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Hovakimyan named W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor


Fatima Farha, MechSe

CSL Professor, University Scholar, and Schaller Faculty Scholar Naira Hovakimyan (Mechanical Science and Engineering) was recently named the next W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professor by the department.

Naira Hovakimyan
Naira Hovakimyan
Naira Hovakimyan
Hovakimyan’s research focuses on robotics, game theory, networks of autonomous systems, and theory of robust adaptive control and estimation, as well as control in the presence of limited information.

“I am profoundly touched by the recognition of my contributions through this named professorship,” she said. “First, such recognition gives me better visibility, which would help me attract better and stronger students to our department. And the additional funds available through this endowment can support me in risk-taking, as I am building a deep and broad interdisciplinary research program in robotics. I know I have more freedom in my thinking.”
Hovakimyan’s research and teaching has received a multitude of recognition. In 2015 she was awarded the College of Engineering Outstanding Advising Award, as well as the SWE Achievement Award—the society’s highest honor. In 2014, she was named an honorary Hans Fischer Senior Fellow at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, and received the Humboldt Prize for her lifetime achievements.
She has been an esteemed member of the university since 2008, when she joined the faculty as a professor in the Mechanical Science and Engineering department. After receiving her MS degree in theoretical mechanics and applied mathematics in 1988 from Yerevan State University in Armenia, she went on to earn her PhD in physics and mathematics from the Institute of Applied Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. 
Prior to her work with MechSE, Hovakimyan was a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech and research faculty member in the School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. She is also a senior member of IEEE and an associate fellow of AIAA.
The Wilkins professorship was made possible by an estate gift in 1996 by W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins. Grafton earned his BS in railroad engineering from Illinois in 1929. An ingenious engineer and an astute businessman, he was the president of Universal Castings Corporation in Chicago. He died in 1991; Lillian passed away in 1996. The Wilkins valued education, and they were generous supporters of the university for more than 30 years.