Rice University professor and engineer Richard Baraniuk has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of 228 new members announced April 12 by the academy, which honors some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists and civic, business and philanthropic leaders.
Baraniuk is the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice. Others in the academy’s Class of 2017 include philanthropist and singer-songwriter John Legend, actress Carol Burnett, chairman of the board of Xerox Corp. Ursula Burns, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, immunologist James P. Allison, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows and winners of the Academy, Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards.
“In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honor of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton. “Through our projects, publications and events, the academy provides members with opportunities to make common cause and produce the useful knowledge for which the academy’s 1780 charter calls.”
Baraniuk is one of the world’s leading experts on machine learning and compressive sensing, a branch of signal processing that enables engineers to deduce useful information from far fewer data samples than would ordinarily be required. He is a co-inventor of the single-pixel camera and of the FlatCam, a lens-less camera that is thinner than a dime and can be fabricated like a microchip.
A pioneer in education, Baraniuk founded Rice-based Connexions in 1999 to bring textbooks and other learning materials to the internet. Next came OpenStax, which provides high-quality, peer-reviewed, college-level textbooks to students worldwide as free downloads or low-cost printed publications. More than 1.8 million college students have used one of the 27 textbooks published by OpenStax. These textbooks are estimated to have saved students more than $100 million during the 2016-17 academic year. Baraniuk is also using OpenStax to develop a software platform for textbooks that deliver personalized lessons.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences membership comes less than a month after Baraniuk was selected as one of 13 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows — one of the Defense Department’s most coveted basic research awards for U.S. university scientists and engineers — and a week after he was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors as a fellow.
“It was a complete, total surprise,” Baraniuk said about the announcement that the academy had elected him. “It’s fantastic news. And it’s a tribute to all the tremendous mentors I’ve had at Rice and my colleagues around the globe. This would never have happened without their guidance and support.”
Baraniuk was raised in Winnipeg, Canada. He has three degrees in electrical and computer engineering: a B.S. from the University of Manitoba, an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds 28 U.S. patents and six foreign patents in signal processing and acquisition. He came to Rice in 1992 and has received multiple teaching awards as a member of the faculty.
Baraniuk is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Three times he has been named a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher. Among his other honors and awards are the 2012 Compressive Sampling Pioneer Award and the 2008 Wavelet Pioneer Award, both from the International Society for Optics and Photonics, and the IEEE Signal Processing Society’s Best Paper (2015), Technical Achievement (2014) and Education (2010) awards.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ new honorees will be inducted at a ceremony Oct. 7 in Cambridge, Mass. The list of the 237th class of new members is available at www.amacad.org/members
The academy is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. It convenes leaders from the academic, business and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing — and opportunities available to — the nation and the world. Members contribute to academy publications and studies in science, engineering and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts and education; and American institutions and the public good.