"OPC also began on my watch," Berra notes. "I remember going to Microsoft and meeting with Mike Maples, who was then head of technology there. We were trying to stir up some interest at Microsoft in process automation."
"More recently," he continues, "I was associated with wireless technology and was proud to launch wireless products and WirelessHART during my time as business leader."
"Clearly no single person does all of this, and I am not the engineer who did the technology," Berra says. "But I am very proud of my leading role in all of these things that changed our industry. Automation is better because of these innovations, and it is very gratifying to know that I have been a part of it. My other source of pride is the people that I've hired and developed over the years."
Berra has been married to his wife Charlotte for 41 years, and they have three children and three grandchildren. "The grandchildren are the highlight of our life," he says. "I was a pretty decent tennis and basketball player in my younger years, but now my sport is golf."
Berra's idea of retirement is typically busy. He sits on the board of directors of two public companies, Ryder and National Instruments, and is a trustee of the Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas. "I sponsor four scholarships each year at the Washington University School of Engineering, [where he and Charlotte did their undergraduate work, and where they met—ed.]," he said.
The Academic Visionary
Dr. Sigurd Skogestad
Dr. Sigurd Skogestad took three classes from the electrical engineering department at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, when he was in the Norwegian army. "However, these were rather theoretical, and during my following three-year career in the process industry, I did not find any use for these courses."
He was much more interested in thermodynamics, so when he decided to go for his Ph.D., he directed his studies towards that or process systems engineering.
"I had no plans of getting into control engineering," Skogestad recalls, "but then Professor Manfred Morari of CalTech came to visit our company [Hydro, www.hydro.com] and gave some lectures on the pinch method for heat exchanger network design. I was very impressed with him, and I joined his group at CalTech. The main focus of his work was control, and I became fascinated with the power of feedback control."
Skogestad relies on his four years of experience at Hydro's research center in Porsgrunn, Norway, to shape his work. "I have always had a strong interest in doing work that engineers may find useful in their daily work," he says, "and my first control paper was a paper on PID tuning that was written during my first year as a Ph.D. student." In fact, this paper has been so useful that it is still Skogestad's paper with the most citations in other works. "Presently at 365 citations," Skogestad says.
Skogestad was born in the small town of Flekkefjord, Norway, but moved to South Africa with his family for the next five years. Moving back to Norway, he finished high school in Porsgrunn, certain that he wanted to study engineering. "I ended up in chemical engineering because my father was a chemical engineer and working in large chemical plants seemed interesting and challenging," he says.
Sigurd married Anne-Lise when he was still a student, and they have two boys and two girls. Since he returned to Norway in 1987, he has been a professor of chemical engineering at NTNU and has been head of the chemical engineering department for some time. He is an avid cross-country skier and hunter, mostly of grouse. He is also a fan of orienteering, or "running with compasses." Skogestad is also active in local politics, as well as being a coach and umpire for girls' baseball.
"I think my main contribution," he says, "and one I am still working on, is to take control theory and make it workable in practice. As you can see if you look at my home page (www.nt.ntnu.no/users/skoge/bio.html), ‘the object of our research is to develop simple, yet rigorous methods to solve problems of engineering significance. We would like to provide the engineer with tools to assist in problem solving.' "
Skogestad has been working on plant-wide control for 25 years. "I am trying to find a systematic approach for finding the right control strategy, especially for finding the best controlled variables (CVs). I expect to keep working at least for another 15 years."
You can find his paper, "A Systematic Approach to Plant-Wide Control" at www.controlglobal.com/plantwidecontrol.html. "The paper summarizes my efforts so far…" he notes.
The Batch Wizard
Dr. Maurice Wilkins
"It was 1978," says Dr. Maurice Wilkins, vice-president of global marketing services for Yokogawa Electric of America (www.yokogawa.com/us/), "and I was just finishing my Ph.D, when a friend of mine who had graduated the year before to join Esso Chemical Ltd. in the New Forest area of southern England called to tell me about a cool new project he was working on using a new control tool called a DCS."