Nina Mahmoudian, an associate professor in Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics has been named the first Lou and Herbert Wacker Associate Professor in Autonomous Mobile Systems.
The selection was made by Michigan Tech and donors, who wish to remain anonymous. One of the donors is a Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumni and the endowment is named in honor of their parents, Lou and Herbert Wacker.
This is an endowed professorship through a cash gift of $1,000,000.
William Predebon, chair of ME-EM, says the endowment of a professorship is an important recognition of faculty who are rising stars or at the top of their fields. “Endowed professorships are critical for the retention of our outstanding faculty or to attract a national research scholar. Today more than ever, faculty are being courted by other universities and an endowed professorship is a means to retain them.”
Predebon says, “The donors are humble and do not want to be in the spotlight.” He says when they met, the donor explained they were thinking of a donation and through discussion were persuaded to do an endowed professorship. “What sealed the deal was Nina’s research and the donor put it, ‘it was the gliding underwater robots and the mass of robots joining together to do their thing that reeled me in.’ We will be forever grateful for the generosity of the donors.”
Predebon says not only is the endowed professorship important to Michigan Tech, the appointment of Mahmoudian is appropriate. “Dr. Mahmoudian is a rising star and already a leader in her research in autonomous mobile systems. She is driven and a highly motivated scholar and teacher. Her enthusiasm in the classroom and in her research is infectious and compelling in such a way that students gravitate to her.”
Mahmoudian says she is thankful and humbled by the endowed professorship. “I am grateful for the generosity of the donors and the fact they gave back to the place they graduated, and honored their parents. I also appreciate the efforts that Dr. Predebon put to attract their attention to my work. I am honored that they found my research on underwater autonomy and coordination of unmanned systems interesting and worthy of investment.”
Mahmoudian says the endowment will have a lasting impact in the growth of autonomous systems and robotics research. It will provide her with additional resources to establish strong national and international research collaboration in autonomous long-term operations. “Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in this research and will receive interdisciplinary education, innovation, technology translation and outreach experiences,” she added. Thinking long term, Mahmoudian says the endowment will help transform how science studies are conducted utilizing autonomous systems specifically under water.
Predebon added the generous gift is a reflection of confidence in both Mahmoudian and Michigan Tech. “The endowed professor in autonomous mobile systems is a visible recognition to the public that Michigan Tech, through Nina Mahmoudian, has a leadership position in this field and will foster continued research growth in this area.”
Story by Mark Wilcox, Tech Today, February 16, 2018