2004-2005 Outstanding Faculty and Staff Awards

Dr. Erdem Topsakal


Erdem Topsakal was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1971. He received his BSc. degree in 1991, M.Sc. degree in 1993 and PhD degree in 1996 all in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Istanbul Technical University. He was a postdoctoral fellow from 1998 to 2001 and an assistant research scientist from 2001 to July 2003 in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department of the University of Michigan. In August 2003, he joined the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at MSU. His research areas include electromagnetic theory, numerical methods, fast methods, antenna analysis and design, frequency selective surfaces/volumes, electromagnetic coupling and interference, direct and inverse scattering. He has published over 50 journal and conference papers in these areas. He received the URSI young scientist award in France in 1996 and NATO fellowship in 1997. He is a senior member of IEEE and an elected member of the URSI commission B.

About his teaching philosophy, Erdem says, "I view teaching as a mutually beneficial learning experience for both students and instructors that develops through in-class interaction. As an instructor, I am always open to critical feedback from students and treat even fundamental concepts as research results that are open to questions and comments. Through the years, I have come to appreciate the value of rigorously presenting the underlying theoretical concepts for every subject matter. Although I believe in computer-based education and visualization tools, I also believe in paper and pencil elaboration of concepts and practice problems, for the deep and true understanding of the physical phenomena. If not for the students, I would not be where I am today. The power of teaching, in-class interaction and being able to make differences in their lives is what keeps me going."

Erdem has been involved in curriculum development, as well. "Last year, during our visit to several industries that are historically known to hire our graduates, we concluded that it is a must for our Computer Engineers to have the necessary fundamental electromagnetics background before they graduate. Currently, Electromagnetics-I and Electromagnetics-II are in EE core curriculum. Considering the needs of the industry, we modified the existing Electromagnetics-I course and in the Spring of 2005 it will be offered as a technical elective to CPEs. Next semester, I am also teaching a new graduate level class in Numerical Electromagnetics. My long term goal is to achieve the national and international recognition that this ECE department deserves in the area of Applied Electromagnetics."

ECE Seniors selected the winner of this award after a nomination process. Kyle Miller, an EE senior, comments that Dr. Topsakal "is patient with the teacher/student communication process. He brings extra outside material to the lecture that pertains to the subject matter. He also wants everyone in his class to do well and goes the extra mile to make sure everyone does." From other students "this professor displays a genuine concern that we learn the material necessary for our advancement in the engineering world. It's as if he has a personal vested interest" and he "makes class fun and interesting and really lets the students get involved with the lectures. I actually look forward to this class every time."

Mr. Michael Lane


As system administrator for the ECE department, Michael Lane is responsible for all computing resources in the department including more than 300 personal computers and SUN workstations that run both Windows and Unix-based operating systems. Michael also oversees all of the software packages that are needed to support facility members and students, and handles the renewal of any software licenses required for these packages. For almost anybody less talented than Michael, this workload would simply be overwhelming, however, Michael has made full use of automated means of updating and deploying software, and trains student workers to help with routine problems so that he can work on the difficult to impossible tasks that routinely occur. Michael has implemented a task tracking mechanism that allows faculty members to submit support requests and then check on their progress; support requests are routinely responded to and solved within a 24-hour period.

In addition to handling these responsibilities, Michael has been the enabling factor behind a number of departmental innovations. He is responsible for creating a system that allows students to electronically submit lab reports and check on Teaching Assistant progress in lab report grading. All undergraduate 3000-level labs use this system, which has resulted in a paperless mechanism for lab report submission and grading. The department's time saving online assessment and database system developed by Michael is paying significant dividends compiles its accreditation self-study. Other activities include a completely revamped website, a flexible online survey instrument, support for an administrative database and query system, and his email tutorials on new features. Michael's work affects every faculty member and student by providing a stable and responsive computing infrastructure. Without Michael, faculty and student productivity would certainly suffer.

The department is exceedingly fortunate to have someone so capable and so receptive to the needs of the faculty and students. Beyond the good fortune for just being able to be around Michael each day, his superior mastery of technical knowledge, his relentlessness in solving difficult problems, his balanced sensitivity to cost and performance issues, and strong concern for departmental requirements are exceptionally valuable to us all.