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KNOXVILLE — A computer scientist at the University of Tennessee has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Jack Dongarra, a University Distinguished Professor in UT’s computer science department, was among 74 U.S. engineers chosen for the academy.

“Dr. Dongarra has become the world’s expert on computer performance evaluation,” said Dr. Robert Ward, head of the department. “His work has contributed to many fields such as climatology, pharmaceuticals, materials science and automotive engineering.

“He is very deserving of this prestigious award. A university is only as strong as its faculty, so this also is quite an honor for UT.”

The honor was announced Wednesday by William Wulf, president of the academy, which honors engineers who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice or have unusual accomplishments in the field.

“I’m deeply honored by the award and I understand that it represents an acknowledgment from my peers of the contributions we have made over the past 20 years,” Dongarra said. “I had no input or knowledge that this was going to happen.

“It’s one of the highest honors anyone in our profession can expect to achieve.”

The recognition also is a tribute to colleagues and students who have worked on projects with him over his career, he said.

Dongarra is an adjunct R&D participant in the computer science and mathematics division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and an adjunct professor at Rice University.

He specializes in parallel computing, numerical algorithms in linear algebra, and development and testing of high-quality mathematical software. Three of his earlier developments have been recognized by R&D Magazine as among the nation’s top 100 research and development projects.

The Innovative Computing Laboratory he heads is starting the second year of a five-year National Science Foundation grant to link computers on the UT campus into a grid capable of solving problems requiring vast computing resources.

Grid applications include modeling complex chemical reactions, weather patterns, ecological systems, medical imaging, and advanced computer design, he said.

Dongarra co-founded the semiannual TOP500 Supercomputer Sites, a rating system that ranks the world’s fastest supercomputers.

He earned the Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of New Mexico in 1980. He has an M.S. in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology and the B.S. in mathematics from Chicago State University.