Summer 2011

Five faculty named to distinguished ranks



Five Binghamton University faculty have recently been appointed to the ranks of distinguished professors — three distinguished, one distinguished teaching and one distinguished service professor — the highest system honors conferred upon SUNY faculty. They join more than 65 Binghamton University faculty who have achieved distinguished rank.

Promotion to distinguished professor is reserved for those who have achieved national or international prominence and a distinguished reputation within his or her discipline. Promotion to the distinguished teaching rank recognizes the mastery of teaching at the graduate, undergraduate or professional levels. Promotion to distinguished service professor is bestowed upon those who have achieved a notable reputation for extraordinary service not only to the campus and SUNY, but to the community, state and beyond by application of intellectual skills from the individual’s scholarly and research interests.

Binghamton University’s newest distinguished professors are Ron Miles, professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean for research for the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science; Bahgat Sammakia, professor of mechanical engineering, director of the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center and interim vice president for research; and Shelemyahu Zacks, professor of mathematical sciences. 

Ron Miles

Miles, a rare combination of thinker and innovator, has successfully interwoven the fields of neurobiology, mechanics and acoustics to develop a biomimetic sensor with exceptional directivity for hearing and applications. “I’m incredibly honored that a number of very accomplished people have said nice things about my work,” Miles said, adding that he’s been “extremely fortunate to have a job that, for the most part, let’s me work on things I enjoy.” Miles’ work will improve the quality of life for an estimated 500 million people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss, and for him, the promotion “does help me believe we are working on the right things and heading in the right direction.”

In the past 11 years, Miles has received more than $11 million in continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health and another $5 million to date from other federal, state, corporate and charitable sources. In 2003, he received the largest, single-principal investigator grant in the history of Binghamton University — $6.5 million. He is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; the University Award for Excellence in Teaching; the Research Foundation Outstanding Inventor award; and the Chancellor’s Award for Research in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Bahgat Sammakia

Sammakia, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the New York State Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging (S3IP), is a path-breaking and innovative researcher in the thermal management of electronic devices and in electronic systems integration and packaging. Currently serving as interim vice president for research, Sammakia noted that he shares this success with the many students with whom he has worked over the years, as well as his colleagues in the Watson School and at S3IP. “This is one of the most significant achievements of my career,” he said. “I’m very honored to have received this distinction. I see it as recognition of my research in electronics packaging and of my equally vital work as a teacher and mentor.”

The knowledge generated by Sammakia’s work helps address the challenges posed by increased thermal dissipation for devices that keep shrinking in size, but increasing in thermal capacity and functional capability. He has published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals and at highly selective conferences, and has co-authored a book and contributed to seven book chapters. Over the past decade, his research funding has exceeded $30 million and has been provided by federal sources (including NSF, DARPA, NASA, Army Research Labs and NNSA), industry (including IBM, Corning, Xerox, GE, Analog Devices and National Semiconductor) and New York state. Sammakia holds 14 U.S. patents and has filed more than 20 invention disclosures during the past decade. He is an ASME fellow, editor-in-chief of the ASME Transactions Journal of Electronics Packaging and has been recognized with the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Research, the Chancellor’s Promising Inventor’s Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Shelemyahu Zacks

Zacks, a celebrated statistician who, quite literally, wrote the book on applied probabilistic statistics, has influenced his field through his innovative and ground-breaking research. His extensive writing includes several benchmark books and well over 130 research articles in leading mathematical journals. For Zacks, the promotion is an important milestone. “It reflects the appreciation of my colleagues around the world for my contributions to statistical and probability sciences,” he said. “I received several years ago an honorary PhD from the University of Haifa in Israel. The present recognition by SUNY is a very important complement to the previous recognition from the University of Haifa.”

Zacks adds that the recognition is also an important booster. ”I would have continued my research anyway, but the promotion to distinguished professor gives me more energy to continue my research vigorously.”  His vast editorial work combined with his superior mentoring of young colleagues and students have had a significant impact on the field of probabilistic statistics that extends well beyond mathematics. His research sparks with brilliance and originality, pioneering and shaping new fields of research while advancing and profoundly impacting many others. Examples are design of experiments, statistical inference, Bayesian analysis, sampling from finite populations, predictive analysis, sequential analysis, reliability and applied probability. He has applied his strong theoretical background to a variety of real-world problems, creating new methodologies in such diverse fields as quality control in industrial settings, stochastic control of production processes, reliability issues in engineering, tracking problems of moving objects, and design and analysis of experiments in pharmaceutical and medical research.

James Pitarresi

Pitarresi has demonstrated teaching excellence in essentially every form that teaching can take since he joined the faculty at Binghamton University in 1988. He has excelled in teaching lower-division courses, advanced undergraduate and graduate courses, and in mentoring professional engineers and faculty. His dedication and skill are surpassed only by his ardent commitment to preparing innovative and enthusiastic lectures and the manner in which he devotes extensive out-of-classroom time to teach and mentor his students.

The promotion to distinguished teaching professor “is a wonderful reflection on all of us here at Binghamton University and in the Watson School,” he said. “Joining the ranks of other distinguished faculty here on campus helps solidify Binghamton’s reputation as a leader in scholarship, research and academics. It’s a dream come true.”

With outstanding teaching evaluations throughout his career, and the respect of colleagues in engineering both within and beyond Binghamton University, he calls this promotion a new beginning. “The challenges remain and we must constantly look for ways to improve and grow,” he said, even as he credited much of his success to past teachers and inspirational professors who have challenged him to excel. “To a large extent, I view this promotion as recognition of their wonderful examples and I hope that I can provide the same inspiration for today’s students.”

John Frazier

Frazier has been a stalwart leader of geography at Binghamton University since 1976, whose record of service within the Geography Department and more broadly across campus is unparalleled. Major themes that emerge when describing him include pioneer, promoter of diversity, leader/transformer who charts new directions and applied practitioner. The promotion to distinguished service professor, said Frazier, is both personally and professionally gratifying “because colleagues here and around the world have attached value to my life’s work … and it recognizes/validates an approach I have employed my entire professional career, combining teaching, research, and service.” In addition to his service to the campus, he has applied his knowledge and expertise to local planning agencies, industry, governmental and community organizations.

At a national level, he taught HUD’s leadership and field offices how to use geographical analysis and tools and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to evaluate affordable housing and fair-housing practices in minority neighborhoods. In the community, he has received grants and contracts to support graduate students, which also resulted in technical reports that have guided comprehensive planning, housing analysis and GIS technology for a number of public agencies. His leadership in promoting diversity through national and international conferences is unsurpassed. He received the Chancellors Award for Excellence in Faculty Service in 2009-2010.

This promotion “infuses me with even greater energy to pursue the things I believe contribute to a better University, community and society,” said Frazier, who said he is particularly gratified by his work in diversity issues, having led the way to diversify his department, served as an advisor to McNair scholars, published books on diversity and created the bi-annual, international Race, Ethnicity and Place Conference. “These examples demonstrate that research, teaching and service can be combined into a meaningful and rewarding career with the assistance of colleagues,” he said.

Frazier echoed the sentiments of the other distinguished faculty: “The success that comes with this type of promotion is not possible without a lifetime of support from others — family, friends, colleagues and students — on the campus and beyond. I have been very blessed by this support and express my sincere gratitude,” he said.

–Inside staff