ECE staff members revere the retiring Ozguners
Not quite ready to bask in complete retirement, longtime Ohio State University Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) professors Umit and Fusun Ozguner plan to focus more on their research.
The husband and wife team have worked alongside one another for more than 35 years, spanning through stints at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Istanbul Technical University, IBM, as well as The Ohio State University.
Both plan to keep working within the ECE as returning researchers. Umit will also continue to serve as director of the Crash Imminent Safety University Transportation Center.
On May 19, staff, family and friends honored the two for their decades of dedication to the department.
“She’s been an important leader in our computer area,” ECE Chair Joel Johnson said about Fusun. “Her work has been cited over 3,000 times. That’s a very impressive record.”
He said Fusun is always a source of “thoughtful advice," holding many roles within the department – from various committees, to serving as ECE interim chair from 2004 to 2006.
With diversity in the field of engineering widely being promoted across the world today, colleagues said Fusun shook up a lot of many of their preconceived notions about the topic very early on.
“She has clearly been a great example of a successful female faculty member within our department,” Johnson said. “Without a doubt it has inspired many of our students over the years.”
Professor and Assciate Dean of Research, Randolph Moses, said he once had a tax question, and so being new to the department, he looked up to the Ozguners. He called up Umit to ask him the question, but Umit didn’t know and promptly handed the phone over to Fusun instead, who then answered his questions. Moses said it taught him a lesson about not selling anyone short.
“It’s one of those stories about diversity that I have always held,” he said.
Fusun said she appreciated all the kind words.
“I’ve been here for 35 years, almost. I don’t know how the time passed,” she said.
Fusun said she plans to remain involved in her research, but may even continue some aspects of teaching if her health allows.
ECE Professor Yuan Zheng said he has enjoyed working with the Ozguners, not only because they are talented, but also because they are “good citizens of the department. Always caring about the department.”
Professor Andrea Serrani thanked Fusun for being a great friend and a wonderful department chair. In his role as graduate chair now, he continues to appreciate her “assistance and guidance.”
Former ECE chair Robert Lee said Fusun was among the only professors to reach out to him early as a young member of ECE, even though he was involved in an entirely different area of study. He said it speaks to her overall ethics.
In a light moment, professor Yazan Alsmadi boldly thanked Fusun, not only for himself, but for the entire kingdom of Jordan where is from. He said Fusun, as well as retiring professor Roberto Rojas-Teran, both made a big impact in the realm of electrical engineering in Jordan. One of the most famous electrical engineering professors there right now, he said, was a student of Fusun and two others were once under Rojas.
“On behalf of Jordan, I would like to thank both of them,” Alsmadi said. “Because of them, I was introduced to Ohio State. The great opportunity I had here shaped my career.”
As Johnson said, following the careers of both Ozguners is really one story, because the two have worked alongside one another for decades.
Autonomous vehicle pioneer and ECE Professor Emeritus, Robert Fenton, was on hand to congratulate the Ozguner’s for their retirement. He praised Umit for advancing the fields of autonomous and intelligent transportation over the years.
Umit has focused much of his career on intelligent control of large, decentralized systems, automotive control, intelligent vehicle highway systems and vibration damping in flexible structures.
“I’ve been a long term observer of automated highway and its latest manifestation in self-driving cars,” Fenton said. “Since I retired 20 years ago, I have closely followed what he has been doing. He has done an absolutely magnificent job with his research in that area. I look forward to seeing what is coming out of his group. After he retires. I am sure he will carry on the tradition he so richly established.”
“Umit, you have been a great friend and colleague,” Professor Kevin Passino said.
Serrani said he first met Umit in 1998 and was very impressed with a two-legged flexible robot he had created.
“I was thinking, “These people are crazy. I would never work in a place like this,’” he joked.
Serrani said they later became good colleagues.
Professor Keith Redmill said he has worked with both Ozguners and is thankful for their support and friendship over the years.
Umit told those gathered that he is grateful to everyone for their friendship, the work and the fun they have had.
“I look forward to working with you and having fun with you for sometime more,” he said, then joked, “I’ve worked with a lot of people in this room and this department. One of the reasons I’m coming back is so if there is anybody I have missed, let’s work together.”