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May 21, 2018

Two U-M professors elected to National Academy of Engineering

February 12, 2014

Two U-M professors elected to National Academy of Engineering

Topic: Campus News

Members of the National Academy of Engineering, the most prestigious engineering organization in the United States, have elected Daniel Atkins, the W.K. Kellogg Professor in Community Information, and Wallace Hopp, the Herrick Professor of Business, to join their ranks.

Wallace Hopp

"Election to the NAE is particularly special because the voters, NAE members, are the most distinguished engineers in the country.  So it's like being told by your heroes and role models that your work has made a difference," said Hopp. "It really means a lot to me."

Hopp also is the senior associate dean for faculty and research, and a professor of technology and operations in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and a professor of industrial and operations engineering in the College of Engineering. He was elected for his work in applying physics principles to manufacturing and supply chains, known as factory physics.

By describing a factory as a network of flows — of material, money, people and information — he was able create mathematical models of factory operation. These models could then be used to interpret how each of these flows affects production cost, volume and quality, and customer service.  

"Factory physics provides a scientific basis for practical performance improvement programs in a wide range of industries," said Hopp. "The beauty of the factory physics approach is that the same equations can be used to describe a steel plant, a semiconductor facility, the global supply chain of an aircraft assembly line, or even a hospital or a bank."

Daniel Atkins

Atkins was recognized for both phases of his career, specifically for developing a way to speed up computer arithmetic in the 1960s and '70s and, from the '80s on, socio-technical systems to facilitate collaborative research and learning through the Internet and later the Web.

"The most difficult arithmetic calculation to accelerate is division because, as you may recall from your elementary school days, it's an intrinsically trial-and-error process," said Atkins, who also is a professor of information in the School of Information and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science in CoE.

Atkins' solution was to design a process that produced more than one bit of information at a time. Intel adopted it for their Pentium processors, and Atkins believes it's now standard in the industry.

"I guess in retrospect I should have tried to patent it," he said with a laugh.

Around 30 years ago, Atkins began to shift his focus away from the machines themselves and toward how they are used, particularly with the advent of national and worldwide networks in the 1980s. Cooperation through the Web among researchers at different institutions is now commonplace, but Atkins led an interdisciplinary group that pioneered some of the first online collaborations between research groups.

Likewise, online access to academic journals is almost taken for granted, but Atkins was instrumental in building early digital libraries. In particular, Atkins was tapped to help develop JSTOR, which now contains more than 8 million articles from nearly 2,000 journals.

"I'm especially delighted that the citation recognizes my early mainstream computer engineering work but also recognizes the highly interdisciplinary and socio-technological work that I've done recently," said Atkins. "It's gratifying that this mode of impact is appreciated."


Yash Sharma
on 2/28/14 at 7:27 pm

Heartiest Congratulations! Proud to be your student :)

Harshavardhan Ravula
on 3/04/14 at 7:12 am

Hearty Congratulations Professor Hopp! Proud to be your student.

- Harsha Ravula, MSCM'2012

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