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Dean Burrus wins award for electrical engineering work

By Michelle Phillips     12/4/08 6:00pm

Most households take electronic devices such as their Xbox and MP3 player for granted. But here at Rice, students and faculty alike have someone to thank personally. In recognition of 40 years of outstanding instruction and groundbreaking research in the field of digital signal processing, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers will award Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering C. Sidney Burrus (Hanszen '57) the Jack Kilby Signal Processing Medal this June. The IEEE is the international professional society for electrical engineers and the largest professional society in the world,

"To process data, you have to turn the signal into a string of numbers," Burrus said.

DSP is what enables this transformation, changing analog files into digital ones that can be compressed, and allowing the data to be analyzed and studied.

The Jack Kilby Signal Processing Medal is named for the only electrical engineer ever to receive the Nobel Prize. Kilby invented the integrated circuit, which has become an essential feature in digital signal processing research, for which he received the Physics Nobel Prize in 2000.

Several of Burrus' friends received the award when he attended the conference previously, he said. This summer, it will be his turn to be applauded.

Burrus, who also received his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Rice and has been teaching here since 1965, said he was pleasantly surprised by the news, which he received a week ago. According to the IEE web site, every year, up to three individuals or groups are awarded this medal to recognize outstanding achievements in signal processing.

Burrus said being at Rice was an important factor in receiving the award. Over the years, Rice has become internationally known for its advances in the field of digital signal processing, he said.

Burrus acknowledged the help and support he has received from his fellow faculty members in his 40 years at Rice. He has served as a researcher, dean, and professor, as well as Lovett College master.

"It's like when you get a degree," he said. "Well, it's for four years of work. This is the same feeling you get when you receive a good grade on a paper."

Burrus recalls being captivated by electricity in high school.

"It was sort of magic, because you couldn't see it, and yet it did all kinds of important things," Burrus said. "The idea of understanding electricity fascinated me."

This was what motivated him to major in electrical engineering as an undergraduate at Rice, he said.

Burrus claims he has been at Rice "forever." He teaches one course per semester and conducts research. He said he intends to continue this for as long as he can.

"Until my brain totally quits," he said.

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