Professor Andrew (Andy) K. Packard, a pioneer in robust control theory who held the FANUC Chair of Mechanical Systems, passed away on September 30, 2019 after a long battle with cancer.
Andy was born July 7, 1960. He grew up in Chicago Illinois and went to the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign where he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in May, 1982. He came to UC Berkeley in the Fall of 1982 as a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, studying with former engineering dean Shankar Sastry, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences. He obtained an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering in May 1985 and earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in January 1988 with the thesis entitled, “What’s new with μ: Structured uncertainty in multivariable control,” which earn Andy recognition as a major early pioneer in the field of robust control theory. He established a close research collaboration with Professor John Doyle at Caltech that started while they were both graduate students at Berkeley. After obtaining his Ph.D. from Berkeley, Andy worked as postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Electrical Engineering in Caltech, from January to December 1988, under the supervision of Professor John Doyle and with fellow postdoctoral researcher Gary Balas, with whom he established a long-lasting friendship and research collaboration that lasted until Professor Balas’ untimely passing, also due to cancer, in 2014. Subsequently, he joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Santa Barbara from July 1988 until December 1989.
Andy joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1989 as an Assistant Professor and soon became a vital member of the controls program. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1993 and Professor in 1997, and was named holder of the FANUC Chair in Mechanical Systems in 2014. Andy had a truly distinguished career. His contributions to UC Berkeley go well beyond the call of duty and his research achievements well exceeded the standards of excellence in his field. As stated earlier, Andy is recognized as a major early pioneer of robust control theory. In his Ph.D. dissertation research, he established the structured singular value (µ) as a powerful design tool for multivariable control system synthesis. The structured singular value is a linear algebra tool developed to study a particular class of perturbation problems arising in robust feedback control of multivariable systems. Andy published several papers to introduce the method to the control community. His most cited paper is “The complex structured singular value,” in the IFAC Journal of Automatica (1993). “Linear, multivariable robust control with a µ perspective,” in the ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement and Control (1993), is another important paper in which he presented a step-by-step approach showing how this control synthesis tool can be applied to a pitch axis controller of an experimental, highly maneuverable airplane and the angular velocity control of a satellite spinning about one of its principal axes.
While most of control theorists limit their contributions to the development of new mathematical and algorithmic results, Andy additionally devoted considerable amounts of effort and time to implement his new theory using computer aided design (CAD) tools for analysis and synthesis of multivariable robust control systems. Professor Kameshwar Poolla, one of Andy’s control colleagues in the Mechanical Engineering Department, states, “The industrial impact of Andy’s work is profound. Together with the late Gary Balas, Andy wrote a comprehensive set of software tools (called the Robust Control Toolbox) for control system design. These are the de facto standard worldwide, and are used by NASA, Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed, and many other leading companies. Hundreds of Universities have integrated his software tools in their curriculum. Andy offers frequent short courses to practitioners in control system design based on his research and software tools. These are deeply influential. Andy has truly transformed the practice of industrial control systems design. His research has changed this discipline from an arcane art to a systematic science and carried it into the 21st century.”
Former Dean Sastry also commented, “His control systems design tool box, Mu-syn based on his early work on Structured Singular Value based synthesis of control has had a tremendous impact in industry. Recently, I was told about how it was at the heart of the control techniques in the self-driven car programs at GM and Ford (yes, now, the methods applied to fighter jets are staples of autonomous cars!).” Dean Sastry further recounts how much testimony he has received from his many industrial contacts regarding the enormous impact to industry of Andy’s contributions to the synthesis and analysis of control systems.
Andy’s tremendous visibility and impact on the academic and partitioning control communities, both nationally and internationally, has helped propel Berkeley’s control program to the forefront of the field. Professor Peter Seiler, one of Andy’s former postdoctoral students, stated, “His work has high impact and brings international visibility to Berkeley. This visibility was clear to me when I spent the 2017-2018 academic year on sabbatical in Europe. Every colleague that I visited sent regards to Andy. I heard many, many stories of his impact on their research and careers. He is a giant in our field, and is deeply respected for his research results, his integrity, and his dedication.”
Andy is known among his colleagues for his unparalleled commitment to teaching and mentoring. He was one of the most gifted teachers at Berkeley. Not only did he receive the Mechanical Engineering Department’s best teaching award on numerous occasions, he also received a much-coveted and highly meritorious university-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. Andy was a beloved teacher, who was able to lecture on a wide spectrum of courses, from undergraduate freshmen programming courses to advanced control graduate courses. Andy’s devotion to teaching was amply evidenced by his exceptionally high numerical teaching evaluation scores and by the glowing and appreciative comments that he constantly received in his teaching evaluations. Andy always looked out for students, whether they were undergraduates seeking counsel, or graduate students who needed career and life advice in addition to research mentoring. He shared his love of esoteric sports like log-rolling and lumberjacking, as well as more conventional sports like Cal baseball, football and basketball, with the college community. Following are a few excerpts of appreciation from his students.
“Amazing can’t ask for a better instructor.”
“Best Professor I have had at Berkeley, truly an amazing person.”
“I really appreciate the care and patience you put in explaining materials to us. Such a shame that I don’t have the chance to take a regular 3-unit class with you.”
“Before taking 132 with Packard, I didn’t expect that I would consider controls for graduate school at all. Excellent Professor, very enthusiastic about controls. Derives everything rigorously….”
“You are one of my favorite Professors, Professor Packard! Thanks for all the help this semester! I learned so much & I really love controlling engineering systems mathematically!”
Andy was a tireless teaching innovator who continuously introduced new courses and revamped existing ones with exciting state of the art material. Professor Peter Seiler, who was one of Andy closest collaborators, states “Andy developed an alternative treatment that changes almost every aspect of how our field [of controls] is taught at the undergraduate level (avoids Laplace transforms, provides simpler parameterizations for controllers, etc.). In comparison, the existing textbooks seem outdated, digressive, and lacking in clarity. I have completely updated my course at Minnesota based on Andy’s novel treatment. It took someone with Andy’s dedication and insight to completely rebuild a seemingly standard course. Andy’s commitment to teaching far exceeds the normal call of duty and sets the Berkeley educational experience apart from its peers.”
Andy not only was a truly gifted lecturer and innovative educator, but he was also a tireless mentor and adviser to thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. His mechanical engineering colleagues, including Professors Masayoshi Tomizuka and myself, often witnessed the large queues of undergraduate and graduate students that waited for a turn to see him during office hours – regardless of whether they are taking a class from him or not.
Professor Peter Seiler states that “Andy was not my primary thesis advisor, but I met with him very often during my graduate studies. These discussions led to a key result in my thesis. In hindsight, it is remarkable that Andy spent so many hours with me as I was not his advisee. I was not an anomaly. Many students sought Andy’s guidance on their thesis topic. Andy truly cares about all the students in the department and is invested in their success.”
Professor Ufuk Topku, Andy’s former Ph.D. student, states that “Andy has found ways—and at times invented new ways—to contribute to education, research and mentoring at Berkeley beyond expectations.”
Former Dean Sastry states, “… Andy’s biggest contribution to Berkeley has been his selfless, tireless, and almost devotional attention that he has paid to undergraduate education. Without complaint (and even in the midst of his current illness) he has taught the largest and most demanding sophomore and junior level classes to generations of students in Mechanical and other branches of Engineering… There are letters from his former students and post docs which attest to his one-on-one mentoring skills. But, these don’t do justice to the thousands of students who have benefited from his detailed attention.”
While Andy’s unique contributions to the Berkeley campus were primarily through distinguished research, teaching and mentoring, he had been a devoted citizen who provided valuable service to the department, college and campus. As Professor Poolla observed, “Andy’s service is at the grassroots level. He has served on ME Department Chair Advisory committees, Academic Senate Committee on Courses and Instruction (COCI) and many, many other college and campus committees. In this service, he is tireless. He truly wants to make Berkeley a better place for our students, colleagues, and in its diversity and well-being of the broader campus. I believe Andy’s grassroots level of service is of equal importance to the long term health of the institution that we all cherish.”
Former Dean Sastry noted, “On a personal note, I should say, that there are a few faculty at Berkeley who strive through their sheer dint of personality and their social skills to build community at Berkeley. Andy and his wife Joanna have built that community around students, staff, and faculty in the Mechanical Engineering department and so enhance the quality of life for us all.”
Former Dean of the Business School Richard Lyons, who stated that “when I think of Berkeley colleagues whose heart and soul are fully committed to this institution, I think of Andy right at the top of that list,” cited three elements of Andy’s contribution’s that substantiate his assertion: Andy’s total commitment to his students; Andy’s commitment to the Berkeley campus bettering itself, and Andy’s commitment to Berkeley as a community.
Andy was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) since 1993 and a member of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Since 1999. In addition, he was a recipient of several highly recognized awards: National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Donald P. Eckman Award from the American Automatic Control Council, Control Systems Technology Award, IEEE Fellow for Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and the 2013 Predictive Science Academic Alliance Award. All of these awards attest to his caliber and great standing in the field. Andy was awarded the prestigious Berkeley Citation during the Graduate Engineering Commencement on May 21, 2019. The Berkeley Citation is awarded to distinguished individuals whose contributions to UC Berkeley go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standards of excellence in their fields.
Together with his wife Johanna and son Zack, he maintained an active social life that included numerous events, not only with the faculty in the campus, but also with many neighbors and friends. They famously hosted the weekly “Wednesday soup night” at their home, which was frequented by colleagues, friends and neighbors alike. Andy’s zest for life, geniality and camaraderie will be sorely missed.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering