First Engineering Chair from Preeminence Initiative Awarded to ISE Professor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida College of Engineering has named Panos Pardalos as the Paul and Heidi Brown Preeminent Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Pardalos came to UF in 1991 and has been a distinguished professor since 2005. He is the first engineering faculty member to be awarded a chair under the preeminence initiative.

Pardalos’ research focuses on global optimization and analysis of massive data sets, also known as “Big Data.” As the director of the Center for Applied Optimization, he oversees interdisciplinary research between several colleges on campus, as well as industry partners and government agencies. He was recently awarded the EURO Gold Medal – the preeminent European award given to operations research professionals — and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He edited what is credited to be the first book on massive data set research.

“It is important to Paul and Heidi that they are able to see how their endowment benefits the university,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of the College of Engineering. “Big Data is a tremendously important field right now, and Dr. Pardalos is a renowned leader within it. We are extremely grateful to the Browns for their gift, and for the lasting impact it will have.”

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Paul and Heidi Brown established their endowed chair with a $1.5 million gift in 2013. Both  are graduates of the ISE department, and they credit their engineering education as the foundation for their successful careers.

UF expects to add 107 endowed chairs and professorships as part of its plan to increase the university’s national stature through more than $900 million in private donations and state funding. The Brown chair is the first to be filled under the preeminence push, known as UF Rising. Big Data is also one of 26 research focuses of UF Rising. Big Data is becoming an increasingly important consideration for our future: our health records, banking transactions, customer retention surveys – what happens to all the information that a networked world creates?

“Man creates a lot of data,” Pardalos said. “Extracting knowledge from data takes effort – finding out how things are related, if there are patterns, how to classify things and make important data-based decisions. This is the art of data mining and optimization.”

Under his direction, layers of research revealing patterns in data have led to optimization in neuroscience, financial networks, energy grids, and medical diagnostics and drug delivery.

“Panos Pardalos is clearly an authority in the field of Big Data,” said Cole Smith, interim chair of the department of industrial and systems engineering. “His interdisciplinary approach has lead to breakthroughs in a number of areas. This endowed chair position will allow him to expand his research footprint, to work with even more departments and disciplines, attacking the greatest problems in the frontiers of science.”

Contact: Cole Smith,