January 14, 2008

Viswanathan named interim engineering dean

by Tim Crosby

Ramanarayanan Viswanathan

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A professor with 25 years at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will serve as interim dean of the College of Engineering starting this semester.

Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor Don S. Rice announced that Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the college's interim dean. A search committee made up of faculty and staff members from within the college recommended Viswanathan for the position, which he officially began last week.

SIU President Glenn Poshard approved the appointment, which also requires ratification by the Board of Trustees at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Viswanathan fills the position left vacant by the retirement of William Osborne, who stepped down last week after announcing he would do so in the fall. Osborne will remain active in conducting research at SIUC, especially working with a colleague on an explosives detection technology project for the U.S. Navy.

Viswanathan, who joined the SIUC faculty as an assistant professor in 1983, said he is excited about the challenges the college faces during the next 18 months, which is the approximate projected length of his term. One of his first tasks will be to guide the college through an upcoming accreditation process for the departments of electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, mining and mineral resources and civil and environmental engineering. The departments and college must make a report to the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology by the end of June and prepare for a board visit set for fall. The college's goal is to earn a six-year accreditation, the maximum available.

"That's our immediate task," he said. "We need to show how we have continued to modify the curriculum based on input from students and employers. The various departments involved are doing the job, but we have to make sure everything is in place."

Viswanathan also will begin marketing and recruiting students for a new program providing master of science and master of engineering degrees in biomedical engineering. He also will continue engineering college recruitment efforts, funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Viswanathan said he will support College of Engineering Associate Dean John W. Nicklow, who is heading that effort.

Viswanathan also will focus on fund-raising, making strong faculty hires and planning during his tenure as interim dean. He is scheduled to teach several courses this semester, but is waiting to see whether that will be possible given his new duties. He will, however, continue working with his current doctoral students and ongoing research projects.

As a researcher, Viswanathan's work has involved processing sensor signals and sensor networks as well as wireless and personal communications, detection and estimation theory and wireless networks.

Viswanathan's career has included many honors. Recently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, known as the "I triple E," named him as one its fellows. The organization designates less than 0.1 percent of its members as fellows. Viswanathan is one of just 300 to receive the honor. He also served on the Faculty Senate at SIUC, including as the organization's president. He resigned this week from the group.

Viswanathan earned his doctorate in electrical engineering in 1983 at Southern Methodist University. He earned his master's of engineering with distinction in electrical communication engineering in 1977 at the Indian Institute of Science. He earned his bachelor of engineering degree in electronics and communication engineering in 1975 at the University of Madras, India.

Before coming to SIUC in 1983, Viswanathan was deputy engineer in research and development for Bharat Electronics Ltd. in Bangalore, India.

Viswanathan said the provost's office will form a search committee to find a new dean this fall and conduct candidate interviews in spring 2009, with the goal of hiring someone who can start work in July 2009. The college faculty is delaying the search process to avoid conflicts with the upcoming accreditation review in 2008.

Viswanathan's wife, Rama, is a cardio sonographer who works part-time at Union County Hospital in Anna. She earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology in 1996 at SIUC.

The couple has two daughters: Priya, 20, a sophomore at the University of Illinois Chicago; and Jaya, a sophomore at Carbondale Community High School.