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Volakis named 2016 Distinguished Scholar

John Volakis and Dean WilliamsDr. John Volakis, Director and Professor at The Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory, was named among six university-wide 2016 Distinguished Scholar Award winners.

Watch a short video of Volakis accepting the award.

Part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) faculty, Volakis was surprised with the award while he presented during a routine work meeting on Feb. 12.

“You kept a very good secret,” Volakis told the audience of faculty, staff, friends and family who attended, “I love what I do. It’s been my passion, my life. I don’t do it because anybody pays me. I’d like to continue doing it for as long as I can.”

Growing up on a farm in Chios, Greece as a child, he said, ultimately played into his future career aspirations.

“It was the dream I had to grow up and be an electrical engineer, because I grew up with no electricity,” he said.

Representatives from the College of Engineering, the Office of Research and university administration all presented the award to Volakis.

“What an absolute thrill it is to recognize the kind of accomplishments that you have evidenced over your career,” Ohio State Interim Executive Vice President Provost Bruce McPheron said.

Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research, is also chair of the committee that selects Distinguished Scholar Award winners each year. She admitted the group can be “pretty contentious” about who is picked.

“But they weren’t very contentious when it came to John’s dossier,” she said. “Looking at both your theoretical contributions in hybrid finite element methods, and then the broad range of applications, to antennas and everything radio frequency – hand held devices, medical devices – just the breadth of it, was pretty humbling to the committee. It is with great pleasure that we congratulate you on all your accomplishments.”

ECE professor, Steven Ringel, who won the 2015 Distinguished Scholar Award, was also on hand to congratulate his colleague.

As a young adult who first came to Ohio State at the age of 18, Volakis said he spoke no English, but the faculty and students he met were always kind.

“They helped me with everything that I needed,” he said. “I just love this country, from the very moment that I stepped my foot on it. It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

The Distinguished Scholar Award (DSA), established in 1978, recognizes exceptional scholarly accomplishments by senior professors who have compiled a substantial body of research, as well as the work of younger faculty members who have demonstrated great scholarly potential. Recipients are nominated by their departments and chosen by a committee of senior faculty, including past recipients of the award. Distinguished Scholars receive an honorarium and a research grant to be used over the next three years. The award is supported by the Office of Research.

The 2016 honorees are:

• Alice Conklin, professor, Departments of History, College of Arts and Sciences

B. Scott Gaudi, The Thomas Jefferson Chair for Discovery and Space Exploration, Department of Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

A. Douglas Kinghorn, The Jack L. Beal Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, College of Pharmacy

Brian McHale, Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of English, Department of English; College of Arts and Sciences

René Stulz, Everett D. Reese Chair of Banking and Monetary Economics, Department of Finance

• John Volakis, The Roy and Lois Chope Chair in Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

The university has a celebration for its 2016 Distinguished Scholars and Teachers in April, during which time the professors will get the opportunity to stand out on the field during an Ohio State home football game, in front of some 100,000 people, to accept their awards.


John Volakis was born on May 13, 1956 in Chios, Greece and immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1973. He is currently the Chope Chair Professor at The Ohio State University, Electrical and Computer Engineering Deptartment. He also serves as the Director of the ElectroScience Laboratory, with $12.5M in external research funding in 2011. He was on the faculty of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor from 1984 to 2003, and served as the Director of the Radiation Laboratory from 1998-2000.  Over the years, he carried out research in:

Wireless Communications and Propagation
Computational methods
Electromagnetic compatibility and interference
Design optimization
RF materials
Multi-physics engineering
Medical sensing