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Rice and World Cup victory: Two degrees of separation


A mere two degrees of separation stand between Rice University and German soccer hero Mario Götze, the “Super Mario” who last Sunday scored the winning goal against Argentina in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Götze was called off the bench in the 88th minute of the match and netted the winner in the 113th minute of the final, enabling Germany to win 1-0. Among those cheering loudest was Mario’s father, Jürgen Götze, who in 1995-96 was a postdoctoral researcher in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Rice. Mario, now 22, was then four and five years old.

“Jürgen was my postdoc under a Humboldt Fellowship. He played volleyball with Behnaam Aazhang and hung out with other postdocs and graduate students in ECE back then,” said C. Sidney Burrus, the Maxfield Oshman Professor Emeritus of ECE and former dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering.

“Jürgen was a great post-doc, very good at what he did. While at Rice he landed a great position in Germany, which is a very hard position to come by. Jürgen was soft spoken and gentle, and I have fond memories of him,” said Aazhang, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor of ECE.

The senior Götze, now 54, came to Houston from the Technical University of Munich. While at Rice he co-authored such papers with Burrus as “Approximate Moments and Regularity of Efficiently Implemented Orthogonal Wavelet Transforms” and “Parameterization of Orthonormal Wavelet Transforms and Their Implementation.” Among his co-authors on the former was Jan Odegard, now executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology.

Since 1997, Jürgen Götze has been a professor in the Information Processing Lab at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Dortmund.
On Sunday, Mario was called in to replace World Cup record holder Miroslav Klose before a crowd of 79,000 in Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

“I played volleyball with Jürgen several times. He was a very good player. You could tell that he was an above-average athlete. I can imagine he must have also been quite good in soccer,” Aazhang said.

—Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications