Four distinguished SMU professors were named 2015 Ford Research Fellows during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 7.
This year’s recipients are Nathan Cortez, Dedman School of Law; Ping (Peggy) Gui, Electrical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; Robert Howell, Philosophy, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Lisa Siraganian, English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.
The gift establishing the Mary and Richard Templeton Centennial Chair of Electrical Engineering provides for a $1.5 million endowment and $500,000 in operational support.
The special “Centennial” designation underscores the foresight of donors who recognize the need for operational funds to allow immediate impact while the endowment matures.
“This commitment is meaningful because it comes from a family of engineers who understand the reach of science and technology,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The Templetons know better than most how their gift will help SMU attract outstanding faculty in this important engineering discipline, and how it will influence students and prepare them to contribute to the engineering profession.”
Richard Templeton is president and CEO of Texas Instruments, and Mary Templeton is a computer scientist. They were together on the SMU campus last May as Mr. Templeton delivered the commencement address at the Lyle School and as their son, Jim, received his own bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
“The SMU formula for success is to combine bright, motivated students with talented, innovative faculty members,” said SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Ludden. “This gift of an endowed chair gives us the ability to attract and support a strong, academic leader in the field of electrical engineering.”
The search to fill the Mary and Richard Templeton Centennial Chair of Electrical Engineering is underway.
“An outstanding faculty member can spark creative ideas in a student who goes on to change the world with an invention, or lead research that reveals a different way of looking at an old problem,” said Mr. Templeton. “It means a great deal to us to be able to help support that kind of educator.”
“Jim had such a wonderful experience at SMU that we want to help ensure the same access to superior faculty members for students who come after him,” said Mrs. Templeton.
The gift to fund the Mary and Richard Templeton Centennial Chair of Electrical Engineering counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, and toward the campaign’s goal to reach 110 endowed faculty positions. To date the campaign has raised more than $902 million in gifts and pledges to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.
In addition, Christensen serves as faculty representative to SMU’s Second Century Campaign.
“In my discussions with faculty, staff and students of the Lyle School, Marc received great support for this new role,” said SMU Provost Paul Ludden. “I’m sure that you will join me in working with Marc to ensure the continued success of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.”
Joseph Camp of SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering has earned a National Science FoundationFaculty Early Career Development Award, given to junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research in American colleges and universities.
Camp, assistant professor and J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Professor of Electrical Engineering, will receive $450,000 over the next 5 years to fund research toward improved wireless network design incorporating low frequencies previously occupied by analog TV signals.
“The FCC has recently reassigned the frequency bands that were previously used by analog TV – that’s why viewers were forced to switch to an analog-to-digital converter,” Camp said. “It opened up a large portion of bandwidth for data communications, creating opportunities for innovative wireless network design.”
Transmission range improves at lower frequencies, as does as the ability of the signal to cut through obstacles, which makes these newly available frequency bands highly desirable for internet transmission. Being able to establish wireless networks with fewer transmission towers could result in lowering the cost of service delivery in some cases.
“Alongside these policy changes, wireless hardware is becoming increasingly complex and capable of supporting more bands,” Camp said. “As a result, the simple question becomes, ‘How do we use the simultaneous access to many different types of frequency bands to improve wireless network performance?’”
The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In the past few decades, NSF-funded researchers have won more than 180 Nobel Prizes.
“Joe’s highly competitive NSF award recognizes the extraordinary value of his work and his commitment to share his discoveries and knowledge with students,” said Lyle Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “We are fortunate to have him at the Lyle School and very proud that Joe represents the sixth NSF CAREER awardee on our faculty. Given the small size of our faculty, this is a remarkably strong showing.”
Christensen came to SMU from industry as the co-founder of Applied Photonics Inc., a Washington, D.C. area-based company focusing on the development of a new method in multi-scale optical design. Since arriving at the University, he has served as chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, providing leadership to the faculty while pursuing greater departmental productivity in research.
“Marc is one of our most valued and inspiring classroom instructors, a true innovative engineer, and an extraordinary researcher continuously striving to create novel solutions for challenging problems on the forefront of engineering and science,” says Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “His co-development of the SMU Innovation Gymnasium ‘Innovation Fridays’ lecture series and his central role in the redesign of our first-year engineering experience are just two examples of how his entrepreneurial spirit, intellect and energy continue to motivate young engineers.”
Dr. Christensen has been awarded several optoelectronic design patents, with several more pending. In addition to his scholarship, he has written numerous articles for engineering journals and serves as an invited guest speaker at many conferences. He has also contributed to or been featured in articles that have appeared in Wired Magazine, Discovery Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
Among his honors for teaching and research are the 2004 SEJC Electrical Engineering Department Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award, the 2007 SMU Golden Mustang Award, the 2007 DARPA Young Faculty Award, the 2008 Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowship, and the 2010 SEJC Electrical Engineering Department Outstanding Professor Award.
Christensen earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics at Cornell University in 1993. He received his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1998 and his Ph.D. in electrical and computing engineering in 2001, both from George Mason University.