Allen Taflove

Allen Taflove recognized as McCormick teacher, adviser of the year

Allen Taflove, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has been honored as McCormick’s Teacher of the Year and Adviser of the Year for 2005–06. He is the first faculty member to receive both awards in a single year — and according to the many students who nominated him, it’s a well-deserved honor.

Student nominators lauded Taflove for his excellent teaching and dedication to students. His review sessions for the Engi­neer­ing Analysis course are well-known across the school. One nominator wrote, “Students from all the other sections would rearrange their schedules to attend a 50-minute review that somehow clarified all the points covered in the last two weeks.” The nomination goes on to say that the sessions are so popular that students “were left standing around the sides of the room, but it was always worth it for the information gained.”

Taflove is known for going out of his way to help students. “Professor Taflove cares more about his students than any other professor I’ve met here at North­west­ern,” wrote one student. “His office door is always open, and he will rearrange his schedule in order to help students.”

“Taflove is an inspiring man who has built initiative and excitement into the hearts of all his students,” wrote another student. “It was a pleasure to have met this man, and I only hope that more people experience the opportunity to be a part of Taflove’s magic.”

“Allen Taflove exemplifies McCormick’s goals of innovative teaching and research,” says Dean Julio M. Ottino. “He has a highly respected body of research but has also become a leader in undergraduate education. This is unusual. As a frequent adviser to McCormick student organizations, his dedication to all McCormick undergraduates is admirable.”

Taflove is the faculty adviser of the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal and McCormick’s Honors Program in Undergraduate Research, Undergraduate Design Competition, and the student chapters of the Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi honor societies. His accomplishments as a teacher and mentor were previously recognized when he was named McCormick’s Adviser of the Year for 1990–91 and a Northwestern University Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence for 2000–03. In addition, he was selected to Northwestern’s Associated Student Government honor roll of best teachers for 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. From 2000 to 2005 he also served as the faculty master of the Science and Engineering Residential College at Slivka Hall.

An alumnus of Northwestern (BS electrical engineering ’71, MS ’72, and PhD ’75), Taflove joined McCormick’s faculty in 1984. He is recognized for having pioneered finite-difference time-domain computational electrodynamics, which has emerged as one of the most powerful and widely used methods to solve the fundamental Maxwell’s equations for scientific and engineering problems. Current applications range across the electromagnetic spectrum from ultralow frequencies (analysis of geophysical phenomena) to microwaves (military stealth technology, cellphones, high-speed computer circuits, medical imaging) to visible light (microlasers, photonic microchips, early-stage cancer detection). Approximately two dozen companies market software based on fundamental research first published by Taflove.

Taflove is the author or coauthor of 5 books, 20 articles or chapters in books and magazines, more than 115 refereed journal papers, approximately 300 conference papers and abstracts, and 14 U.S. patents. He is one of only 28 Northwestern faculty listed on ISIHighlyCited.com, a listing of the world’s most-cited researchers. He cites collaborative research with Vadim Backman, professor of biomedical engineering, as his most exciting current project. This work studies how to use minimally invasive techniques to detect deadly human cancers of the colon (and potentially the lung) at a very early stage via measurement of the spectrum and direction of light backscattered from living cells located at a distance from the dangerous lesion. If this research is successful, it has the potential to save many lives.

—Kyle Delaney