Professor Aura Ganz of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department is retiring from UMass Amherst as of August 31 after more than 34 years of dedicated service to the ECE department and UMass Amherst. During her very fruitful time in the ECE department, Ganz has undertaken pioneering humanitarian research through her Mobile Evolution Lab, exerted a deep impact on the engineering curriculum, and helped to educate hundreds of young engineers.
As ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot says, “We will miss having Aura as a day-to-day colleague, but fortunately she plans to remain an active researcher in our department. Congratulations, Aura, on your retirement!”
Ganz joined the UMass Amherst ECE Department in 1987 after receiving her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa, Israel.
Before coming to UMass Amherst, Ganz served as: an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Technion; a consultant at Motorola Semiconductor in Israel (participating in the development of the 802.4 Token Bus Local Area Network); and in the Computer Science Department at the Israel Defense Ministry Armament Development Authority in Haifa.
Over her career, Ganz has published more than 250 journal and conference papers and published the book Multimedia Wireless Networks in 2003.
In 2008 Ganz was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for “contributions to architectures, algorithms, and protocols for high-speed communications networks.” In 2014 she received the Outstanding Senior Faculty Award from the College of Engineering and was a UMass Amherst Spotlight Scholar.
As Hollot says, “Professor Ganz has a deep interest in conducting engineering research that benefits humanity, and she sees this as a characteristic that our profession needs to highlight in order to broaden its appeal.” To this end, Ganz has most recently worked passionately on two humanitarian research projects.
The first project, called PERCEPT, is an electronic indoor navigation system, or “seeing-eye directory,” for the blind and visually impaired that employs a smartphone app to detect NFC (or near-field communication) tagged landmarks. PERCEPT is aimed at helping people with vision impairment, each person equipped only with a three-ounce electronic device and Bluetooth headphone, navigate unfamiliar buildings with ease.
The second research project carried out by Ganz is named DIORAMA (short for "Dynamic Information Collection and Resource Tracking System for Disaster Management”), a tracking system for first responders to use in mass-casualty situations. This electronic computer system can quickly organize chaotic, mass-casualty disaster scenes, such as airliner, bus, and train wrecks, and cut the evacuation time of survivors in half. DIORAMA works both in daylight and nighttime while overcoming physical obstacles.
With unprecedented funding from the National Institutes of Health (the first ever NIH grant for the ECE), both projects moved into trial studies earlier this decade, with PERCEPT being piloted at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s Arlington station.
Ganz says she is eager to see technologies such as these help more people and would like to see more altruistic endeavors from the field of electrical and computer engineering.
In addition, Ganz has been a leading figure in the ECE classroom and has left her educational mark on the department, the faculty, and several generations of ECE students.
According to Hollot, “Aura has a teaching vision that has significantly impacted our computer engineering curriculum. Her experimental courses in computer networks and software security are now core computer engineering courses, and her most recent course on the Internet of Things will undoubtedly follow this same trajectory.” (August 2021)