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Margala Named Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Czech University

Professor to Spend a Year in Prague Teaching, Doing Research

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Prof. Martin Margala

09/01/2015
By Edwin L. Aguirre

Prof. Martin Margala of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been awarded the Fulbright-Czech Technical University (CTU) Distinguished Chair in Electrical Engineering. Margala’s one-year fellowship in Prague will start this September.

Each academic year, the Fulbright international educational exchange program — which is supported by the United States government and partner countries — chooses approximately 40 awardees from all over the world as distinguished chairs to teach and/or conduct research in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Their terms ranges from three to 12 months. According to the Fulbright website, the awards are “among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program,” and that the candidates are “eminent scholars [who] have a significant publication and teaching record.”

“The award is definitely humbling and I feel very privileged,” says Margala, who serves as department chair in the Francis College of Engineering. “I’m glad our work is attracting international attention, and my Ph.D. student, Oren Segal, has made a significant research contribution and played a major part in getting our research noticed.”

Margala says the award’s selection process and five-step technical review is rigorous. “Every step is a competition until you win the award,” he notes.

This is the first time the Czech Technical University is offering the chairmanship. While in Prague, Margala will teach one advanced undergraduate and one graduate course (both in English), advise Ph.D. students and conduct research. He will also counsel the dean and the rector on various aspects of higher education and assist the department with curriculum development and help identify funding opportunities.

“I will be giving seminars on topics such as accreditation, academic writing, entrepreneurship, alumni relations, industry-academia collaboration, industry advisory boards, etc.,” he explains.

Electrical and computer engineering Assoc. Prof. Oliver Ibe, who is the associate dean of engineering for undergraduate studies, will serve as acting department chair in Margala’s absence.

In 2011, UMass Lowell and the Czech Technical University signed a memorandum of understanding to foster cooperation between the two institutions. Under the agreement, the schools will promote faculty and student exchanges as well as research collaboration. Last year, CTU Dean Pavel Ripka visited the campus, and next spring, four to six UMass Lowell electrical engineering juniors will go to Prague for a semester.

Aside from electrical and computer engineering, the faculties of CTU and UMass Lowell are collaborating in the area of nuclear engineering and safety. In July this year, the university’s Integrated Nuclear Security & Safeguards Laboratory hosted the Intercontinental Nuclear Institute, a four-week summer program organized in partnership with the U.S.-Czech Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center at CTU, UMass Lowell and the International Atomic Energy Agency.