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With an extensive international network, Lorenz is Wisconsin Idea ‘ambassador’

Bob Lorenz with faculty members from Universitatea Stefan cel Mare Suceava

Bob Lorenz with faculty members from Universitatea Stefan cel Mare Suceava
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Hearing a University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty member talk to a crowd about the Wisconsin Idea may not be unusual. However, Bob Lorenz had the opportunity to be among the first to do so in northern Romania.

In late May, the Universitatea Stefan cel Mare Suceava (Steven the Great University-Suceava) presented Lorenz, the Mead Witter Foundation—Consolidated Papers Professor of Controls Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, with an honorary doctorate and faculty appointment. The degree symbolizes a long-term relationship between Lorenz and his Romanian academic colleagues, including Professor Adrian Graur, the university rector (the title equivalent to chancellor). "By honoring such a man, Stefan cel Mare University honors itself," Graur said in Romanian at the ceremony.

Founded in the early 1960s, Stefan cel Mare has grown into a quality research institution with innovative science and engineering programs and more than 14,000 students. The university's success is related in no small part to Graur's tireless efforts, according to Lorenz, who has enjoyed brainstorming with the rector about courses, programs, facilities and research areas for the faculty to explore. "We have a wonderful rapport," he says.

While the honorary degree is a notable honor, it's only the latest example of Lorenz's extensive network of international relationships. As co-director of the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC) and officer of IEEE and other professional societies, Lorenz frequently travels, and his experiences benefit both his local and global colleagues.

"The idea of building global connections is something WEMPEC has done a good job of, and it's the way we should work. These connections are a powerful way to open the eyes of our students," he says. "There are some very good ideas out there that they need to know about, and we have some very good ideas here that we need to share."

This perspective keeps Lorenz well stocked in frequent flier miles. Shortly after returning from Romania, he traveled to Nagaoka City, Japan, to meet with some of the top power electronics researchers in the world. Lorenz is no stranger to Asia; in fall 2009 he spent a sabbatical as the College of Engineering global visiting professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he helped overhaul the undergraduate exchange program between the institute and UW-Madison and helped develop the first stages of a graduate student exchange program.

Additionally, while attending and presenting the keynote speech at the 2001 International Conference on Electrical Machines and Systems in China, Lorenz insisted that the conference rotate around Southeast Asia, since many countries were sending representatives to the conference. The organizers agreed, inviting Lorenz to participate on a new international advisory board.

Lorenz has established connections across Europe; in particular, he consults regularly with colleagues at the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, where he did his master's degree research and was a guest professor. (Lorenz speaks fluent German.) He has spoken in many countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, England, Germany, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey, to name a few.

"After all that has been said, who wouldn't want to have Professor Robert D. Lorenz as his mentor?" commented Graur at the Stefan cel Mare ceremony. "Young researchers aspire to the knowledge and prestige of the man that guides them, especially when having as supervisor an internationally prestigious personality."

Sandra Knisely