UMD Engineering Professor Receives Presidential Early Career Award

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UMD Engineering Professor Receives Presidential Early Career Award

President Barack Obama has named University of Maryland Assistant Professor Michael Rotkowitz, who holds a joint appointment in the A. James Clark School of Engineering Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the UMD Institute for Systems Research, as one of 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

This is the highest honor bestowed by the federal government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The awardees come not only from academia but from federal labs and agencies as well. Rotkowitz’s award was one of 19 that were nominated by the National Science Foundation.

In his statement announcing the awards, President Obama said, "These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that Federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy."

Rotkowitz,  who joined the University of Maryland in 2012, is also affiliated with the university's Applied Mathematics, Statistics and Scientific Computation Program (AMSC). He is the recipient of a number of important awards related to his research, including an NSF CAREER Award in 2013 for "Decentralization and Parsimony for Implementable Control of Massively Interconnected Systems"; the SIAM Control and Systems Theory Prize in 2011 "for contributions to the theory of optimal controller synthesis for decentralized systems subject to information and control constraints"; and the IEEE Control Systems Society’s 2007 George S. Axelby Outstanding Paper Award for the best paper in IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 2005-2006, for “A Characterization of Convex Problems in Decentralized Control."

Understanding and controlling complex decentralized systems
Computerized diagnosis and management of complex decentralized systems, including things like industrial equipment, smart buildings, irrigation networks, large array telescopes, and electrical power distribution grids has created a need to design and analyze controllers that can observe information from only a small portion of a network but which may ultimately affect a large portion of the network. Developing these kinds of controllers is a key challenge in many cyber-physical systems problems. Conventional controls analysis assumes that one centralized decision-maker can access all available measurements, and determine the usage of all possible means of actuation. Most methods of design and analysis are extremely fragile to this assumption, and break down when such centralization is not possible.

Decentralized decision making and control has been one of the challenging and open problems in dynamical systems for over 40 years,” said Radhakisan Baheti, NSF program director in the NSF Directorate for Engineering. “Michael Rotkowitz has made pioneering contributions in the decentralized implementable control of massively interconnected systems. His work has been cited by over 1,200 researchers and has led to new insights and several important results. Michael has also contributed to the education of undergraduate and high school students using innovative engineering test-beds.”

Rotkowitz received the B.S. degree in Mathematical and Computational Science (with Honors and with Distinction) from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in 1996. He then worked for J.P. Morgan Investment Management, New York, until 1998. He returned to Stanford and received the Ph.D. degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2005. During that time, he also received the M.S. degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and the M.S. degree in Statistics, and worked for NASA Ames Research Center.

Prior to joining the University of Maryland, Dr. Rotkowitz was the Postdoctoral Fellow in Networked Embedded Control in the School of Electrical Engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden from 2005-6, and a Research Fellow in the Department of Information Engineering at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia from 2006-8. He then joined the University of Melbourne where he held the positions of Queen Elizabeth II Fellow and Future Generation Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, as well as Honorary Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

About the PECASE Award
The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. The awards are intended to encourage and accelerate American innovation to grow the economy and tackle the nation’s greatest challenges.

Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Recipients are employed or funded by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, and the intelligence community. These federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.

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