WPI
Wire, Vol. 10, No. 3 - Fall 1996

International conferences bring increased recognition to WPI

Three international conferences held recently at WPI have helped to increase the university's professional reputation.

In August, WPI hosted the Seventh ASCE Specialty Conference on Probabilistic Mechanics and Structural Reliability. More than 300 participants from 26 countries on five continents attended the 50 technical and three plenary sessions and the presentation of more than 250 papers. Mechanical Engineering Department Head Mohammad Noori, who organized the event, notes it was a major accomplishment to hold it at WPI. "None of this would have been possible without the effort and hard work of the entire WPI community," he says. "It helped build new partnerships with industry and with our colleagues at other universities." The conference was followed by a meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Conference on Structural Safety and Reliability.

In late September, an international Charles Dickens Symposium was attended by 70 Dickens scholars from Canada, Europe, Australia and the U.S. The meeting honored the late Robert D. Fellman, who donated his extensive Dickens collection to WPI before his death last February. Scholars presenting papers on various aspects of Dickens' work included David Parker, curator of the Dickens House Museum in London; David Paroissien, editor of Dickens Quarterly; and Philip Collins, author of many books about Dickens and the president of the Dickens Society. "The papers and discussions were of excellent quality," notes Joel Brattin, associate professor of English and symposium coordinator. "Selected papers will be published next year in Dickens Quarterly."

A highlight of the opening day program was the presentation by members of the WPI Woodwind Ensemble, and two singers, of several selections from an opera for which Dickens wrote the lyrics and John Hullah the music. The Village Coquettes is believed to be the only libretto Dickens wrote for an opera; it was written in 1836 before Pickwick Papers and performed only 30 times before it closed. "Dickens himself preferred that the work remain in obscurity," says Douglas Weeks, administrator of applied music, who arranged the two original songs for woodwinds and singers. The scholars also toured Mechanics Hall, where Dickens had an 1868 reading and where they saw many of the memorabilia from WPI's Fellman collection.

Another third international conference, the second IEEE Workshop on Wireless Local Area Networks, was held on campus in late October. Attending were researchers, design engineers, computer scientists and representatives of major users of wireless LANs (such as campus and hospital network managers) from 10 countries. Sessions focused on trends in wireless LAN standards, products and applications, the future of wireless LANs, wideband data in Europe, wireless LANs in Japan, and a panel discussion on interoperability.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Kaveh Pahlavan, who directs WPI's Center for Wireless Information Studies, served as coordinator for the workshop. He points out that participants were also able to tour the WPI Wireless LAN Testbed, the heart of which is a wireless classroom where instructions on the board are transferred through the air to students' laptops. "This testbed and the Wireless LAN research laboratory are helping WPI gain a reputation as a leading educational institution in one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry," says Pahlavan.

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