Vorontsov, Koev, Wei and McKinney win at ISR awards ceremony

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Large photo: ISR Director Eyad Abed presents the outstanding faculty award to Mikhail Vorontsov. Small photos, top to bottom: Ermin Wei (undergraduate student), Stephan Koev (graduate student), Jeff McKinney (staff).

ISR Director Eyad Abed presented awards to four members of the ISR family on May 28 at the Institute's annual awards ceremony.

Outstanding Faculty Award

Research Professor Mikhail Vorontsov is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award. As well as holding a full-time position with the Army Research Laboratory, he is the director of the Intelligent Optics Laboratory and is affiliated with the Maryland Hybrid Networks Center.

Vorontsov received his Ph.D. in physics in 1977 and Doctor of Science in physics and mathematics in 1989, both from Moscow State University. Until 1993 he was a professor of physics in the Physics Department and at the International Laser Center of Moscow State University. From 1993 to 1997 Dr. Vorontsov was a professor of mechanical engineering at New Mexico State University and held a concurrent IPA appointment with the Army Research Laboratory. Currently he is a Research Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department of UMD (College Park), and a Research Fellow in the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate of the Army Research Laboratory. He has published over 230 papers and four books on the subjects of adaptive optics, nonlinear spatio-temporal dynamics, imaging through turbulence, parallel image processing and correction, optical synergetics, optimal control theory, and optical neural networks. He has supervised the dissertations of twelve Ph.D. students. Dr. Vorontsov is frequently requested as a speaker and guest lecturer and has chaired a number of international conferences. He is both an OSA and SPIE Fellow.

George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award

Stephan Koev is the recipient of this year’s George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award. He was nominated by his faculty advisor, Reza Ghodssi.

Stephan is a key researcher in the chitosan-based nanoscale sensor system developed by Ghodssi and his graduate students in the MEMS Sensors and Actuators Lab. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations. His M.S. thesis “Microcantilever Biosensors with Chitosan for the Detection of Nucleic Acids and Dopamine” clearly demonstrated the unique properties of chitosan integrated with MEMS devices. This work is the subject of his 2008 paper in the prestigious Lab on Chip journal.

Stephan’s Ph.D. work focuses on the development of “biosystems on a chip” for drug discovery. This is one of the MSAL’s core research programs, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), R. W. Deutsch Foundation and the Laboratory for Physical Sciences (LPS). It is truly an interdisciplinary project that involves design, modeling, materials characterization and process development as well as extensive device characterization and testing, and involves collaboration with Gary Rubloff, Bill Bentley and Greg Payne. Stephan’s Ph.D. thesis will be truly an integrative system approach that investigates and addresses the design and fabrication limitations between organic and inorganic materials.

He won the 2007 American Vacuum Society's (AVS) Graduate Research Award, a prestigious prize that draws nationwide competition each year, and he was one of the four recipients of the ECE Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship this year. The fellowship recognizes the outstanding work a graduate student has done towards his/her dissertation. Stephan's award recognized his research entitled "Design, Fabrication and Testing of a Microsystem for Monitoring Bacterial Quorum Sensing."

Outstanding Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student Award

Ermin Wei is the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student Award. She was nominated by P.S. Krishnaprasad.

Ermin maintained a 3.97 GPA while participating in the University Honors program, ECE Honors program and Business Honors program. She has worked as a Research Assistant in the Intelligent Servosystems Lab and interned at Microsoft. She plans to attend MIT to pursue a Ph.D.

Ermin began working in the Intelligent Servosystems Lab in her freshman year. She worked full time in the lab last summer as part of the highly competitive summer scholar program, and continued her research work on a part-time basis this past academic year. She is also doing experiments in Cynthia Moss’s Auditory Neuroethology Laboratory and is effectively doing research at the level of a high quality graduate student.

Her research includes work on characterizing ultrasonic microphones, and motion control of mobile robots. Ermin was involved in integrating a robotic bat head onto a mobile robot, which involved both hardware integration and software development. Her current project includes a motion model, a bat vocalization model, and a signal processing model. She has completed a good portion of this model and her work is expected to be useful in the further design and development of robotic hardware modeled on the bat. The project is substantial and has already yielded results that are being readied for publication in a scholarly journal.

Ermin was the student speaker at the Clark School of Engineering's 2008 commencement ceremony. She earned three degrees, in Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and Finance.

Ermin also recently received the International Engineering Consortium’s (IEC) 2007 William L. Everitt Student Award of Excellence. The award honors outstanding seniors in electrical and computer engineering at affiliate universities across the country who are in the top 10 percent of their class and have an interest in communications. In addition, she received the ECE Department’s Chair’s Award for outstanding academic performance as a senior.

Outstanding Staff Award

Jeff McKinney is the recipient of this year’s ISR Outstanding Staff Award. Jeff was nominated for this award by Sue Frazier.

Jeff is a very skilled, effective manager and has a friendly, collegial demeanor. He has led the effort to take advantage of the synergies between ISR and ECE, which has made both computing groups one efficient unit.

His broad knowledge of computer systems has really brought cohesion to both the systems and the staff. He takes great care in listening to faculty and other users to understand the computing issues/problems and is able to work with his staff to resolve issues for the good of both departments. He understands the value of being patient and keeping lines of communication open.

Jeff does a great job anticipating the needs of the computer users. He is very accessible and responsive to students, faculty, and staff. He maintains an "open door" policy and one can also always reach him via email. He has ensured that the HELP desk is covered and technical issues can be resolved 24/7. He works well with everyone with whom he interacts.

Recently, the Department of Physics turned to him to help get them reorganized with better computer support and at a reduced cost. His ability to accomplish these tasks reflects on the good reputation of ISR. He is an effective member of ISR’s senior staff and a very good ISR with a positive attitude. Jeff demonstrates a genuine commitment to his position and to the ISR.

Published May 28, 2008