ECE Faculty: N. Narayana Rao

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N. Narayana Rao


Around 1940

Around 1960

Around 1980

Around 2000

Nannapaneni Narayana Rao was born in Kakumanu, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India. Prior to coming to the United States in 1958, he attended the Presidency College, Madras, receiving the B.Sc. Degree in Physics from the University of Madras in 1952, and then the Madras Institute of Technology, receiving the Diploma in Electronics from that Institute in 1955. In the United States, he attended the University of Washington, receiving the M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1960 and 1965, respectively. In 1965, he joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering, now Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Urbana, Illinois, accepting an offer from the then Department Head, the late Edward C. Jordan and served as the Associate Head of the Department for 19 years from 1987 to 2006. After 42 years of service in the ECE Department, he retired from UIUC, effective June 1, 2007. He is currently the Edward C. Jordan Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UIUC, and Distinguished AMRITA Professor of Engineering, AMRITA Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Ettimadai, Coimbatore, INDIA.

At the UIUC, Professor Rao has carried out research in the general area of ionospheric propagation, taught a wide spectrum of courses, and developed courses in electromagnetic fields and radio wave propagation. He is the author of the undergraduate textbooks, BASIC ELECTROMAGNETICS WITH APPLICATIONS (Prentice Hall, 1972), six editions of the widely-used ELEMENTS OF ENGINEERING ELECTROMAGNETICS (Prentice Hall, 1977, 1987, 1991, 1994, 2000, and 2004), the Indian Edition of ELEMENTS OF ENGINEERING ELECTROMAGNETICS, Sixth Edition, published by Pearson Education, India, in 2006, FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTROMAGNETICS FOR ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING (Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2009), and its Indian Edition, FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTROMAGNETICS FOR ENGINEERING, published by Pearson Education, India.

In 1974, Professor Rao introduced a new approach, later termed the "Maxwell's Equuations First (MEF) Approach," for the teaching and learning of Fundamentals of Electromagnetics (FEM). In the 1980’s, he pioneered the use of personal computers for teaching electromagnetics and developed interactive software to enhance the learning of basic concepts. He has been influential in changes in the curriculum at the University of Illinois and has engaged in international activities, participating in a World Bank Education project for institutional development at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1985-86, among other contributions. In July-August 2006, he visited India’s AMRITA University as the first professor to teach a course, under the Indo-US Inter-University Collaborative Initiative in Higher Education and Research.

Professor Rao has received numerous awards and honors for his teaching and curricular activities. During the period prior to 1998, these include the first Award in Engineering in 1983 from the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), an association of Telugu-speaking people of origin in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India, with the citation, "Dedicated teacher and outstanding contributor to electromagnetics;" a plaque of highest appreciation from the Faculty of Technology, University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia, for curriculum development in 1985-86; the campus Undergraduate Instructional Awards in 1982 and 1988, the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence from the College of Engineering in 1987, the Campus Award for Teaching Excellence and the first Oakley Award for Innovation in Instruction in 1989, and the Halliburton Award for Engineering Education Leadership from the College of Engineering in 1991, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; election to the Fellow grade of the IEEE in 1989 for contributions to electrical engineering education and ionospheric propagation; the AT&T Foundation Award for Excellence in Instruction of Engineering Students from the Illinois-Indiana Section of the ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) in 1991; the ASEE Centennial Certificate in 1993 for exceptional contribution to the ASEE and the profession of engineering; and the IEEE Technical Field Award in Undergraduate Teaching in 1994 with the citation, "For inspirational teaching of undergraduate students and the development of innovative instructional materials for teaching courses in electromagnetics."

In 1998, Professor Rao received the Boss of the Year Award from the Secretariat, the association of the secretarial staff of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having been nominated jointly by nine secretaries in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The criteria for the Award are: (1) Perform his/her duties well and enthusiastically support the University and its programs; (2) Routinely show consideration and support of others -- staff, colleagues, students, and visitors to office/campus; (3) Perform courtesies beyond his/her daily responsibilities; and (4) Exhibit other qualities that exemplify good leadership and organizational abilities. In order to facilitate unbiased evaluations of each nomination letter, the nominee is always referred to as he or she, and not by name. Mention of department names or colleges is also not allowed.

In 1999, Professor Rao received the Award for Excellence in Education from TANA for his outstanding contributions to engineering education, making him the first Telugu American to have received two awards from TANA. Also in 1999, he achieved a milestone in the world of academic publishing with the publication of the fifth edition of his book "Elements of Engineering Electromagnetics," by Prentice Hall with a year 2000 copyright. Professor Rao dedicated this book to the memory of Edward C. Jordan in deep appreciation of the profound influence Jordan had on his professional career.

In Fall 2001, Professor Rao received a certificate of recognition from his faculty colleagues of the Space Science and Remote Sensing Laboratory of the ECE Department. The certificate reads: “IN APPRECIATION Of the many years of faithful and untiring service in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Of his nurturing of many generations of students in electromagnetic theory through his teaching and pedagogical writing; Of his collegiality and technical contributions to the ionospheric research program of this laboratory. We, the faculty of the Space Science and Remote Sensing Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, do hereby present N. Narayana Rao this token of our affection and esteem, Given this 10th day of November 2001, Urbana, IL.”

Also in Fall 2001, Professor Rao received a plaque from the ECE Department “in appreciation of his outstanding leadership and tireless dedication throughout our successful ABET review process,” which he accomplished by building and implementing the process as the Chair of the departmental ABET Evaluation Committee since its inception in 1998. See article describing the successful effort.

In 2002-03, Professor Rao's book ELEMENTS OF ENGINEERING ELECTROMAGNETICS, fifth edition (Prentice Hall, 2000), was translated into Bahasa Indonesia. As stated in the preface, the first part of the dedication offering Salutations to Lord Ganesha (Om Shri Ganeshaya Namaha) was inspired in part by his visit in January 1999 to the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Bandung, Indonesia, where the Image of Ganesha adorns the entrance to the Institute on Jalan Ganesha. It is only fitting that the translation into Bahasa Indonesia was done by a Professor of Physics at ITB. See book covers for a picture depicting the covers of the Indonesian version in two volumes alongside the cover of the English version.

In fall 2003, Professor Rao was named to be the first recipient of the Edward C. Jordan Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering. The Jordan Professorship was created to honor the memory of Professor Jordan, who served as the department head for 25 years, and to be held by “a member of the faculty of the department who has demonstrated the qualities of Professor Jordan and whose work would best honor the legacy of Professor Jordan.” The investiture ceremony for the Jordan Professorship took place on April 14, 2004, at which time Professor Rao delivered a response speech, relating his connection to Professor Jordan and expressing gratitude to him.

In January 2004, Professor Rao achieved another milestone in academic publishing with the publication of the sixth edition of his book, “Elements of Engineering Electromagnetics,” by Prentice Hall with a year 2004 copyright. This book is the lead volume in the new Illinois ECE Series. It also includes a “Tribute to Edward C. Jordan.” See also related item entitled, "A teacher and his text pass the torch of knowledge," in Ingenuity, November 2004.

On March 5, 2004, Professor Rao received the Gnana Ratna (Jewel of Knowledge) Award from His Holiness Sri Sri Sri Viswayogi Viswamjee Maharaj at Viswanagar, Guntur, on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of the Swamiji, “for rendering special services in his field.” He was one among five recipients, the other four being residents of India, prominent in their respective fields.

In July 2006, Pearson Education, India, published a special “Indian Edition” of ELEMENTS OF ENGINEERING ELECTROMAGNETICS, Sixth Edition, in connection with Professor Rao’s inaugural course offering at the AMRITA University under the Indo-US Inter-University Collaborative Initiative, an agreement signed in December 2005 by the Indian government, AMRITA University, and 15 US universities. The Indian Edition includes a special message from President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; a new preface by Professor Rao; forewords by UIUC Chancellor Richard Herman, Provost Linda Katehi, and ECE Professor Nick Holonyak Jr.; and an introductory chapter called “Why Study Electromagnetics?” offering 18 very thoughtful responses to that question, most of them provided by his ECE faculty colleagues and alumni. Professor Rao offered the inaugural course, “Electromagnetics for Electrical and Computer Engineering,” from July 10, 2006 to August 11, 2006 to 850 students in 22 universities, located all over India, over the EDUSAT Satellite Network. In doing so, he ushered in a new mode of education in India in this internet era.

In October 2006, AMRITA University created, in the words of its Vice Chancellor, “a super category called DISTINGUISHED AMRITA PROFESSOR, which designates the University's highest level Professorship and also celebrated as something that is given to only very very select cases of Internationally Distinguished Scientists/Leaders, and that is handed down directly from the Chancellor, AMMA MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI DEVI," and Professor Rao has been chosen as the first individual for this honor.

Professor Rao retired officially from UIUC, effective June 1, 2007. On May 11, 2007, the ECE Department gave a reception in honor of his retirement. At the reception, he was presented with a plaque of appreciation. Read article published in ECE Alumni News. In August 2007, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois conferred on Professor Rao the rank of Edward C. Jordan Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, effective June 1, 2007.

In May 2008, Pearson Prentice-Hall published Professor Rao's new book, FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTROMAGNETICS FOR ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING, with a 2009 copyright, a one-semester alternative to the two-semester book, ELEMENTS OF ENGINEERING ELECTROMAGNETICS, SIXTH EDITION. The Indian Edition of this book, FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTROMAGNETICS FOR ENGINEERING, was published by Pearson Education, India, in August 2008.

Since August 2008, Professor Rao has been traveling to India to teach electromagnetics to teachers by offering intensive courses. Read article in ECE Headline News. He has developed a web site, having the title, "MEFware*: Open-Access Materials for Teaching and Learning Fundamentals of Electromagnetics (FEM), using the Maxwell's Equations First (MEF) Approach," with the URL given by

Professor Rao is a Life Fellow of the IEEE, a life member of the ASEE, and a member of the U.S. Commission 3 of the URSI (International Scientific Radio Union), and of the Antenna and Propagation, and Education Societies of the IEEE.