she has added the ISR Outstanding Faculty Award to her list of honors.

George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award: Yongqiang Wang

Yongqiang Wang was nominated by Steve Marcus, who jointly advises Yongqiang with Michael Fu.

Steve writes that Yongqiang is “creative, highly motivated, mature, and independent. He is a determined and successful student who is technically strong and has developed an innovative, creative, and independent research program.”

Yongqiang has done significant and original research in a number of related areas. He has studied and understood stochastic control, Markov Decision Processes, evolutionary games, finance, inventory control, and global optimization problems, in terms of both fundamental methodology and computation.

This past winter the quality of his work earned him two best student paper awards for two different papers, one from the Winter Simulation Conference and one from the INFORMS Computing Society.

The paper that won the INFORMS award will soon appear in Operations Research. In it, Yongqiang considered a gradient estimation problem that arises in finance, in which the payoff function is discontinuous. Some standard efficient estimators, such as infinitesimal perturbation analysis and the likelihood ratio method do not work in this case. Yongqiang discovered a way to combine these estimators in a clever new way that will solve such problems. This new method is also more computationally more efficient than other estimators, such as smoothed perturbation analysis. Steve writes, “It is a very nice piece of work.”

Yongqiang is well versed both in systems and control, and in operations research and optimization. His work spans a variety of fields, from evolutionary games to finance. He was an integral part of a team of students from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, working with Steve and Rance Cleaveland, that studied hybrid systems from both the EE and the CS point of view. Steve says, “This was critical in getting our large interdisciplinary NSF Expeditions in Computing project started, and Yongqiang was a major contributor.”

Yongqiang was chosen to be part of a Future Faculty Program at the University of Maryland, in which he excelled. Steve says, “I am confident Yongqiang will develop into a successful faculty member in a major research university.”

Susan Frazier Outstanding ISR Staff Award: Kim Edwards

We have renamed this award the “ISR Susan Frazier Outstanding Systems Engineering Staff Award” in honor of our colleague and friend Sue Frazier, who passed away suddenly last fall. Kim Edwards was nominated for this award by John Baras, and received enthusiastic letters of support from nine more faculty, current Ph.D. students, alumni, and ISR staff.

John writes that Kim “not only does her assigned duties exceptionally well, but most importantly thinks ahead all the time as to how to improve all aspects of ISR operations, performance, atmosphere and environment.”

Kim handles the difficult and demanding business and financial problems associated with John’s research and education programs, including NASA contracts, multi-university, multi-faculty research proposals, the SERC subcontract, the CRADA agreement, the CTA on Communications and Networking, the MuSyC subcontract, and the URI contract on “Distributed Immune Systems for Wireless Networks Information Assurance.

In addition, Kim has persistently undertaken new and additional responsibilities and has performed them with focus and an exceptional level of accomplishment. She also is a great asset to the SEIL and HNS labs, to HyNet, and to the new Model Based Systems Engineering program and Colloquium.

In addition to these major contract and major programs related tasks, Kim has supported efficiently, tirelessly and superbly a group of graduate students—sometimes as many as 25—and 2-4 postdoctoral fellows, several Assistant Research Scientists, and a few staff engineers associated with John’s research and education efforts. She is well known for the help and care she has provided to them. Mark Austin notes, “I am personally very impressed with the way she interacts with all John’s students in a friendly and efficient manner. This is nothing short of superb.”

In summary, John says, “Personally, I depend critically on Kim for the diverse research and educational activities of my research group, SEIL and HyNet.”

ISR Outstanding Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student Award: David Billet, Zachariah Panneton, and Jason Saeedi

David Billet, Zachariah Panneton, and Jason Saeedi were nominated by Mark Austin, John Baras, and Shah-An Yang.

These three students are being honored for the outstanding job they did as a team in their ENES 489P Hands-On Systems Engineering class project on smart tire systems. The project follows the flow of power and data at a systems level as road conditions are read and analyzed, and changes are made to mechanisms within the car in response.

David, Zach and Jason demonstrated innovation and solid understanding and application of complex systems engineering concepts and constructs, while exhibiting exceptional teamwork.

In addition, out of almost 40 students in the class, Zach had the highest homework grade, demonstrated excellent intuition about systems, and has been selected for a NIST internship this summer with Dr. Srinivasan’s Systems Engineering group.

Congratulations to all our 2010 winners!

Published June 2, 2011