Fawwaz Ulaby receives CoE Edward Law Emeritus Outstanding Service Award

Prof. Ulaby spearheaded and manages the Free ECE Textbook Initiative, benefiting students around the world.
Fawwaz Ulaby

Prof. Fawwaz Ulaby received the 2023-24 Edward Law Emeritus Outstanding Service Award from the College of Engineering for his service to students around the world. 

“Professor Ulaby is a world-renowned researcher and beloved educator who now spends much of his time growing his Free ECE Textbook initiative, saving students around the world the high cost of engineering textbooks,” said Kamal Sarabandi, the Fawwaz T. Ulaby Distinguished University Professor and Rufus S. Teesdale Endowed Professor of Engineering.

In 2018, while still an active faculty member, Professor Ulaby established the Free ECE Textbook (FET) initiative to ease the financial burden on students. For example, the typical undergraduate engineering textbook in hardcover costs about $200. The FET initiative provides free textbooks as pdf downloads and also offers low-cost hardcopies. To date, the initiative has resulted in 11 published textbooks, which have been downloaded 300,000 times by students and faculty from over 450 U.S. colleges and universities, and by a comparable number of universities in other countries. The estimated saving to students over the past 5 years is $80 million. 

Prof. Ulaby serves as Editor-In-Chief of FET, and is not compensated for his time. The FET initiative is now co-sponsored by ECE, U-M, Michigan State University, UC-Berkley, Purdue University, and the University of Utah.

The quality of textbooks published under the FET program surpasses that of the commercial sector, in part because three distinct editors work almost hand in hand with the author to produce a clear and effective text. Professor Ulaby plans to expand the initiative to other areas of engineering.

Prof. Ulaby has been one of the most celebrated instructors within the department, and shared his insights for reaching students in a teaching seminar for faculty, which was also recorded. When the department needed an instructor to teach an advanced remote sensing course, Prof. Ulaby agreed to come back out of retirement to teach the course – accepting only the minimal pay allowed by the University. 

Along with the numerous departmental and national teaching awards received by Prof. Ulaby, including the IEEE James H. Mulligan Education Medal, are a slew of awards that honor his contributions to research. Among the top honors is the Thomas Edison Medal, which is the most prestigious award given in the United States and Canada recognizing meritorious accomplishments in the fields of electronics and electrical engineering. Prof. Ulaby has published 17 books and served as advisor to more than 100 PhD students. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.