‘This is Us’ pays tribute to UNM Engineering alumnus, former dean and professor

photo of Nasir Ahmed
Nasir Ahmed

A University of New Mexico School of Engineering alumnus, faculty member, former dean and administrator was recently featured on the NBC television series This is Us for his role in creating technologies we use every day, especially during the pandemic.

Nasir Ahmed, a native of India, is professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at UNM. He earned both his master’s and doctorate in the department in 1963 and 1966, respectively. In the early 1970s, he developed the idea for the discrete cosine transform (DCT), an algorithm for digital image compression. The DCT led to technology such as JPEG images, as well as the technology that allows video conferencing. The February 16 episode of This is Us focused on storylines that allowed families to be connected during the pandemic only due to these groundbreaking technologies.

After graduation from UNM, Ahmed worked at Honeywell for two years, then joined the faculty of Kansas State University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where he was a professor from 1968-83. He then transitioned to his alma mater of UNM in 1983, where he was a Presidential Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1983-89, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1989-94, interim dean of the School of Engineering from 1994-96, and associate provost for research and dean of Graduate Studies from 1996 until his retirement in 2001. Ahmed also worked as a consultant for Sandia National Laboratories from 1976-90.

He met Esther Pariente-Ahmed, who received a Ph.D. from UNM in 1994, while a student at UNM, and the couple has been married 56 years. Esther was also featured in the This is Us storyline.

Read more about the episode here.