Rice University Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Receives Prestigious Festschrift 

An honors given to respected researchers after long and influential careers in academia

Athanasios C. Antoulas

Athanasios “Thanos” Antoulas, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Rice University, has received one of the traditional honors given to respected researchers after long and influential careers in academia -- a Festschrift.Athanasios Antoulas

German for “celebration writing,” it’s a volume of articles written by the honoree’s colleagues around the world. Last year, the publisher Springer brought out Realization and Model Reduction of Dynamical Systems: A Festschrift in Honor of the 70th Birthday of Thanos Antoulas, a collection of 24 articles addressing Antoulas’ contributions to system theory, computational mathematics, model reduction, and data-driven modeling and system identification.

“I am proud to be so honored but it doesn’t mean I have plans for retirement,” said Antoulas, who joined the Rice faculty in 1982 and celebrated his 70th birthday last September.  

Antoulas was born in Athens, where he attended a high school taught in Greek and English (he later added French and German). He studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, where he earned Diplomas in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics in 1975, and his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1980.

In 1985, Antoulas visited Brian Anderson, who became his research partner, at the Australian National University in Canberra. Their collaboration led to what became known as the Adaptive-Antoulas-Anderson (AAA) algorithm for rational approximation.

“It and the Loewner framework for model reduction of large-scale systems,” Antoulas said, “are my main research contributions.” Model reduction is a method for reducing the computational complexity of mathematical models in numerical simulations.

In the mid-1990s, Antoulas began collaborating with Danny Sorensen, a professor in computational and applied mathematics (CAAM) at Rice from 1989 to 2016. “I owe much of my work to my close working relationship with Danny. Thanks to him,” he said, “I became even more productive.”

They collaborated on projection-based algorithms for model reduction, which have at their core the Krylov subspace technology used for solving linear systems and eigenvalue problems.

Athanasios Antoulas

Antoulas was elected a fellow of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 1991 and a Max Planck fellow in 2016. At the Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Magdeburg, Germany, Antoulas has headed the Data-Driven System Reduction and Identification (DRI) group since 2017.

As an MPI fellow, Antoulas spends every summer and occasionally the winter break in Germany, working with a German graduate student and a postdoc. He earns an annual research stipend to further his work, and every three years undergoes a performance evaluation.

He served as editor-in-chief of the journal Systems and Control Letters. In 2005, SIAM (Society and Industrial Applied Mathematics) published his book, Approximation of Large-Scale Systems, which has become a standard textbook on the subject. He is an adjunct professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine. 

One of the editors of the Festschrift is Mark Embree, now at Virginia Tech, who from 2001 to 2013 was a professor of CAAM at Rice. Two of the others, Serkan Gugercin (Virginia Tech) and Sanda Lefteriu (Ecole des Mines, Paris), are former doctoral students of Antoulas at Rice.

“I still like Rice,” Antoulas said. “Coming to Texas was a big adjustment. I was a European. What saved the day for me was Rice.”