In memoriam: Rui de Figueiredo

Rui J.P. de FigueiredoA UC Irvine Samueli School professor emeritus, and respected collaborator and steadfast friend of Calit2 passed away last week.

Rui J.P. de Figueiredo, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science, and mathematics, died on July 22, 2013, in College Station, Texas, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Best known for his pioneering contributions to the mathematical foundations of linear and nonlinear problems in pattern recognition, signal and image processing, and neural networks, his work was internationally recognized and rewarded.

In 2007, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences elected him as a foreign member of the U.S. Section of the academy and awarded him its George V. Chilingar Medal of Honor for his contributions to science and engineering. In 2009, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences awarded de Figueiredo its prestigious P. L. Kapitsa Gold Medal for his pioneering contributions to the mathematical foundations and applications of signal processing, and in 2010, awarded him its Golomb/Chilingar “Giants of Science and Engineering” Medal of Honor.

“This award is especially gratifying to me in view of the success of my initiative on advancing the IEEE transnational frontier in Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia,” de Figueiredo said at the time.

He also won the Gh. Asachi Medal from the Technical University of Iasi in Romania, and the IEEE Mac Van Valkenburg Award for his seminal contributions to the field of electrical engineering. In addition, de Figueiredo edited numerous journals, was named a Life Fellow by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and served as president of the International Society of Circuits and Systems.

According to his son, John, de Figueiredo’s work supported a variety of NASA space exploration projects, assisted the Department of Defense in weapons detection systems, helped companies identify credit card fraud, assisted the Environmental Protection Agency in oil spill detection and source-matching, developed algorithms for more efficient transmission of mobile telecommunications signals, enhanced geophysical images for well-logging, and improved the early detection of brain and neural diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. 

He was the author of approximately 400 publications, including three books, 17 book chapters, and 380 papers in archival journals and reviewed conference proceedings.

“During his 17 years as a faculty member in the EECS department, Rui played an important role in establishing the field of signal processing as a prominent research area at UCI,” says department chairperson Mike Green. “In addition to being a preeminent scholar and researcher, Rui was a genuinely kind and cordial man.  He will be missed by his friends and colleagues.”

de  Figueiredo was born in Panjim, Goa, India in 1929. After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from MIT, he earned his doctorate at Harvard in applied mathematics in 1959.

For two years, he headed the Applied Mathematics and Physics Division of the Portuguese Atomic Energy Commission, representing Portugal as a diplomat and technical expert at international conferences, treaty negotiations and foreign scientific exchanges.

He married Isabel Colaço in 1961and moved to the United States, accepting a position at Purdue University.  In 1965 de Figueiredo joined the faculty at Rice University in Houston, where he was a professor of electrical engineering and mathematical sciences for 25 years.  He joined UCI 1990 as a professor of electrical and computer engineering and mathematics. Even after retiring in 2007, he continued his research, serving as an engaged and active Calit2 affiliate and maintaining an office in the Calit2 Building.

“Rui was a key supporter and true believer of Calit2, and was an active participant in many of our workshops,” says G.P. Li, UC Irvine division director. “He understood the added value of cross-disciplinary research and believed it could really transform the learning of the next generation.”

Li vividly recalls his last meeting with de Figueiredo, at a faculty workshop to discuss plug-load energy efficiency research. “He was very ill by then, but he showed up and participated in the discussion, thinking through the problems very clearly and offering suggestions as to what direction we should take,” Li remembers.

“We will miss him. A colleague like Rui is very rare, and we’re thankful for his years of contributions to Calit2.”

de Figueiredo is survived by his wife of 52 years, Isabel; daughter Alcina Dalton and her husband, Jim, of Atlanta, Ga.; son Paul and his wife, Kathy, of College Station, Texas; son John and his wife, Bronwyn, of Chapel Hill, N.C.; son Rui Jr. and his wife, Natalia, of Piedmont, Calif.; and son Miguel and his wife, Margaret, of San Francisco, Calif.

He is also survived by 12 grandchildren, two brothers and numerous brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m., August 1, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, 401 South Parker Ave, Bryan, TX 77803.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the IEEE Life Members Fund at or to Catholic Charities of Orange County, Calif. at

--by Anna Lynn Spitzer, Calit2 Communications Manager