George Tchobanoglous and Ralph Algazi
From left: George Tchobanoglous, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Ralph Algazi, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

College of Engineering Professors Receive Distinguished Emeriti Award

Two emeriti professors from the College of Engineering at the University of California, Davis, whose exceptional academic accomplishments since retirement have led to new audio technologies and safer water worldwide, are the recipients of the 2023-2024 Distinguished Emeriti Award.  

The annual award is given by the UC Davis Emeriti Association, or UCDEA, with nominations made by the association and university leadership, from department chairs to the provost. It recognizes outstanding scholarly work or service performed by a UC Davis Academic Senate member after retirement and is normally reserved for one recipient. The fact that two honorees from the College of Engineering — Distinguished Professors Ralph Algazi and George Tchobanoglous — received the award further highlights how impressive their careers have been and continue to be. 

"Professors Algazi and Tchobanoglous both have outstanding records that exemplify the spirit of this award," said Judy Kjelstrom, co-chair of the UCDEA Award and Honors Committee. "The committee felt strongly about choosing both for this honor." 

Ralph Algazi, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is regarded as a world leader in multimedia signal processing whose work improves understanding of human interaction with technology. He joined the department in 1965 and served as chair from 1975 to 1986. In 1989, he was the originator and founding director of the Center for Image Processing and Integrated Computing, or CPIC. Since retiring in 1994, Algazi has continued a vibrantly active research program and provided valuable mentorship to graduate students.   

"When he became an emeritus professor in 1994, Ralph's research centered on the use of properties of human perception in the design of processing algorithms for the display, transmission, and storage of images and speech. Such human-focused designs played a significant role over the last few decades in how humans and technology interact," said André Knoesen, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Algazi's nominator for the award.  

Based on his research, Algazi started Dysonics, a 3D audio startup, with former student Robert Dalton. It was acquired by Alphabet in 2020, then recently by Google, to bring advanced spatial audio media experiences to consumers.  

As a retiree, Algazi was also instrumental in establishing the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He played a key role in the department's formative years, recruiting and mentoring new faculty and departmental leaders. He continues to be an active citizen of the scientific community through his participation in editorial boards and national organizations. 

George Tchobanoglous, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is an international authority on wastewater treatment, management and reuse who has published more than 300 scholarly works related to environmental engineering since his retirement in 1995. Among these are 241 articles and 16 coauthored books, five of which he served as the lead author. His many textbooks have been translated into seven languages and are considered to be the industry standard worldwide.   

"Few faculty members continue to produce such massive amounts of research, fame and recognition for UC Davis before their retirement, nonetheless in the years after they retire," College of Engineering Dean Richard Corsi wrote in his nomination letter for Tchobanoglous.  

Millions of people throughout the world enjoy safer cleaner water, thanks to Tchobanoglous' work. More recently, he has focused his attention on wastewater reuse, including potable reuse, which is of increasing importance and relevance for California and the American West as the climate warms and becomes drier. The recipient of many honors, he most recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the WateReuse Association of California in 2022. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004. 

"Learning, discovery, and service to others clearly does not end with retirement but is lifelong," said Lydia Howell, Kjelstrom's fellow co-chair on the UCDEA Awards and Honors Committee. "Professors Algazi and Tchobanoglous are an inspiration to the UC Davis community." 

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