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  5. B. Ross Barmish
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B. R. Barmish
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Professor B. Ross Barmish works on problems which are often considered to be an engineering nightmare — problems which seemingly have no answers. More specifically, he creates tools for fixing the kinds of problems that arise when one is "stuck" with a bad model of a system. These models, which occur in science and engineering, have variables with tolerances which can be as high as 20 or 30 percent. With such highly uncertain models, designers have to engineer methods to control those systems. For example, in an airplane, many systems have to perform despite wide variations in factors such as temperature, pressure and wind speed. In other words, the systems have to be stable and robust over very large ranges of parameter variation.

Barmish is the 2004 winner of the Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication for his work related to the stability of systems with large uncertainties and the book he authored that synthesizes a decade of research in the field, New Tools for Robustness of Linear Systems.

In the case of stability, Barmish championed an approach called set-valued frequency response methods. He says that the problems can often be boiled down to a simple math equation involving polynomials and their roots; he is an expert on problems which arise when the polynomial has variations in its coefficients because of the physical uncertainty in the system. Barmish searches for robust results — results that guarantee satisfactory system performance no matter how the parameters of the system change.

Colleagues say several of his results will likely become part of the "standard canon" of control. Others cite his tremendous impact in the field of automatic control over the past two decades as evidenced in his appearance on Thompson ISI's "Highly Cited" roster of researchers. He is also a Fellow of the IEEE and has received two best journal publication awards from the International Federation of Automatic Control.

Barmish earned his BS in electrical engineering from McGill University in 1971. He earned his MS and PhD from Cornell University in 1972 and 1975 respectively. Barmish joined the College of Engineering in 1984 after working at Yale and the University of Rochester. In his free time, Barmish enjoys outdoor pursuits including running, cycling and cross-country skiing.