By Matthew Chin and Bill Kisliuk

Two faculty members from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions that can be awarded to an engineer in the U.S.

Chandrashekhar Joshi, distinguished professor of electrical engineering, and Alan N. Willson Jr., distinguished professor emeritus of electrical engineering and holder of the Charles P. Reames Chair in Electrical Engineering, were among 67 new members elected to the NAE for their outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education, the academy announced today. The academy also named 11 new foreign associates.

“Chan and Alan have been at the forefront of their respective fields for decades, and are most deserving of this most prestigious recognition from the National Academy of Engineering,” said UCLA Engineering Dean Vijay K. Dhir.

Chandrashekhar Joshi
Chandrashekhar Joshi was recognized by the academy for “contributions to the development of laser and beam-driven plasma accelerators.”

Chan Joshi. Photo by Joanne Leung

Chan Joshi.
Photo by Joanne Leung

Joshi is known as the founder of the experimental field of plasma accelerators. At UCLA in the 1980s, he established the first group that proposed to significantly shrink the size and cost of particle accelerators by using charged density waves in plasmas (or ionized gas) using powerful laser pulses or particle beams.

Joshi’s UCLA group remains at the forefront of its field, and the lab has nurtured many students and researchers who have gone on to form their own research teams. In addition to plasma accelerators, Joshi has advanced the understanding of nonlinear optics of plasmas, laser fusion and basic plasma physics.

The ultimate goal of Joshi’s research is to provide a paradigm-changing technology for building particle accelerators for fundamental research, as well as for medical and industrial applications.

“This is a great honor,” Joshi said. “I have been fortunate to have spent my research career at UCLA with supportive colleagues and staff and to have had continuous support from the Department of Energy. I have worked with many generations of brilliant students and researchers whose effort is being recognized by this election to the National Academy of Engineering.”

Joshi, who received his Ph.D. from Hull University in the United Kingdom, came to UCLA in 1980 as a researcher after a postdoctoral appointment at the National Research Council Canada. He has been a full professor in the electrical engineering department since 1989.

Joshi has received numerous previous awards for his work, including the American Physical Society’s James Clerk Maxwell Prize and Excellence in Plasma Physics Award, the IEEE’s Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award, the USPAS Prize for Accelerator Physics and Technology, and the AAC Prize for Advanced Accelerator Concepts. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, IEEE and the Institute of Physics. He is also the recipient of the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award from the Engineers’ Council.

Alan N. Willson Jr.
Alan N. Willson Jr. was recognized by the academy for “contributions to the theory and applications of digital signal processing.”

Alan Willson. Photo by Joanne Leung

Alan Willson.
Photo by Joanne Leung

Among other accomplishments, Willson has played an important role in the field of circuits and systems. He and his students have been responsible for cutting-edge research in theory and application of digital signal processing (including very large scale integration, or VLSI, implementations), digital filter design and nonlinear circuit theory.

Willson received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Syracuse University in 1967. He worked first for IBM and then at Bell Laboratories before joining the UCLA faculty in 1973. He was named full professor in 1976 and, while continuing his teaching and research, served as the school of engineering’s assistant dean for graduate studies from 1977 to 1981 and associate dean from 1987 to 2001.

He retired from full-time teaching last year but is continuing his affiliation with UCLA through a three-year appointment as research professor.

Among the many notable honors Willson has received are the Vitold Belevitch Award from the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society, the IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Graduate Teaching Award, and the George Westinghouse Award from the American Society for Engineering Education. He is the only person to have twice received the W.R.G. Baker Prize Paper Award for best paper published in all IEEE journals, transactions and magazines. He holds numerous patents through his company, Pentomics, and has contributed valuable technology to industrial clients.

Willson said his NAE election caps a wonderful career.

“Credit for whatever I’ve contributed to the engineering field truly and equally belongs to those who have taught me so much, starting with my high school teachers at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, my instructors, fellow students, mentors and colleagues at Georgia Tech, Syracuse, IBM, Bell Labs and UCLA, and, of course, my own students, who have enriched my academic and intellectual pursuits enormously and have gone on to accomplish so much in their own careers,” he said.