Armstrong Memorial Lecture 2018

The Process of Making Breakthroughs in Engineering

Date: 2:00pm, September 25, 2018
Location: Davis Auditorium
Speaker: Prof. Thomas Kailath, Hitachi America Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, Stanford University

Abstract:   This presumptuous title was first proposed as a challenge, followed by an irresistible bribe! Of course, there are no magic formulas for making breakthroughs in any field. However, it is possible to gain useful insights from past experiences. I will go over a few case histories and draw some pointers from them.

Biography:  Thomas Kailath received a master’s degree in 1959 and a doctorate in 1961 from MIT. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1963 as an associate professor of electrical engineering, and was promoted to professor in 1968; in 1988, he became the first holder of the Hitachi America Professorship in Engineering. He assumed emeritus status in 2001. His research has spanned a large number of engineering and mathematical disciplines: information theory, communications, linear systems, estimation and control, signal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, probability and statistics, and matrix and operator theory. He has mentored a stellar array of over 100 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars, whose joint efforts have produced over 300 journal papers, a dozen patents, and several books and monographs, including the major textbooks Linear Systems (1980) and Linear Estimation (2000). With his students, he has also co-founded several companies, two of which went public, while the others were acquired; his former students have formed over 20 companies themselves.

Kailath is a Fellow of the IEEE, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and the American Mathematical Society. Kailath was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama “for transformative contributions to the fields of information and system science, for distinctive and sustained mentoring of young scholars, and for translation of scientific ideas into entrepreneurial ventures that have had a significant impact on industry.” In 2017, he was honored with the Marconi Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, only the sixth person to be so recognized in the organization’s 43-year history. He has received the IEEE Education and Signal Processing Medals as well as its highest award, the IEEE Medal of Honor, “for exceptional contributions to the development of powerful algorithms for communications, control, computation and signal processing.” Other major recognitions include a BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Information and Communication Technologies; India’s third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, presented by the President of India; election to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and foreign membership in, among others, the Royal Society of London, the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering, and the Indian National Academies of Engineering and of Science. He has held Guggenheim, Churchill and Humboldt fellowships, and received several honorary degrees, most recently from the Technion and the National Technical University of Athens.

Host: Professor Debasis Mitra
About The Armstrong Memorial Lecture Series

This series of lectures offered by the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University in New York is named in honor of Edwin Howard Armstrong, 1890-1954, a pre-eminent electrical engineer, who through his extraordinary inventions, FM radio among them, contributed immeasurably to the advancement of wireless communications and broadcasting. He spent his entire career in the department - first as a student and later as a professor.

About The Electrical Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series

This series of lectures offered by the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University in New York was established to recognize the scholarship and accomplishment of prominent scholars in the field of electrical engineering, and to provide an opportunity for the public to learn about cutting-edge technologies and research breakthroughs in the field. 


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