The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science celebrated the accomplishments of alumni, students, and faculty at this year’s annual awards dinner, held on Friday, November 3, at the Four Seasons’ Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom.

By M. Abraham

With nearly 450 colleagues and friends in attendance, awards were presented to 13 individuals, including provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Linda Katehi, honored as the 2006 Alumnus of the Year.

KNBC 4 reporter and engineering alumnus Patrick Healy, along with UCLA Engineering Dean Vijay K. Dhir, emceed the event.

“We’re proud of the work our faculty and students do. The work we do today makes a difference in the world tomorrow,” Dhir told the crowd. “In the past, they used to say the sun never set on the British Empire. I say that the sun is always shining on UCLA Engineering, through its exceptional alumni living and working all over the world.”

The evening’s big honor was given to Katehi, Alumnus of the Year, for distinguishing herself in both academia and in integrated circuits and systems.

“Linda Katehi’s work has been described as visionary, pioneering, and innovative,” said Dhir in his introduction. “She is a truly extraordinary researcher and educator.”

Katehi, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, thanked the school for honoring her achievements and talked of her journey to the United States to attend school early in her career.

A humble Katehi said she was simply an average student who had an extraordinary mentor during her time at UCLA. Her successes at UCLA, she said, led her on to even greater things.

Dwight Streit, vice president of electronics technology at Northrup Grumman and Ronald Sugar, chairman and chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman took the stage together to present the 2006 Northrup Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award to computer science assistant professor John Cho and civil and environmental engineering assistant professor Steven Margulis. The award honors junior faculty who demonstrate a commitment to high teaching standards, reflected in the positive course evaluation scores from students, as well as the professor’s contributions to the curriculum.

Electrical engineering professor Behzad Razavi received the 2006 Lockheed Martin Excellence in Teaching Award from Lockheed’s Aeronautical Engineering Director Larry Pellett. The award was given to Razavi for dedication to his students; a vigorous commitment to high academic standards; and his many contributions to electrical engineering education.

James Plummer (BS ’66), dean of the Stanford School of Engineering, received the Alumni Achievement in Academia Award from Associate Dean Steve Jacobsen for his many contributions to engineering education. Plummer was honored for his major contributions to the field of silicon devices and technology, including the integration of CMOS logic and high voltage lateral DMOS devices on a single chip, the development of silicon process modeling standards, and designing nanoscale silicon devices for logic and memory.

Associate Dean Greg Pottie introduced the Lifetime Contribution Award, which he presented to computer science Professor Emeritus Gerald Estrin. Dean Boelter recruited Estrin in 1956 to develop a computer engineering research program. Estrin was honored for leading substantial research activities in computer architectures, parallel processing, computer instrumentation and computer networks, and importantly, for laying the groundwork for the development of what is now the department of Computer Science.

Last year’s winner of the 2005 Professional Achievement Award, Jeff Lawrence, founder, president and CEO of Clivia Systems (BS ’79), this year presented the 2006 award to the founders of Blizzard Entertainment: Allen Adham(BS ’90), Michael Morhaime (BS ’90), and Frank Pearce (BS ’90). The three were honored for founding Blizzard Entertainment (originally Silicon & Synapse) in 1991, just a year after they received their bachelor degrees from UCLA Engineering. The company has since become one of the most successful game development studios in the world.

Asad Madni, president of the Engineering Alumni Association, presented the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award to Ani Garabedian (BS ’99) with a heartfelt introduction. He cited Garabedian’s exceptional technical skills, as well as an extraordinary drive to give back to UCLA. She currently serves as chair of the UCLA Society of Women Engineers Alumnae Advisory Committee, a member of the electrical engineering alumni advisory board, and is active in the UCLA Alumni Association.

Friend of the school Edward K. Rice himself presented this year’s Edward K. Rice Outstanding Student honors, which recognize excellence both in and outside the classroom: 2006 Outstanding Undergraduate Student, Baley Akemi Fong, 2006 Outstanding Master’s student, Christine Lee, and 2006 Outstanding Doctoral Student, Alireza Mehrnia.

The evening also included a video showcasing innovative faculty research and new developments over the past year, featuring mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Greg Carman and his work with thin film nitinol heart valves for children, research on beach sand bacteria conducted by civil and environmental engineering professor Jennifer Jay, and electrical engineering professor Abeer Alwan’s efforts to develop a computer speech program for kids whose native language is not English.

The film shared innovative new work by computer science professor Majid Sarrafzadeh on computerized medical treatment devices, and focused on two new interdisciplinary research centers headquartered at the School, the Western Institute of Nanoelectronics and the NIH Nanomedicine Center for Cell Control.