Rice duo named to National Academy of Engineers

Dean and incoming provost Reginald DesRoches, electrical and computer engineer Gene Frantz earn prestigious honor



HOUSTON – (Feb. 7, 2020) – Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, and Gene Frantz, a professor in the practice of electrical and computer engineering, both at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering, have been named to the National Academy of Engineers.

DesRoches, who will become Rice provost in July, and Frantz are among 87 inductees in this year’s class, along with 18 new international members.

According to the academy, the prestigious appointment honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.

Reginald DesRoches
Reginald DesRoches

Selection of academy members is the culmination of a yearlong process. The ballot is set in December and the final vote for membership occurs during January. New members will be formally inducted at the academy’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4.

DesRoches, a civil engineer by training, was named for his research and design of resilient infrastructure systems to mitigate damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes and other extreme conditions. He became dean at Rice in July 2017 after serving as chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I am truly honored by this recognition,” DesRoches said. “This would not have been possible without the incredibly dedicated students and postdocs that I have worked with over the past two decades, as well as the many outstanding colleagues, collaborators and mentors that I have had. I share this honor with them.”

Frantz was elected for leadership in the development and commercialization of digital signal microprocessors.

Frantz, who has been called the "father of digital signal processing," joined Rice in 2012 after a storied 39-year career at Texas Instruments (TI). Digital signal processing, or DSP, is ubiquitous in cell phones, digital cameras and countless other technologies.

He was a member of the team that designed TI's first speech synthesis chip, the TMS5100, in the mid-1970s. At the time, many were skeptical that DSP technology could be implemented on an integrated circuit. The chip was used in TI's Speak & Spell, one of the earliest handheld electronic devices and the first educational toy to utilize speech that was not recorded on a tape or phonograph.

Gene Frantz
Gene Frantz

Two others with strong Rice connections named to the academy are Sallie Keller and Jorge Nocedal.

Keller is former dean of the Brown School of Engineering and now division director, social and decision analytics division and professor of public health sciences at the Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She was a professor of statistics and dean of engineering at Rice from 2005 to 2010.

Keller was elected for the development and application of engineering and statistical techniques in support of national security and industry.

Nocedal, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences at Northwestern University, earned his Ph.D. at Rice in 1978 under the supervision of fellow academy member Richard Tapia. He was elected for his contributions to the theory, design and implementation of optimization algorithms and machine learning software.

Nocedal was honored with an Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award at the Brown School of Engineering’s Alumni Awards Celebration last November.

They join eight current members of the Rice faculty in the academy: Pedro Alvarez, Naomi Halas, Antonios Mikos, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Pol Spanos, Edwin Thomas, Moshe Vardi and Tapia. Emeritus professors Robert BixbyGeorge Hirasaki and Ronald Nordgren are also members.


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George R. Brown School of Engineering: https://engineering.rice.edu

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Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.