Narayan, Zhou, Schlotfeldt, Strahan win ISR outstanding awards

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Receiving their awards from ISR Director Reza Ghodssi, top to bottom: Professor Prakash Narayan, Brent Schlotfeldt, and Jason Strahan. Yuchen Zhou was not able to attend the ceremony.

ISR recognized the outstanding work of its faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students at its annual awards ceremony on Tuesday, Sept 13.

Outstanding ISR Faculty Award: Prakash Narayan

Professor Prakash Narayan (ECE/ISR) is this year’s winner of the ISR Outstanding Faculty Award. He was nominated by André Tits with support from Sasha Barg, P. S. Krishnaprasad and Armand Makowski.

Narayan has been a key player in ISR since its inception, and was a contributor to the initial proposal that established the Institute. His research contributions and their impact on the field of information theory have been at the highest level. He has been an exemplary ISR citizen as well---including his recent leadership on the ISR Strategic Planning Committee.

Recognition of his accomplishments is long overdue. The high quality of his research has been widely recognized over the years, bringing ISR high visibility. Narayan’s papers have systematically tackled some of the hardest questions of multi-user information theory and coding, finding limits to performance of communication systems.

His work is characterized by depth and thoroughness. He usually develops research directions of his own rather than following in the footsteps of others. His papers almost always contain a well-rounded study of a new question.

Narayan develops new methods that are then adopted into the body of information theory and are successfully employed by other researchers. In the last decade alone he has published about a dozen papers of this kind, an outstanding result by any measure.

As of January 2017, Narayan will be the editor in chief of IEEE Transactions in Information Theory, another well-deserved honor.

George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award: Yuchen Zhou

Yuchen Zhou is the winner of this year’s George Harhalakis Outstanding Systems Engineering Graduate Student Award. Yuchen graduated with his Ph.D. in May 2016 and is currently working for General Motors in Michigan, where he had previously interned. He was nominated by his Ph.D. advisor, John Baras.

Yuchen’s work was in model-based systems engineering for cyber-physical systems, particularly automotive systems and connective cars, as well as collaborative robotics.

Baras writes, “Yuchen is unique because he knows systems and control extremely well, because he knows modern MBSE exceptionally well, and because he is excellent in theory, practice and complex software development and implementations.”

ISR Outstanding Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student Award: Brent Schlotfeldt

Brent Schlotfeldt is the winner of this year’s ISR Outstanding Systems Engineering Undergraduate Student Award. He was nominated by P. S. Krishnaprasad. Brent graduated in May 2016 with a double-major in electrical engineering and computer science. He has just started graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where we is working towards a Ph.D. in Electrical and Systems Engineering.

Brent spent a fruitful senior year working in the Intelligent Servosystems Lab. He conducted independent research in robotics—specifically exploiting depth cameras in motion control and robot navigation in a cluttered environment.

Dr. Krishnaprasad writes that Brent’s double major has made him well-equipped and appreciative of the physical aspects of engineering and continuous mathematics, as well as the discrete, algorithm-centric and programming-driven approaches to solving problems. He has particular strengths in realizing the potential broader impacts of his ideas, particularly: collaborative environments, user-centric approaches to technology, open sharing and dissemination of technology, creating startups to make things affordable, and a clear commitment to teaching others.

Brent’s graduate school work will capitalize on these strengths, and Dr. Krishnaprasad concludes that he has excellent potential for a research-oriented career.

Susan Frazier Outstanding ISR Staff Award: Jason Strahan

Jason Strahan is the recipient of this year’s Susan Frazier Outstanding Systems Engineering Staff Award.

Jason is receiving the award for his leadership, quality of work, service to ISR, dedication, positive attitude, accessibility and responsiveness to everyone, and his contribution to the development of ISR’s reputation.

Jason has an encyclopedic knowledge of the many financial and administrative protocols within the university and the college, which is an essential and important asset in an era when ISR has been moving forward into new projects and collaborations across campus.

Jason leads his staff into always being on top of the current best administrative practices. Their smooth operation is a tribute to Jason’s demonstrating how things ought to be done.

In addition to leading his own team, Jason also is an excellent team player with the rest of the ISR staff. When issues arise or problems need to be solved, Jason always supplies thoughtful input, creative solutions and a great, calming attitude.

Published September 13, 2016