J. David Irwin
Redefining the Education of Alabama Engineers
Inducted in 2015
For more than 45 years, J. David Irwin has remained at the forefront of engineering as a technology innovator and a pioneering educator. His research continues to influence today’s technology, and his creative solutions to educating tomorrow’s engineers have earned him the admiration of his peers and former students.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Auburn University in 1961 and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Tennessee in 1962 and 1967, respectively. After a brief stint at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he was promoted to a supervisor, Irwin returned to Auburn as an assistant professor in 1969.
His keen ability to effectively teach and mentor students, while also leading research, led him to be selected as head of the department of electrical engineering in 1973. He became a full professor in 1976 and was named the Earle C. Williams Eminent Scholar in 1993, a position he still holds though he left as department head in 2009.
As department head, Irwin initiated projects that strengthened Auburn’s prominence in engineering, including developing a strong faculty active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, securing a new building for the department and establishing the second microelectronics laboratory in the Southeast for teaching and research. He was also instrumental in developing the nation’s first accredited wireless engineering degree program.
As an educator, he authored “Basic Engineering Circuit Analysis,” a textbook now in its 11th edition and considered one of the top three in the field. The textbook has been translated into many languages and is a cornerstone of electrical-engineering education across the globe. Irwin also co-authored the textbook “Introduction to Computer Networks and Cybersecurity.” Recently published, it is already considered one of the most comprehensive texts in this emerging area of technology.
Outside the classroom, his achievements in research and development are just as meaningful. He contributed to the development of a direct digital synthesizer, which at the time was the world’s fastest and most compact and which used less power than any predecessor device. The chip is a fundamental block in the transmit-receive modules for all-digital radars. He also contributed to development of a system, licensed to Aunigma Network Solutions, which minimizes authentication time to prevent denial of service attacks.
Irwin has been honored with numerous awards, including IEEE’s highest award for education, the James H. Mulligan Jr. Education Medal. In addition, the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society created the J. David Irwin Early Career Award in recognition of the many contributions Irwin has made to the development of young professionals. The award is given annually to outstanding IEEE members throughout the world. He is an IEEE life-fellow, a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also a Distinguished Auburn Engineer and received Auburn University’s Presidential Award for Excellence.