Dr. Giannis Chantas
(ex PhD student of Nikolas Galatsanos)
2nd IEEE Greek Signal Processing Jam
Thessaloniki, Thursday 17 May 2012
Dear Galatsanos family members;
Dear colleagues, and the rest of you being here today:
I am very grateful for meeting the chance to commemorate the scientific figure of Professor Nikolaos Galatsanos. He battled against cancer for two years, and peacefully passed away on the fourth of September 2010 leaving us with great memories and strong feelings. His loss was great for all of us: principally the loss was most intensely felt by his family members and indeed for the Greek subset of the scientific community. Our feelings for him and the grief are essentially a natural consequence of the occasion that such a valuable person passed away. Our sincere feelings of sorrow are strong evidence that Professor N. Galatsanos is worth to be mourned and be commemorated. I feel deeply honored that I am given the chance to initiate the tribute to the memory of Nikolaos Galatsanos, and I would like to express to you my gratitude for this.
I will start by talking a little bit about Nikolaos Galatsanos academic record. He was very active in research areas comprising Statistical Image Modeling and Recovery, and precisely Image Restoration; Image Blind Deconvolution; Super-resolution; Image Segmentation, and Image Watermarking. He was a true advocate of the Bayesian statistical stream, being occupied in Bayesian Inference and variational Bayesian Approximation methodology. He also pursued research on realistic “edge preserving” image models based on the Student’s-t distribution something that brought success through guiding to interesting scientific results.
After a short period of serving as an Assistant Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he was elected Professor of Computer Science at the Department of Computer Science, University of Ioannina, Greece, where he was a member of the Information Processing and Analysis research group, comprised by a close neat family of keen researchers working merely in artificial intelligence, image processing, optimization, signal processing among others. He offered to the Department in many ways. He always pursued scientific excellence and a deep understanding of fundamentals, which rendered him a very successful researcher. He was committed to teaching. He was a valuable mentor for the students and an inspiration to them. Another of his offers was his efforts to initiate the transition of the department from computer science to computer engineering.
In June 1981, he obtained the Diploma degree of electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens. After a short period, he entered graduate school obtaining an MSEEE and a PhD from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Wisconsin Madison in 1984 and 1989, respectively. Following his PhD in the USA, he obtained the following academic positions:
• Professor 2/08-Present: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Patras, Rio, Greece.
• Professor 4/02-2/08: Department of Computer Science, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece.
• Visiting Research Scientist 1/99-7/99: Department of Informatics, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
• Visiting Research Scientist 8/98-12/98: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
• Visiting Research Scientist 5/98-8/98: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.
• Associate Professor 8/95-3/02: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Illinois Inst. of Technology, Chicago, IL, USA.
• Assistant Professor 8/89-8/95: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Illinois Inst. of Technology, Chicago, IL, USA.
• Research Assistant 9/85-6/89: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, USA.
• Teaching Assistant 9/83-6/89: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, USA.
Professor Galatsanos was highly reputable to the international and Greek scientific community. His colleagues in Greece, University of Ioannina and Patras, held a great admiration and respect to his entity. Many of his colleagues were close friends. He was also known around the world, since he had an excellent track record in scientific publications. The impact of his work was indeed very important, which made him creditable to the international signal and image processing community.
In what follows, I will try to remember and convey to you the type of person Nikolaos Galatsanos was, based on my experience that I was fortunate to have during the period when Nikolaos Galatsanos was my advisor and mentor. If I was asked to describe Nikolaos Galatsanos in just a few words that would clearly be “a talented man, an educator and researcher with an increased sense of duty”. It is not an exaggeration that he was a highly motivated person whose motive was just to offer and be recognized for his work. Commemorating him today is the least we can do in order to recognize his work and acts, and I feel that he would be proud for that.
He was with the Department of Computer Science of University of Ioannina for almost six years. There he formed a circle of colleagues and friends. Nicholas always cared for the proper functioning of the Department. He was not an elitist for which he earned the respect of everyone in the Department. He tried to uphold the rules of the Department without fearing to become unpopular. In the contrary, not only did he become popular, but the faculty and students respected him and admired him. He was fair in all aspects: when grading papers, when reviewing other’s research work, when he was present in a defense, when he judged a person’s scientific capabilities. Moreover, he had managed to combine his high sense of justice with his good-natured character.
Nikolaos Galatsanos was highly regarded for his dignity. He was the type of man who could easily be trusted and one could rely on him. Thus, it is of no surprise that he had many keen friends. He was hard working and with a clear code of conduct. Moreover, he inspired others to follow a similar demeanor. He also tried to imbue his working ethics to his students. In this way, he inspired students to try for the best they can achieve.
As a scientist, he was highly gifted and passionate. Some of his colleagues spoke of him as a true luminary. On the occasions where he dealt with a problem, he focused all his mental capacity and effort to solve it. He was open-minded. He never despised other scientific fields and never felt that his knowledge was superior to others. On the contrary, he always tried to learn new things and create connections with new knowledge. This line of reasoning was beneficial for his research since it lead to very interesting scientific results by cross-fertilizing methods from machine learning to image processing.
As a man, he held an optimistic view on life. He was almost always in a good mood. Even as a scientist, he never thought of life as being locked up in the scientist’s cell miserably trying to produce new findings. Instead of this line of reasoning, he pursued a diverse array of activities, besides his duties as a Professor, such as mountain hiking, martial arts (specifically, Japanese Karate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) and a profound interest in social life. His spirit was that of a pure young person, however without compromising wisdom. On the contrary, he had managed to combine the wisdom of a mature person with his enthusiasm and impulse for life. He was a fighter and never feared to deal with the pathological problems residing in the Greek higher education system. He always spoke of his thoughts without considering the consequences. This made him a strong personality that impressed whoever met him.
For me, Professor Galatsanos will always be an inspiration, and I believe for many other people not necessarily being closely connected to him. He really cared for his students and there was a feeling of good fortune by anyone being his student. We regarded him as a fatherly figure and he really acted like this. He was always willing to offer advice and rewarding or corrective comments. He was always there for help, and he had the talent to offer it properly. Sometimes he was strict but he was always fair. He never reprimanded without justification. His courage and strength to continue research during his fight with cancer was remarkable. He was present at his students’ thesis defense despite his condition. Moreover, he danced at my wedding in September 2009.
At this point, before ending my words, let me express my view on existence and how this view of mine was shaped during the years I was next to Nikolaos Galatsanos. When a pebble hits the inert surface of a lake, the waving caused by the disturbance propagates on the lake surface, across all possible directions. This expansion does not end at the lake shore: it causes changes to the environment in a way often not seen by us, either because the changes are in the future or far from us. In a similar manner, a person’s life and death produces a waving that will always act in the universe even in ways we do not perceive or even conceive. I feel confident that the waving of the life of Nicholas is very strong and is expanding in colorful ways. And I feel very fortunate to have been influenced by that waving. During my apprenticeship with Professor Galatsanos, I learned how to be a pebble that hits the surface of a lake, and for that I want to express my deep feelings of gratitude to him.