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Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award

The Bellman Award is given for distinguished career contributions to the theory or application of automatic control. It is the highest recognition of professional achievement for US control systems engineers and scientists. The recipient must have spent a significant part of his/her career in the USA. The awardee is strongly encouraged to give a plenary presentation at the ACC Awards Luncheon.

Pravin Varaiya

Year: 
2008
Citation: 
For pioneering contributions to stochastic control, hybrid systems and the unification of theories of control and computation

Pravin Varaiya is Nortel Networks Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1975 to 1992 he was also Professor of Economics at Berkeley. During 1994-1997 he was Director of California PATH, a multi-university research program concerned with the development and use of technology to help solve California’s transportation problems. His current research is concerned with sensor networks, transportation, and hybrid systems.

Text of Acceptance Speech: 

June 12, 2008. Seattle, WA

It is an honor to receive the Bellman Award. I am sure the Award Committee received many outstanding nominations, and I thank the Committee for selecting me. I was invited to make a few remarks, so long as I did not exceed five minutes. I will point out some landmarks along my intellectual journey. The young people among you may find it of some interest. I came to Berkeley as a graduate student in 1960. I owe a great deal to Professor Lotfi Zadeh who was my PhD adviser and who has been a mentor to me ever since. Much of my intellectual development came from interaction with visitors and students. Karl Astrom visited me in the early 1960s. His paper with Bohlin on system identification became for me a standard of research quality and research exposition. Another significant visitor was Bill Root. Bill showed me how to use mathematics in the analysis of communication systems, and he introduced me to information theory.

 

Stochastic Systems
There was a buzz at the time about white noise and martingales. Gene Wong was talking about it, as was Moshe Zakai. Tyrone Duncan was visiting. Ty de-mystified the buzz for me. He taught me how to think about stochastic systems. Thus began my lifelong attraction towards randomness. Sanjoy Mitter, who I first met about that time, reinforced that attraction. Sanjoy became a lifelong friend, for which I am very grateful.

Mark Davis was the first in a sequence of brilliant PhD students in stochastic systems. Mark discovered the deep relation between martingales and optimum decisions. Rene Boel, Jan van Schuppen, and Gene Wong found that martingales were also key to point processes as well as Ito processes. Jean Walrand grasped this insight and developed it into an outstanding thesis on queuing networks. Venkat Anantharam knew little or nothing about probability theory when he began his PhD. I still recall how much he impressed me with his spectacular work on multi-armed bandits. The third in this group was Vivek Borkar. Vivek was the most quiet, but equally stunning.

This was when P.R. Kumar visited Berkeley. He is the first of the next generation that I got to know as a friend. I have become a fan of his, along with so many others. Intellectual life moves in circles. Borkar and Kumar re-connected me with Karl Astrom, this time through his paper with Wittenmark.

Networking
Jean Walrand introduced me to computer communication networks. This has continued to be an area of research for the past twenty years. We've had outstanding students, who have gone on to brilliant careers. Sri Kumar, then at Northwestern, Jean Walrand and I got to know each other through our interest in networking.

Power
I learned power engineering in undergraduate school. But then I lost contact with the field, until years later when Felix Wu joined our faculty. Eyad Abed, Fathi Salem and Shankar Sastry wrote their dissertations on difficult questions in nonlinear systems, inspired by problems of power systems. I lost contact with the field once again, until deregulation became the rage in California. Once again Felix recruited me. Felix Wu, Shmuel Oren of IEOR, Pablo Spiller of the Business School, and I joined forces to save California from the clutches of the utilities. We developed a provably good deregulation strategy. The strategy was not adopted.

Wireless
Ahmad Bahai and Andrea Goldsmith sparked my interest in wireless communications. They have become stars. They inspired my very recent students, Mustafa Ergen and Sinem Coleri.

Hybrid
In the late sixties, Noam Chomsky came to Berkeley and gave a lecture on formal languages. Chomsky's talk opened up a whole world for me. I spent a lot of time learning recursive functions, Turing machines, and Godel's theory. Walt Burkhard wanted to do a thesis on space-time complexity of recursive functions, and he helped consolidate what I had learned. However, my involvement with that subject declined.

My interest was revived by the Wonham-Ramadge paper on discrete-event systems, while Joseph Sifakis, Tom Henzinger and others began the study of time automata. These developments combined to create the area of Hybrid Systems. My students Anuj Puri and Alex Kurzhansky obtained some outstanding results in Hybrid Systems.

Transportation
My flirtation with transportation began 30 years ago when I taught urban economics. Mario Ripper was my first doctoral student in transportation planning. My interest then waned. In 1990, Steve Shladover helped spark a national, indeed worldwide, interest in automated highways. Berkeley became a leading research center in highway automation, culminating in a full demonstration in 1997 in San Diego. It was very exciting to work with an interdisciplinary group of experts to build something all the way from theory to demonstration.

Since I could not wait for 25 years before automated highways became practical, my attention shifted to today's highways. My student Karl Petty built the PeMS system, which is now world-renowned as a repository of highway data. Roberto Horowitz and I are now developing a control system for the management of highways. It might become an important follow-on to the PeMS system.

Let me conclude with a remark on Richard Bellman, whom I met in the late sixties. Bellman was a renowned mathematician with contributions in many, many areas. I learned two things from him. First, over the years I continue to marvel at the significance of the optimality principle in the form of the verification theorem, which I have used in many contexts. Second and more important, I learned that good theory is very practical.

Thank you very much for being such courteous listeners. 

Dragoslav D. Šiljak

Year: 
2010
Citation: 
For fundamental contributions to the theory of large-scale systems, decentralized control, and parametric approach to robust stability

Dragoslav D. Šiljak received his doctorate degree (D.Sc.) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, in 1963. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Santa Clara University in 1964, where he is presently the Benjamin and Mae Swig University Professor. 

Text of Acceptance Speech: 

July 1, 2010. Baltimore, MD

I am exceedingly happy to receive the Richard Bellman Control Heritage Award. I am thankful to the American Automatic Control Council for recognizing my work as worthy of this award, and I am deeply humbled when I consider the previous recipients of the award.

My first thanks go to my dear wife Dragana who put up for a long time with a workaholic husband with an oversized ambition. I am grateful to Santa Clara University and, in particular, to the School of Engineering for providing institutional support to our research. I am exceedingly thankful to many people from all around the world who came to Santa Clara to work on our projects as fellow researchers on an exploratory journey; and what a journey it has been!

At this occasion, it gives me a great pleasure to recall my visit to University of Southern California and my brief encounter with Professor Bellman. After my talk, he invited me to his office, and among myriad of his interests, he chose to talk with me about his recent work in Pharmacokinetics. At that time, I was deeply into the competitive equilibrium in economics, and we had a very stimulating discussion on the connection of the two fields via the Metzler matrix which I have been using since then in a wide variety of models to this very day.

Looking at this award in a prudential light, my obtaining this award is as much a compliment to the Control Council as it is to me. My winning of this award at Santa Clara University, which is not a research 1 university but prides itself as an excellent teaching institution, proves that the system is open, and that any of you wherever you are can win this award solely by the merit of your research.

I recall when at eighteen I made the Yugoslav Olympic Water Polo Team for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. We won all our games except the final one, which ended in a draw. At that time, there were no overtimes and penalty kicks; the winner was determined by the cumulative goal ratio. I continued playing water polo, but did not make the team for the 1956 Melbourne games; I broke my right hand and stayed home. I kept playing on and in 1960 made the team for the Rome Olympics. We did not win a medal in Rome, let alone the gold. At that point I was already a committed researcher in control systems. I continued the research for many years and to borrow from a song by Neil Young:

"I kept searching for a heart of gold, and I was getting old ... "

Today I found a heart of gold. Thank you all very much for your attention, and God bless!

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