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Engineers assume named professorships

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 15 - December 12, 1996

During their fall meeting, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved the appointments of four College of Engineering faculty members-John G. Casali, Wing Ng, Theodore S. Rappaport, and Robert G. Williges-to named professorships.

Casali assumed the John Grado Professorship of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). Casali, who joined the Tech faculty in 1982, recently was appointed head of ISE. He also is a board-certified human-factors engineer.

Casali has served as principal investigator on 35 research contracts from more than 20 sponsors. He is recognized as an expert in ergonomics and directs research on noise hazards and hearing protection, vehicular safety, and workplace/product design. Together with his graduate students, he holds two U.S. patents for hearing protectors and has another patent pending for a power-drive/steer attachment for folding wheelchairs.

He has received several research awards, including the Jack A. Kraft Award in 1991, presented by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) for his efforts to extend the application of human factors to hearing-loss prevention. Casali also is a fellow of HFES, an editorial-board member for the Human Factors journal, and a past vice president of the National Hearing Conservation Association. He has authored more than 150 publications and directed the research work of 25 graduate students and 30 undergraduates.

The professorship was established in 1987 by John Grado, who graduated from Tech in 1951. Grado founded Technographics, an international paper-and-printing company located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and was chairman of the company's board until his retirement.

Ng, a professor of mechanical engineering (ME), received the Christopher Kraft Professorship. A 12-year veteran of ME, Ng has won numerous teaching awards, including the Virginia Tech Sporn Award and the Ralph Teetor Award from the national Society of Automotive Engineers.

As a researcher, Ng has made significant contributions to the field of aeronautics. While a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ng invented a high-frequency temperature-and-pressure probe that is used by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other facilities in the U.S. and Europe. Ng's current research includes a program to apply artificial intelligence to the study of computational fluid dynamics.

Ng is a member of the Propulsion Panel of the Aeronautics Advisory Committee for the NASA Office of Aeronautics and of the International Gas Turbine Institute's Turbomachinery Committee. He has served as an associate editor of two national professional journals and as chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Aerospace Division. At Virginia Tech, he has directed 29 Ph.D. dissertations and master's theses.

The Kraft Professorship was established in 1982 by alumni and friends of Virginia Tech. Chris Kraft, who received his degree from Tech in 1944, was NASA's flight director for all of the Mercury and several of the Gemini space missions, directed the design of Mission Control Center in Houston, and was director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston from 1972 to 1982.

Rappaport was appointed the James S. Tucker professor of engineering. Two years after joining the Tech electrical engineering faculty in 1988, Rappaport founded the Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group (MPRG), one of the first and largest wireless-communications research facilities in the world.

In 1991, Rappaport developed Virginia Tech's first wireless-engineering course. In 1995, he authored the first textbook on the topic of wireless communications, Wireless Communications: Principles and Practice, which within 12 months was adopted by more than 30 universities world-wide. Under his direction, MPRG has produced more than 100 undergraduates and graduates in wireless engineering.

Rappaport has generated in excess of $6 million in funded research and MPRG Industrial Affiliate Program fees. His work led to the first statistical radio-channel model for in-building radio propagation and a patented wireless measurement instrument that has been used by more than 300 companies and government agencies world-wide. He also founded an annual international symposium on wireless personal communication.

In 1990, Rappaport was named the Marconi Young Scientist, an international award given every two years. In 1992 he earned one of the 15 National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Faculty Fellowship Awards presented nationally. Last year, NSF granted him a major education grant to develop the nation's first wireless curriculum. In 1996 he was awarded the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

Tucker established the professorship in 1984. Tucker, who received his degree from Tech in 1934, was owner and chairman of the board of Piedmont Electric Supply Co. of Charlottesville.

Williges assumed the Ralph H. Bogle Professorship of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Williges joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1976 as a full professor in two disciplines, industrial engineering and psychology. He also became a full professor of computer science in 1992.

Williges conceived and developed the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory within the Human Factors Engineering Center. With his research grants, he has continually supported these laboratories, as well as the theses and dissertations of more than 50 graduate students. His work has directly resulted in more than 275 archival publications, presentations, and technical reports.

He has made significant contributions to three areas of human-factors research. One area of Williges's research is aviation psychology, with particular emphasis on cockpit displays and pilot-training issues. He also works in the area of behavioral experimental design and analysis, stressing efficient techniques such as central composite designs. Currently, his research has focused on human-computer interactions and the ergonomic aspects of office automation.

The Bogle Professorship was established in 1983 by the estate of Ralph H. Bogle and from funds contributed by alumni and corporations. Bogle, who received his degree from Tech in 1942, was founding president of the R.J. Bogle Company in Alexandria, Virginia.