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Brad Petersen
Director of
Communications
2052 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 244-6376
bradp@illinois.edu

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Meg Dickinson
Communications Specialist
2016 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 300-6664
megd@illinois.edu

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Nicol and Liang invested as Woeltge Professors

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By Jamal Collier, ECE ILLINOIS
March 11, 2013

  • ECE professors David Nicol and Zhi-Pei Liang were invested as Franklin W. Woeltge Professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering -- being invested with a professorship is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive.
  • Nicol is an expert in reliable and secure systems while Liang's work has been focused on developing theory and algorithms for magnetic resonance imaging.
  • The Franklin W. Woeltge Professorships were established in the ECE Department thanks to a $4 million gift from alumnus Franklin Woeltge, who died in 1998 at age 95.

ECE professors David Nicol and Zhi-Pei Liang were invested as Franklin W. Woeltge Professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering on February 26, 2013, at the Beckman Institute. Being invested with a professorship is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive. 

Chancellor Phyllis Wise was in attendance and said she was excited to be able to attend such a historic event.

"To be able to have a double investiture is triple the joy," Wise said during her opening speech.

Nicol was introduced by ECE Professor Bill Sanders, who praised Nicol for always being "extremely capable of applying his strengths to whatever application needs it."

"It means more to me than you can imagine, to be recognized by this faculty at a leading research university," Nicol said after receiving his medal.

Nicol, who is a researcher in the Coordinated Science Lab and the director of the Information Trust Institute, is considered a leading expert on the modeling and simulation of discrete event systems, and is frequently called upon to consult with industry and government, particularly in the use of these techniques to assess the trustworthiness of systems that monitor and control critical infrastructure. Nicol joined the ECE faculty in 2003.

ECE Professor Stephen Boppart introduced Liang and during his speech coined an acronym for Zhi-Pei — zealous hyperspace imaging with performance enhanced imagination.

"When Zhi-Pei asked me to give a speech on his behalf I was all smiles … I clearly look at this as an opportunity and a pleasure to thank him," Boppart said.

Liang' research has been focused on developing theory and algorithms for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tackling some of the fundamental barriers to high-resolution and high-speed imaging. His group has made key contributions in data acquisition, image reconstruction, and image processing, which have enabled several important applications, including 3D real-time cardiac imaging and high-resolution metabolic imaging. He has been a part of the ECE faculty since 1993 and is a researcher at the Beckman Institute.

"I am honored and humbled by this recognition," Liang said.

About 75 people attended the honor including faculty members, professors and the faculty's family members. Nicol's wife, children and mother attended the event. Zhi-Pei's wife and children were in attendance as well including one child who came all the way from Boston.

The Franklin W. Woeltge Professorships were established in the ECE Department thanks to a $4 million gift from alumnus Franklin Woeltge (BSEE ’26), who died in 1998 at age 95.

As an engineer, Woeltge worked in the Avionics and Space Division of Emerson Electric, retiring in 1963. He accumulated much of his wealth by investing in the stock market—a favorite passion of his, along with reading and ballroom dancing. Woeltge had no surviving relatives, so he made his bequest to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering because, he once said, that is where he spent some of the best days of his life.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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