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Datta, Hosmane and Loubere named Presidential Research Professors

by Tom Parisi

Mathematician Biswa Nath Datta, chemist Narayan S. Hosmane and geologist Paul W. Loubere—all NIU researchers on the cutting edge of understanding some of the most challenging problems of our day—have been named this year's Presidential Research Professors.

Datta's research is contributing to improved aircraft. Hosmane's work is advancing cancer therapy. Loubere is deepening our understanding of global warming. While one uses algorithms, another reaction flasks and the third offshore drilling rigs, they each push the boundaries of scientific discovery.

"These researchers are among the best and brightest in their respective fields," NIU President John Peters said. "Not coincidentally, they also are recognized by their peers here at NIU as top caliber teachers who deliver cutting-edge research to their students."

Jerrold Zar, Graduate School dean and associate provost for graduate studies and research, said the selection process for the Presidential Research Professorships is very competitive. "We had a number of extremely strong candidates again this year," Zar said. "What we look for is somebody who is a national or international leader in his or her field."

Begun in 1982, Presidential Research Professorships recognize outstanding faculty scholarship. The award recipients receive some special financial support of their research for four years, after which they carry the title of Distinguished Research Professor.

The president will formally recognize this year's designees during the May 12 Graduate School Commencement ceremonies.

Here's a closer look at this year's selections.

By the numbers

For those who question how complex math problems relate to the real world, Mathematical Sciences Professor Biswa Datta counts the ways.

His mathematical and computational techniques aim at improving performance and design safety in autos, aircraft, bridges, buildings and highways. "I work on problems whose solutions are readily applicable to real-life control-and-vibration engineering design and analysis," Datta said. "So I get motivated by the fact that my research will contribute not only to the advancement of science, but also to technological and industrial developments."

Datta earned his Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa and arrived at Northern in 1981. Blending linear algebra and scientific computing with control and systems theory, his interdisciplinary research is internationally recognized. Among his collaborators is his wife, Karabi, who also is an NIU faculty member.

"Biswa built the numerical analysis group in our department," said William Blair, chair of mathematical sciences. "Because of his presence, we've been able to recruit a strong group in numerical analysis and scientific computing and attract a number of distinguished visiting researchers."

Datta serves as a consultant to such recognizable firms as Boeing Company and Wolfram Research Inc., the world's leading technical software company. He also is on the editorial board of premier technical journals and is editor-in-chief of the annual series, Applied and Computational Control, Signals and Circuits.

"He possesses an unbounded energy, is a prolific writer and has a collaborative spirit," Blair added. "He talks with almost all the experts in his field."

Datta has served as a distinguished visiting professor at major universities worldwide, and he has obtained numerous research grants from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Air Force and international research councils. He has presented nearly 100 invited talks, published more than 80 scientific papers and several books and chaired several international interdisciplinary conferences.

In 1999, Datta was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an honor bestowed upon less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the professional society's 360,000 members worldwide. He also was honored as an "IEEE Distinguished Lecturer."

At NIU, Datta has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, where his research frequently is a topic of classroom discussion. "At the graduate level, in-depth discussions sometimes help me understand the problems more clearly, and fresh ideas come out," Datta said. "Conversely, the students are exposed to state-of-the-art research."

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Last Updated: March 5, 2001