Kumar named recipient of Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award

ECE News


Story Highlights

  • Professor Kumar receives the Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award for academic excellence and furthering the understanding of his field.
  • Kumar is he is focusing on networked embedded control systems, sensor networks, and wireless networks.
  • In his courses, Kumar tries to break topics into understandable modules.

P. R. Kumar
P. R. Kumar

ECE Professor P. R. Kumar has been named the 2009 recipient of the Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award. This award recognizes faculty in the College of Engineering who have received national or international acclaim for dedication to academic excellence through teaching and research and have made exemplary contributions to the understanding of their fields. The award is named for Daniel C. Drucker, who was dean of the College of Engineering from 1968 to 1984 and who was well-known for his pursuit of scholarly excellence.

“It was a pleasant shock,” said Kumar of learning that he had received this award.

Kumar, who is the Franklin W. Woeltge Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, performs research in the areas of control, communications and computing. Currently, he is focusing on networked embedded control systems, sensor networks, and wireless networks.

About his teaching, Kumar said, “My main goal in teaching is to make crystal clear the essential simplicity of concepts.” He also said, “We have to make the experience of being a student in a class a positive learning experience. My goal is that at the end of the semester the students should feel confident that the class was easy, and that they know the whole subject. Only if they can say to themselves that they really understand all the concepts are they going to use the ideas later on in their life.”

Kumar has taught courses in several areas, including, most recently, optimization, stochastic systems, adaptive systems, wireless networks, and information theory. In all these courses, he tries to break down the topics into understandable modules. “I personally don’t understand anything that is too complicated,” he said. “So I have to simplify, simplify, and simplify until it is really simple. I try to bring out the simplicity of things, rather than confound them with complexity.”

One approach that Kumar uses is to begin his classes by asking the students questions about what was covered in the previous class. “Thus serves to remind students what we covered in the last class, in case they’ve forgotten,” he said. “It also allows them to grasp the main points of what we covered. Through this daily review they get to constantly see the forest as well as the trees.” Further, it also breaks the ice and results in a freer dialogue throughout the remainder of the class.

It seems that Kumar’s students appreciate his efforts, as he has been named to the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent more than 15 times.

Kumar is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of IEEE.

He is the recipient of the Donald P. Eckman Award (1985), the Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising (2004), the IEEE Field Award for Control Systems, and the IEEE Communications Society Fred W. Ellersick Prize (2007). He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule), Zurich, in 2008.

Kumar is the eighth ECE faculty member to receive the Drucker award since its inception in 1985. Prior winners from ECE include Petar Kokotovic (1987), Gregory Stillman (1998), Richard Blahut (2000), Wen-mei Hwu (2001), Bruce Hajek (2003), Tamer Başar (2004), and Thomas Huang (2005).

“It’s an honor to be listed with all these illustrious faculty who have won this award,” Kumar said. “I’m very touched.”

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