Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year


Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 26 - April 3, 1997

Chris Fuller

By Liz Crumbley

Respected by his colleagues throughout the world as perhaps the leading researcher in the field of active noise and vibration control, Chris R. Fuller, the Roanoke Electric Steel professor of mechanical engineering, has been selected by his peers at Virginia Tech to receive the Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

In the 1980s, Fuller invented and patented the technique of active structural acoustic control. Fuller developed a method of applying active control inputs (mechanical disturbances) to vibrating structures-such as airplane cockpits-to minimize sound radiation. His technique has been licensed to three companies and is now in production and commercially sold.

As director of the Vibration and Acoustics Laboratories (VAL) at Virginia Tech, he conducts research projects funded by several U.S. government and military agencies and various industries. In 1995, the U.S. Office of Naval Research awarded Fuller and the VAL a $2.5-million grant to develop structures that can sense an unwanted noise and then radiate other sounds to effectively cancel the noise.

Before joining the Tech faculty in 1983, Fuller completed his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees at Adelaide University in Australia, and worked as a research fellow at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research of the University of Southampton in England and as a research associate at the NASA-Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The author of more than 100 papers in major technical journals, Fuller has received three prestigious best paper awards during the 1990s, from the International Journal of Applied and Experimental Modal Analysis, the NASA-Langley Research Center, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, an associate editor of the Noise Control Engineering Journal, and a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Noise Control Engineers.

Fuller recently co-authored the definitive textbook in his field, Active Control of Vibration.

"Dr. Fuller is easily the most well-known and most respected researcher in his particular field (active noise and vibration control) in the world today, an honor he has held for at least the past six to eight years," wrote Colin H. Hansen, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Adelaide. "His group at Virginia Tech is also rated by many researchers in the field as the best in the world.

Joseph Ball

By Susan Trulove

Joseph Ball, professor of mathematics, will receive the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence at Founders Day in recognition of his influential contributions to mathematics and its application.

His work has had a profound impact in electrical engineering and nonlinear control. Because of various environmental interferences that cannot always be predicted, controls for electrical components do not operate in a linear manner, that is, according to pure mathematical equations and the simplest models. Ball was one of the major players in the development of a control theory called robust control (also called H-infinity) that allows engineers to design for and assure acceptable performance in the face of various variables and of noise in measurement or sensor signals.

His newest area of interest is a project in collaboration with Virginia Tech's Center for Transportation Research on using robust feedback control to automate the setting of traffic signals in the face of varying traffic conditions for optimal traffic flow.

Ball is a leading international expert in the application of the theory of mathematical operations to engineering problems, according to Israel Gohberg, chair for mathematical analysis and operator theory at Tel Aviv University.

"There are very few mathematicians who set up new approaches and methods in modern mathematics and at the same time make important contributions to electrical engineering. Joseph Ball is one of them," wrote Gohberg in his nomination letter.

Thomas Kailath, the Hitachi American professor of engineering at Stanford, also cites Ball's "pioneering work on certain difficult nonlinear control problems" and praises his patience and willingness to share discoveries and discuss applications with engineers, despite differences in technical language and perspective.

Ball has published almost 150 articles and books, has been editor of four journals, and lectured world-wide.

He received his bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in 1969 and his master of science and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia. He joined Virginia Tech's faculty in 1973.