ACM SIGMM is Sad to Announce the Loss of Nicolas Georganas, distinguished professor and researcher

September 2010


By Shervin Shirmohammadi

Prof. Dr. Nicolas Georganas †

We are saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of our friend and colleague, Prof. Nicolas D. Georganas, Distinguished Professor at the School of Information Technology and Engineering (SITE) of the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Nicolas was one of today's leading researchers in information technology, particularly multimedia systems and applications, as well as collaborative virtual environments. His early work in networking and multimedia communications in the late 80s and early 90s lead to major contributions in methods and systems for multimedia streaming and synchronization, including his 1989 book in "Queueing Networks: Exact computational algorithms" which is still cited today. Around the same time, he also did research in medical multimedia systems and databases, creating and commercializing a Multimedia Inter-Hospital Communications System for Medical Consultations, the first of its kind in Canada. By mid and late 90s, his work in multimedia traffic modeling and analysis, which received the 1995 IEEE INFOCOM Best Paper Award, gained worldwide attention and is among his most highly-cited research results. In the late 90s, he expanded his multimedia research to include collaborative virtual environments, leading to contributions at the networking, multimodal interface, and computational intelligence levels. This research continued for most of the 2000s, when he also studied the haptics media and made significant contributions in tele-haptics, hapto-audio-visual interfaces, and haptic-based surgical systems, and was the co-founders of the IEEE Symposium on Haptic Audio Visual Environments and Games. In parallel, he always continued his work in multimedia communications, and by this time was conducting research in wireless sensor networks, leading to his 2002 seminal paper "A coverage-preserving node scheduling scheme for large wireless sensor networks" which is his highest cited paper. In total throughout his years of research, Nicolas managed to win close to $63 Million in research grant funding, trained close to 200 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates, and published more than 450 articles and papers, including over 120 journal papers.

Throughout his outstanding career, Nicolas won tremendous acclaim. While a complete list of his achievements is too long to mention here, the highlights include becoming an Officer of the Order of Canada, receiving the Order of Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, 2002 Killam Prize for Engineering (Canada's most distinguished award for outstanding career achievements), Fellow of IEEE for "leadership in university-industry research in, and performance evaluation of, multimedia communication networks and systems", Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, 1998 University of Ottawa Researcher of the Year, RSC Thomas W. Eadie Medal for his contributions to Canadian and International telecommunications, 1999 A.G.L. McNaughton Gold Medal and Award (the highest distinction of IEEE Canada), 2000 EIC Julian C. Smith Medal "in recognition of outstanding achievements in the development of Canada", 2001-2005 Canada Research Chair in Information Technology, 2005 Pioneer of Computing in Canada by IBM Centre of Advanced Studies, 2006 Canadian Award in Telecommunications Research, 2007 IEEE Canada Computer Medal, and two Honorary Doctorates from the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, and the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.

His academic career began in 1970 at the University of Ottawa with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he served as Chairman from 1981 to 1984. In 1986, he was appointed Founding Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and served a seven-year term. He was also Associate Vice-President Research of the University from 2005 to 2008. On sabbatical leaves, he spent 1977-78 with the IBM Centre d'Etudes et Recherche, La Gaude, France, 1984-85 with BULL-Transac and INRIA in Paris, France, 1993-94 with BNR (now NORTEL Networks), 1997 with CRC in Ottawa, 2004 with the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, as well as the University of Vienna, Austria, and 2008-09 with the University Carlos III de Madrid, Spain and research Institute IMDEA Networks, with a Catedra de Excelencia fellowship. Also at the University of Ottawa, in 1984 he founded the Multimedia Communications Research Laboratory (MCRLab), currently directed by Professors Abdulmotaleb El Saddik and Shervin Shirmohammadi, as well as the Distributed and Collaborative Virtual Environments Research Laboratory (DISCOVER Lab), in 1997, which he was co-directing with his friend and colleague Prof. Emil Petriu.

Within the SIG Multimedia (SIGMM) community, Nicolas has been very well known through his high impact research and excellent service. He participated very actively in shaping SIGMM leading conferences and journals over the last 20 years. In 2004, he started the premier journal for the SIGMM community, the ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communication and Applications (TOMCCAP) Journal, and he became its first Editor-in-Chief. Under his leadership, this journal became in 2008 the highest ISI ranked multimedia journal (impact factor) and a highly recognized publication where the multimedia community publishes and reads high quality papers in various areas of multimedia. Over the last three years, he has thoughtfully and actively served as the chair and member of the ACM SIGMM awards committee for the prestigious Technical Achievements Award in Multimedia Research. The following article by Dr. Larry Rowe sheds more light on Nicolas's contributions and leadership in ACM SIGMM.

We have lost not only an exceptional scientist and colleague, but also a close friend who cared and helped selflessly so many of us. According to his students and colleagues, he not only helped them with their research and/or career issues, but also provided advice about their problems in general and in real life. Perhaps the most obvious and striking of his characteristics was his infinite generosity and his willingness to help without any expectations in return. He looked after his students with a level of care and attention as if they are his children. He was a true leader and someone that others around him could depend on and have confidence in, reason why his loss has left a huge empty space for many people who knew him and worked with him.

Nicolas is survived by his wife, his two sons, and his granddaughter. We will greatly miss him.

Rest in Peace, Nicolas.

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