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February 12, 2007

Four professors elected to National Academy of Engineering

By Rahul Kanakia

Four Stanford professors have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Robert Gray, Mark Horowitz, Teresa Meng and Sebastian Thrun were among the 64 new members announced on Feb. 9. Their election brings the number of Stanford academy members to 86 and one foreign associate.

The NAE is a private organization that marshals the top engineers in the nation to provide technical insight to the government and address important topics in the field. Election to the NAE is one of the highest honors that an engineer can receive. Each year's class is selected by the current membership. The election honors "important contributions to engineering theory and practice" and those who have demonstrated "unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology." Total membership is 2,127 and 188 foreign associates, including this year's class.

Gray, the Lucent Technologies Professor of Engineering and vice chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, was cited for "contributions to information theory and data compression." His research has included work on image compression, enhancement and classification as well as statistical signal processing.

Gray earned bachelor's and master's degrees from MIT in 1966, both in electrical engineering, and a doctorate in the same field from the University of Southern California in 1969. That year he joined Stanford's faculty. From 1984 to 1987, he was director of the Information Systems Laboratory.

Horowitz, the Yahoo! Founders Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was lauded for "leadership in high-bandwidth memory-interface technology and in scalable cache-coherent multiprocessor architectures." His research focuses on the design of computer chips.

Horowitz earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from MIT in 1978 and his doctorate from Stanford in 1984, the year he joined the Stanford faculty. In 1990, he took a leave of absence to found Rambus Inc., an innovator in computer memory technology. Rambus memory chips were used in the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2 game consoles. He has since returned to Stanford and now heads the Very Large Scale Integration (VSLI) group.

Meng, the Reid Weaver Dennis Professor of Electrical Engineering, was praised for "pioneering the development of distributed wireless network technology." Her work in signal processing is partially responsible for making wireless computer networks the cheap, efficient and ubiquitous communications tool that they are today.

Meng earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from National Taiwan University in 1983 and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of California-Berkeley in 1988, the year she joined the Stanford faculty. In 1999, she took a brief leave of absence in order to found Atheros Communications, a leader in wireless networking.

Thrun, an associate professor electrical engineering and computer science, was honored for "contributions to probabilistic robotics, including mobile robot localization and mapping." He has designed robots to map toxic mining sites and nurse the elderly.

Thrun earned a bachelor's degree in computer science, economics and medicine from the University of Hildesheim, in Germany, in 1988 and his doctorate in computer science from the University of Bonn in 1995. That year, he came to Carnegie Mellon University as a researcher, becoming an assistant professor and co-director of their Robot Learning Laboratory in 1998. Thrun moved to Stanford in 2004, becoming the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. His team developed an autonomous car that could navigate a desert course without human guidance and won the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge in 2005.

Rahul Kanakia is a science-writing intern at Stanford News Service.

Editor Note:

Photos of Gray, Horowitz, Meng and Thrun are available at



Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,


Robert M. Gray, Electrical Engineering: (650) 723-4001,

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