Jonsson School Dean Tapped for Nyquist Lecture Prize

Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, has been awarded the 2016 Nyquist Lecture Prize from the Dynamic Systems and Control Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

This annual prize recognizes career achievements in automatic control and takes its name from pioneer Harry Nyquist, who established the foundations of stability theory for communications and control systems as a researcher at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1930's.

“I am extremely honored and more than a little surprised to be selected for this prize,” said Spong, who holds both the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering and the Excellence in Education Chair at UT Dallas. “The list of past recipients of this award includes many of the true giants of my field, whom I have long admired.”

Spong will give his lecture at the 2016 Dynamic Systems and Control Conference to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from October 12-14. He will speak on "A Brief History of Passivity-Based Control."

Spong is the second UT Dallas faculty member to receive the Nyquist Lecture Prize. Dr. Mathukumalli Vidyasagar, the Cecil H. and Ida Green Professor of Systems Biology, was the 2011 recipient. Only the University of California at Berkeley, with three past winners, has more recipients of this prize than UT Dallas.

Spong has led the Jonsson School since 2008. In that time, the School has added four departments, nine degree programs, doubled enrollment and research expenditures, and each year hired an average of a dozen new faculty members.

Spong's work has been instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of robot control, and the results he has produced over the past three decades have been implemented at companies and research laboratories around the world, including Sandia National Labs in New Mexico and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He has produced innovative solutions in robotics that have stood the test of time to become now-classic results in robotic control. His record of achievement earned him the 2011 Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Robotics and Automation Society, that organization's highest honor. Spong is a Fellow of both the IEEE and the IFAC (International Federation of Automatic Control).

He has also had a major impact on robotics education. He co-authored one of the most popular textbooks on robot dynamics and control, which is still in use after more than 25 years. In addition, he developed both hardware and software, marketed by a company he founded (Mechatronic Systems Inc.), which are being used by more than 200 universities around the world.

Spong received his BA magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in mathematics and physics from Hiram College, his MS in mathematics from New Mexico State University and an MS and DSc in systems science and mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. He began his academic career at Lehigh University and from 1982 to 1984 taught at Cornell University. He was recruited to UT Dallas from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering.