O’Sullivan installed as Sachs professor of electrical engineering

Joseph A. O’Sullivan, Ph.D., professor of electrical and systems engineering, was installed as the Samuel C. Sachs Professor of Electrical Engineering in a Dec. 13 ceremony in Uncas A. Whitaker Hall for Biomedical Engineering.

“Jody O’Sullivan is an integral part of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Washington University and the St. Louis community at large,” said Christopher I. Byrnes, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Edward H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor of Systems Science and Mathematics. “He is a brilliant researcher who has made major impacts on various thrusts, collaborating with other like-minded colleagues here, nationally and internationally.

Christopher I. Byrnes, Ph.D. (right), dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Edward H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor of Systems Science and Mathematics, congratulates Joseph A. O'Sullivan, Ph.D., at his Dec. 13 installation as the Samuel C. Sachs Professor of Electrical Engineering.
Christopher I. Byrnes, Ph.D. (right), dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Edward H. and Florence G. Skinner Professor of Systems Science and Mathematics, congratulates Joseph A. O’Sullivan, Ph.D., at his Dec. 13 installation as the Samuel C. Sachs Professor of Electrical Engineering.

“As a teacher, he has touched the lives and molded careers of countless students. He is a worthy successor to Don Snyder as the Sachs professor, and there is no doubt in my mind that his future is limitless.”

O’Sullivan is a St. Louis native who studied electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, earning bachelor’s (1982), master’s (1984) and doctoral (1986) degrees there.

In 1986, O’Sullivan joined the faculty of WUSTL’s Department of Electrical Engineering, now the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. He has joint appointments in the departments of Radiology in the School of Medicine and of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

O’Sullivan’s research interests include information theory, information-theoretic imaging, recognition theory and systems, X-ray CT imaging, information hiding, data storage systems and hyperspectral imaging. He is director of the Electronic Systems and Signals Research Laboratory and associate director of the Center for Security Technologies.

O’Sullivan and his research team are developing an information-theoretic foundation for the design and analysis of imaging systems. This research forms the basis for his efforts in recognition systems, medical imaging in the presence of known objects, radar systems and image processing.

O’Sullivan’s research in a class of optimization techniques referred to as alternating minimization algorithms has provided an information-theoretic basis for several commonly used algorithms and has led to the development of new algorithms, both in imaging systems and in communication systems.

As a member of the Center for Imaging Science (sponsored by the Army Research Office), O’Sullivan developed fundamental bounds on the performance of target orientation estimation and target recognition systems. With support from the Office of Naval Research, he is developing new algorithms for recognition of targets from radar and optical data.

In medical imaging, O’Sullivan and Donald L. Snyder, Ph.D., senior professor in electrical and systems engineering and the previous holder of the Sachs professorship, are working with electronic radiology laboratory researchers to develop image reconstruction algorithms and a software test-bed for spiral CT imaging systems. These efforts support several research projects, including imaging in the presence of radiation brachytherapy applicators.

O’Sullivan works with Ronald S. Indeck, Ph.D., the Das Family Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Marcel Muller, Ph.D., research professor of electrical and systems engineering, on the design and analysis of magnetic and optical data storage systems. He is particularly interested in coding and advanced signal processing techniques for increasing the capacity of magnetic recording systems.

O’Sullivan is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and was awarded an IEEE Third Millennium Medal. He will be co-chair of the 2006 IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory.

O’Sullivan has served as associate editor and publications editor for the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory.

He was chair of the Faculty Senate, chair of the Faculty Senate Council and faculty representative to the University Board of Trustees from 2002-04. He was secretary of the Faculty Senate and of the Faculty Senate Council from 1995-98.

Washington University has been a major part of O’Sullivan’s life since he was very young. He grew up on Wydown Boulevard with his seven brothers and sisters. His aunt and grandparents lived on the corner of Lindell and Skinker boulevards.

He and his wife, Chris, are raising their five sons on Northmoor Drive, a mile from his office. Three of his boys have attended WUSTL preschool; Anthony is in the Big Bear class.

Joseph, Andrew and George attend Our Lady of Lourdes grade school. Michael is 2 years old.

O’Sullivan enjoys family and sporting events, especially his boys’ games, and he plays basketball regularly.

Samuel C. Sachs (1902-1980) was a pioneer who gave a lifetime of service to St. Louis and Washington University. Evidence of his achievements can be seen in the many local landmarks in which he played a part.

A testament to his generosity can also be found in the form of the Sachs professorship, established in 1972.

Sachs was born in Lithuania in 1902 and entered the United States with his parents in 1905. He became a naturalized citizen in 1911, at the age of 9.

He was raised in Desloge, Mo., where he first pioneered the use of electricity. While still in high school, Sachs salvaged batteries from car systems and hooked them to lamps to provide light in his family’s house prior to the installation of electricity in the town.

During his teenage years, Sachs also wired houses and stores in the area, replaced the high school’s light fixtures, and formed his own business. With the money he earned as one of Desloge’s first electricians, he put himself through WUSTL, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 1924.

After graduation, Sachs worked briefly for Union Electric Co. In 1925, he founded Sachs Electric, which eventually grew to become one of the United States’ largest electrical contractors.

Even through the Depression, Sachs Electric never had a losing year, although according to Sachs, they “broke even” in 1934.

The company performed electrical contracting for such St. Louis institutions as the Arch, Busch Stadium, the Clarion Hotel, the Marriott Pavilion hotel, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and major buildings in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital complex. In addition, his company provided electrical contracting for the Chrysler and General Motor plants, the Union Station redevelopment and several power plants in the area.

Sachs was a member of numerous professional, local and University societies. He also was the recipient of many awards, honoring the achievements of a man who helped light the way for others.