Bahl and Itoh receive Alumni Award for Distinguished Service

ECE News


Story Highlights

  • ECE alumni Lalit Bahl and Tatsuo Itoh were awarded the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service at the College of Engineering Student and Alumni Awards Ceremony.
  • Bahl was recognized for outstanding his contributions to speech recognition software technologies.
  • Itoh, a professor at UCLA, was recognized for contributions in microwave technology and in education.

Lalit Bahl
Lalit Bahl

ECE alumni Lalit Bahl (MSEE ’66, PhD ’69) and Tatsuo Itoh (PhD ’69) were awarded the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service at the College of Engineering Student and Alumni Awards Ceremony held April 21. Bahl was recognized “for outstanding contributions in speech recognition software technologies and information theory.” Itoh was recognized “for seminal contributions in microwave and millimeter-wave technology and electrical engineering education.”

Tatsuo Itoh
Tatsuo Itoh

“I was astonished,” said Bahl. “I couldn’t ever imagine winning an award like this.”

Bahl is now a senior research scientist at Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund management company located in East Setauket, New York. Bahl worked at IBM from 1968 to 1998, where he worked on several research projects in information and communication theory and later served as the manager of the Speech Algorithms Group.

“Everything that I have done, in terms of my own contributions to various fields, has been an application of things that I learned as a student at the University of Illinois,” said Bahl.

Itoh would agree: “I believe I received the best education in the best possible learning environment. This is the lifelong asset I acquired.”

Itoh, who is a professor and endowed chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering at UCLA, has authored more than 400 journal papers and over 800 conferences. He holds more than 10 patents, has educated more than 70 PhD students, and has supervised many postdocs and visiting scholars. Itoh has held several positions, including president, within the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S). He has also been active within the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) and other organizations in the field. He is a member of National Academy of Engineering.

About his approach to research, Itoh said, “I try to acquire physical understanding of the problem as much as possible. The research area becomes increasingly more complex and interdisciplinary. Research competition becomes more severe worldwide.”

Both Itoh and Bahl were greatly influenced by the faculty members they worked with during their time at Illinois. Bahl credits Professor Robert Chien with guiding his education as a graduate student. Bahl’s interest in information theory grew from a course that was taught by Professor Robert Ash. He believes that what he had learned from these two has helped guide his research over the last 40 years.

Itoh says that his adviser, Raj Mittra, was the most dynamic character who was around during his time at Illinois. The late Dr. Eikichi Yamashita provided Itoh with detailed, hands-on training. He also recognized the late Y. T. Lo for his fatherly interactions with students—interactions that spurred Itoh’s interest in teaching.

“Interaction with students makes me feel young,” Itoh said. “The biggest joy as an educator is to witness professional success of my students. It’s always fun to tackle problems with them.”

In addition to furthering their education, the University of Illinois gave both Bahl and Itoh an initial taste of American culture. “I still remember living in Sherman Hall and eating in the Illini Union,” Itoh said. “It gave me a taste of the American way of life for the first time.”

In addition, the University also offered Bahl a teaching assistantship, which was essential to enabling him to study in the U.S.

“I did not have the finances to come to the US, and I very much wanted to keep going further with my studies,” Bahl said. “Because the University offered me this position and a research assistant position the following year, I was able to have this great opportunity. It’s a huge debt that I owe to this University.”

As a way to pay back this debt, Bahl and his wife have endowed graduate fellowships within ECE ILLINOIS and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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