2016 Withrow Distinguished Scholar—Senior Award


March 18, 2016

Ten receive top honors during 2016 Engineering Awards Luncheon 

Members of the Michigan State University College of Engineering gathered in the University Club March 17 to celebrate accomplishments in teaching, scholarship, and service at the 26th Engineering Awards Luncheon. 

Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering, greeted more than 100 guests, along with the winners of the prestigious awards during the annual spring ceremony.

The College of Engineering handed out some of its most prestigious recognitions on March 17 during the annual Engineering Awards lunch. Honored were (from left) Alison Cupples, Truman Surbrook, Nikki Shook, Richard Lunt, Rebecca Anthony, Prem Chahal, Charles Ofria, Judith Cordes, Daina Briedis, and Charles Owen.

The Withrow Endowed Teacher/Scholar/Service Award Program was established by the Withrow family to recognize faculty of the MSU College of Engineering who have demonstrated excellence in instructional and scholarly activities and rendered distinguished service to the university and the student body. Jack Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1954 and an MBA in 1971. He retired as executive vice president at Chrysler Corp. in 1988, and then served as president and chief operating officer at Lectron Products Inc., from 1989 to 1995. He received the MSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1984. Dottie Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and elementary education from MSU in 1955 and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland University. She was a special education teacher in West Bloomfield Schools for many years and published a children’s book that promotes responsible pet care and a second book that teaches children about opera.

Distinguished Scholar—Senior Award

(Nominees have been in service to the university for more than five years and hold the rank of professor.)

Charles Ofria, a professor of computer science and engineering, director of the Digital Evolution Laboratory, and deputy director of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, is a world leader in the field of artificial life. He joined MSU in 1999, as a research associate under Richard Lenski in the Center for Microbial Ecology and Center for Biological Modeling. He used this postdoc experience to develop a better understanding of the state of the field of evolutionary biology, with the long-term goal of applying these concepts to the evolution of computational intelligence. 

Charles Ofria received the 2016 Distinguished Scholar - Senior Award.Ofria joined the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in August 2002, and has since excelled as both a researcher and teacher, helped raise tens of millions of dollars in research funding, became a world leader in the field of artificial life, and raised the profile of the university with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. 

His work explores the connections between “ordinary” organic life and artificial life in the form of self-replicating computer programs that live in virtual worlds, mutate, compete for resources, and evolve surprisingly rich and complex behaviors. This work is deeply conceptual, enriching both the computational and biological sciences. His research to date has examined such issues as the evolutionary origins of complexity, the division of labor, the dynamics of information in evolving systems, the optimization of mutation rates, the evolution of sex, and more. His work also has tremendous potential for applications in such areas as artificial intelligence. 

Early in his career, Ofria developed the AVIDA platform (in collaboration with Chris Adami and Titus Brown). In AVIDA, self-replicating computer programs function as a population of organisms that evolves over time. Given automated data collection of the evolving population, AVIDA is an extremely tractable, flexible, and open-ended system to study real-time evolution.

Today, as director of the Digital Evolution Laboratory, he conducts research on evolution in artificial systems and applies the results to problems in computer science and evolutionary biology.



Read more on the award winners. (.pdf)

Computer Science and Engineering