In Memoriam: Computer science pioneer Mario Gerla

Mario Gerla was a Professor at UCLA and a member of the Board of Trustees and of the Scientific Council of IMDEA Networks. He was one of the key pioneers in early Internet protocol design and wireless/mobile network architectures

13 February 2019

Professor Mario Gerla, a pioneer in computer and communication networks who had supervised more than 100 Ph.D. graduates and published over 1000 papers and reports during his forty-five years of research, died on February 9 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old.

Prof. Mario Gerla was one of the key pioneers in early Internet protocol design and wireless/mobile network architectures. He contributed groundbreaking work on mobile network protocols and models to the networking research community and was among the most-cited researchers in computer science.

Gerla was born in Arona, Italy, in 1943 and grew up in Milan. He received an engineering degree from the Politecnico di Milano in 1966 and completed service in the Italian Navy following graduation. In 1969 he moved to the United States to join the UCLA research team, led by his advisor Leonard Kleinrock, that was developing the ARPANET, the predecessor to today’s internet.

After earning his doctorate, Gerla became a manager at the Network Analysis Corporation in Glen Cove, N.Y., where he was involved in several computer network design projects for both government and industry.

Gerla returned to UCLA in 1977 to join the computer science faculty, where he would remain until his passing. He was the director of the Center for Autonomous Intelligent Networks, and of the Network Research Lab. He led research focused on the design, performance evaluation, and control of distributed computer communication systems and networks. His early work focused on optimizing what would eventually evolve into the internet.

His later work in the field of mobile ad hoc networks was recognized with his election to Fellow of IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery, and with the SIGMOBILE Outstanding Contribution Award. Two major international communications conferences, INFOCOM and MILCOM, honored Gerla with lifetime achievement awards.

From 2015 to 2018, Gerla was the chair of the Computer Science Department at UCLA. In 2015 Gerla was appointed to hold UCLA’s Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Networking, an honor reserved for scholars who have made significant contributions to internet research. That year he also joined the Board of Trustees and the Scientific Council of IMDEA Networks (Madrid, Spain), the research Institute’s major organs of governance.

Although he left Italy nearly 50 years ago, he always maintained a close connection with his family and research colleagues in his homeland. He helped to found the Italian Scientists and Scholars of North America Foundation (ISSNAF) and was honored with the Officer of the Italian Republic Order of Merit.

Gerla will always be remembered as an inspiring role model for researchers and academics worldwide.

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