The University Of Alabama System Board Of Trustees recently appointed Murat M. Tanik, Ph.D., to the Wallace R. Bunn Chair of Telecommunications in the UAB School of Engineering. Tanik joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1998 and was named chair of the department in 2013. He is the third person to hold the Bunn chair, which was established by a gift from BellSouth in 1988.
“Murat Tanik is the perfect fit for this prestigious appointment,” says SOE dean Iwan Alexander, Ph.D. “With his years of expertise in telecommunications research and his leadership abilities, he will be able to use this position to create opportunities for collaboration within the university and with external partners.”
A native of Izmir, Turkey, Tanik received his B.S. degree in mathematics and electrical engineering from the Middle East Technical University before moving to the United States, where he earned a master’s degree in computer science and a Ph.D. in computer engineering, both from Texas A&M University.
He would go on to begin a career in research with Arthur A. Collins, who founded Collins Radio Company—an innovative telecommunications firm that designed and produced both short-wave radio equipment as well as equipment for the AM radio industry.
“Life has some strange twists,” Tanik says. “When I started my career in telecommunications, no one could imagine the systems we have today. Now I am once again working with telecommunications research, which is at the heart of 21st century technology.”
Tanik says he plans to use the Bunn chair to promote the UAB Center for Integrated Systems. “As we establish collaborations with different parts of the university and with outside industry, integrated systems will be increasingly important,” Tanik says. “Look at recent developments, in areas such as automotive, power systems resiliency, design of new materials, synthetic biology, which were once confined to disciplinary engineering; today these rely on integrated systems with multidisciplinary teams. If you look at the health care industry, you also see massive integrated systems approaches from drug design to sensor design as well as automated health systems. This center will facilitate the development of better integrated systems that will allow greater collaboration among disciplines and UAB is one of the best places on earth to do it”
Within the center, Tanik says he is developing two laboratories with industry support: “the Signal Processing and Embedded Systems Laboratory” and “the Big Data Research and Analytics Laboratory.” Additionally, the Continuous Collaboration STEM Innovation (C²-STEM-I) Laboratory will be supported by these two technical labs.
“Through these laboratories, we will be able to provide services to the community and to the university,” says Tanik. “I think that is an important part of the Bunn chair responsibility—not just the funding it supplies, but the legacy of Wallace R. Bunn and what this endowment means to the community and the university.”
Who Was Wallace Bunn?
Wallace Raikes Bunn (1922-2011) worked for the Bell System—which included the BellSouth Corporation—for 43 years, from the time he was 18 years old until he retired in 1984. During that time, he held 20 different jobs in 14 cities. Among those jobs were president of Pacific Northwest Bell in Seattle, Washington, and president of South Central Bell in Birmingham. He was founding chairman and chief executive officer of the BellSouth Corporation in Atlanta before his retirement. He was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1988, Bunn served on the BellSouth Foundation’s Board of Directors, which was charged with overseeing a $35-million endowment dedicated to supporting education. From that endowment, the board donated $600,000 toward the School of Engineering’s first endowed chair, which triggered an automatic $400,000 grant from the state. As told in Bunn’s biography, a board member proposed that the chair be named in honor of Bunn, explaining that “the BellSouth name may not be around all the time.”
Eighteen years later, AT&T bought BellSouth, yet the Wallace R. Bunn Endowed Chair continues to give back to education and to the industry that Bunn helped build.