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Kevin Passino named 2018 Distinguished Scholar

In a surprise ceremony in front of his students and colleagues, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Kevin Passino became one of The Ohio State University’s newest 2018 Distinguished Scholars.

Watch a short video of Passino receiving the award and his comments.

Passino is a world leader in the field of intelligent control, and is respected at the university for his work as director of the Humanitarian Engineering Center.

Behind every great scientist, of course, is the unspoken person. As Passino’s wife and son walked in, fresh from the airport, his surprise was evident.

“I want to thank everyone for coming. I’m not good at public speaking, although I do it every day. I’m not good at public speaking, especially if it has to come from the heart,” he said, then laughed “I could do the math. If you want me to write the math down about how I feel, I can do that. I get emotional, is my problem. I love you all. I love this place. Go Bucks.”

Only six professors at the university are chosen each year for the award, Bruce McPheron said, executive vice president and provost at Ohio State.

“We have thousands of faculty eligible for this recognition. This is a senior professor who has a sustained accomplishment in the scholarship of their research. This is truly a big deal,” he said.

Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president of the Office of Research, said Passino’s talent rose to the top this year.

“Kevin is one of our truly creative, truly interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary scientists,” she said. “Your work in biomimicry and the way you can apply the principles of biological systems to engineering problems is really fascinating – especially swarm cognition. What are bees really thinking about when they are out there swarming?”

Weisenberger said Passino has a way of collaborating in unique ways.

“Kevin came on my radar when I saw a proposal for another grant competition we had in the university, that emphasizes the intersection of technology and human affairs. This one caught my eye because it was a collaboration with a faculty member in social work,” she said. “He’s not in some tiny, little, focused area. He’s really looking for the connections between fields. We knew there was something special there and I am so delighted everyone in your field similarly thinks there is something special here.”

Randy Moses, ECE professor and interim senior vice president in the Office of Research, said he recalls the day Passino interviewed for what would become a long-standing run teaching at Ohio State.

“Your work in intelligent control and swarm analysis has been really phenomenal,” Moses said. “I’ve collaborated with Kevin and his colleagues for many years, so I can speak not only for his high professional stature, but the great collegial atmosphere you bring to the department. I couldn’t be happier to be here.”

The Distinguished Scholar Award, established in 1978, recognizes exceptional accomplishments by senior professors who have compiled a substantial body of research. The award is supported by the Office of Research. Recipients are nominated by their departments and chosen by a committee of senior faculty, including several past recipients of the award. 

Story by: Ohio State ECE/IMR Communications Specialist, Ryan Horns