Celebrating a Year of Light with Nobel laureates Kroemer, Nakamura, Heeger and Chu

October 1st, 2015

international year of light logo
Symposium at UCSB will feature talks by four Nobel laureates — UCSB’s Kroemer, Heeger and Nakamura and former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

The United Nations declared 2015 the International Year of Light to recognize the importance of light and light-based technologies in revolutionizing everyday life around the world and providing new and innovative solutions to global issues.

To celebrate the International Year of Light, UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering and Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) are hosting a symposium Thursday, Oct. 8, from 1 to 7:30 p.m., in the campus’s Corwin Pavilion. The event is free and open to the public.

The daylong conference will feature presentations and discussions by experts in the field. Three UCSB faculty members — Herbert Kroemer (Physics 2000), Alan Heeger (Chemistry 2000) and Shuji Nakamura (Physics 2014) — received Nobel prizes for their light-based research and each will be discussing his work.

Steven Chu (Physics 1997), former U.S. Secretary of Energy and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for his own work with light-based research, will give the symposium’s keynote lecture. ECE Professor and Institute for Energy Efficiency Director, John Bowers, a leading authority on photonics and optoelectronics, will also deliver a lecture on the future of the emerging industry.

The UCSB Current "Celebrating a Year of Light" (full article)

2015 International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies

UCSB Alumni Association honors NASA Astronaut and ECE alumnus José Hernández

September 29th, 2015

photo of jose hernandez
Hernández to be honored as UC Santa Barbara’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus on Saturday, Oct. 24, at an awards lunch in the campus’s Corwin Pavilion

The ceremony also will celebrate UCSB’s status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). An HSI is defined as a college or university in which Hispanic enrollment comprises a minimum of 25 percent of the total enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students, both full- and part-time. UCSB was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and is the only HSI that is also a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“We are very excited to have José Hernández return to campus to help us kick off this campaign to raise money for Dreamers’ scholarships,” said George Thurlow, UCSB’s assistant vice chancellor for alumni affairs and executive director of the campus’s alumni association. “José’s story is an inspirational one for all alumni and for all Californians. His work today with Latino youth is even more inspirational.”

The UCSB Current — UCSB Alumni Association Honors NASA Astronaut (full article)

ECE Profile of Distinction — José Hernández

Professor Kaustav Banerjee invited to NAE’s Global Grand Challenges Summit

September 2nd, 2015

nae logo Banerjee is among a select group of engineers invited by the National Academy of Engineering to attend its 2015 Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) in Beijing, China, Sept 15-16.

The Summit is being jointly organized by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE). The aim of the event is to prompt international cooperation to creatively address some of the most pressing issues of our time: the Grand Challenges for Engineering—including carbon sequestration, cybersecurity, health care, innovations in infrastructure, and education of the engineers who will take on such challenges.

The 2015 Beijing summit is an invitation-only event that includes a diverse mix of thought leaders, leading engineers and students. This event is the second in a series inspired by the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering. The first summit was held in London in 2013.

Professor Banerjee who directs the Nanoelectronics Research Lab, is internationally recognized as a visionary and a leading innovator in the field of nanoelectronics.

NAE GGCS Announcement

2015 Global Grand Challenges Summit

Nanoelectronics Research Lab

UCSB is listed among the top national universities in Washington Monthly’s 2015 rankings

August 25th, 2015

washington monthly logo and cover
UCSB is listed among the top national universities in Washington Monthly’s 2015 rankings; the campus also is lauded as an ‘Access Improver’ for low-income students

UC Santa Barbara has moved up a notch in Washington Monthly magazine’s annual National Universities Rankings. Continuing its upward trajectory, UCSB is ranked number 14 on the 2015 list, which appears in the magazine’s September/October issue.

In addition, UCSB is listed at number 17 in the magazine’s “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings in the Western Schools category. The university also is highlighted in the magazine’s College Guide as one of 10 “Access Improvers,” colleges and universities that have increased their enrollments of federally funded Pell Grant students while maintaining strong student outcomes.

“The University of California, Santa Barbara, for example, is in the top echelon of its state’s universities, serving students of variable income and ability,” wrote Mamie Voight, director of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education, and Colleen Campbell, a senior policy analyst at the Association of Community College Trustees. “Yet 38 percent of Santa Barbara students are low income, compared to only 15 percent at Penn State, and Santa Barbara charges low-income students about half as much.”

While U.S. News & World Report usually awards its highest ratings to private universities, the editors of Washington Monthly prefer to give public universities more credit, and higher rankings. Fifteen of the top 20 universities in the Washington Monthly rankings are taxpayer-funded.

The UCSB Current — "In the Top Echelon" (full article)

Washington Monthly — 2015 College Rankings

ECE and Materials Professor John Bowers leads West Coast hub of the American Institute for Manufacturing of Photonics (AIM Photonics)

July 28th, 2015

photo from video interview with bowers
“AIM Photonics and UC Santa Barbara are leading a revolution that is integrating photonics and electronics for the benefits of both,” said John Bowers, Professor of ECE and Materials at UCSB, Director of UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) and lead of the West Coast hub of AIM”

In a bid to boost photonics manufacturing and bring more skilled, high-tech jobs to the country, as well as push the boundaries of energy efficiency and performance in computing and telecommunications, the Obama administration announced today that it has selected the American Institute for Manufacturing of Photonics (AIM Photonics) to lead research and manufacturing of integrated photonic technology and create jobs in this important area. UC Santa Barbara is leading the West Coast division of this public-private partnership, in collaboration with the State University of New York — the lead university in this institute.

In the age of the Internet and Big Data, conventional electronic technology — even with the advent of Moore’s Law, which predicts the doubling of transistors and processing power approximately every two years — will become overwhelmed by the demand for speed, performance and data capacity.

The solution to that impending demand lies in photonics, the use of light to transmit massive amounts of data at extremely high speeds. But to make the shift between electronic wires and photonic waveguides, the two technologies must be brought together.

“AIM and UC Santa Barbara are leading a revolution that is integrating photonics and electronics for the benefits of both,” said John Bowers, professor of electrical and computer engineering and of materials at UCSB, director of the campus’s Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) and lead of the West Coast hub of AIM. Just as photonics has enabled the fiber optic communications which led to the Internet revolution, he said, the increased data capacity, speed and energy efficiency promised by photonics integrated circuits will result in enormous gains for everything from handheld devices to personal computing to data centers. “Our goal is to use complementary metal-oxide semiconductor processing to move photonics onto silicon and accelerate the integration of photonics and eliminate the data bottleneck that advanced silicon chips are facing during the next decade,” said Bowers.

The UCSB Current (full article)

AIM Photonics in the News:

Fact Sheet: VP Biden Announces New Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Innovation Hub in Rochester, NY (White House Release)

VP Biden Hails 'Extraordinary Potential' of Photonics (

UCSB named West Coast hub for Photonics Institute (Pacific Coast Business Times)

ECE Assistant Professor Alberto Giovanni Busetto selected to participate in NAE’s 2015 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium

July 14th, 2015

frontiers of engineering logo
Alberto Giovanni Busetto among eighty-nine of the nation’s brightest young engineers selected to take part in the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) 21st annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (USFOE) symposium.

Engineers ages 30 to 45 who are performing exceptional engineering research and technical work in a variety of disciplines will come together for the 2 1/2 day event. The participants — from industry, academia, and government — were nominated by fellow engineers or organizations.

The 2015 USFOE will be held on September 9-11, at the National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif., and will cover cutting-edge developments in four areas: cybersecurity, forecasting natural disasters, optical and mechanical materials, and engineering the search for earth-like exoplanets.

“The USFOE symposium brings together some of our nation’s brightest young engineering talents and gives them the opportunity to develop professional relationships that become critical their advancing our nation’s well-being throughout their careers,” said NAE President C. D. Mote, Jr.

Alberto Giovanni Busetto’s research aims at automatically transforming “raw data” into “useful knowledge”. The research focus of his Intelligent and Predictive Systems Laboratory is on the design and analysis of systems to automatically

  • extract information from heterogeneous data sources
  • validate predictions on the basis of empirical observations
  • decide optimally by incorporating acquired knowledge.

U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium

Intelligent and Predictive Systems Lab

ECE Professor Larry Coldren receives The International Conference on Indium Phosphide & Related Materials (IPRM) Award

July 1st, 2015

photo of larry coldren
Coldren receives the IPRM Award in recognition of his leading contributions to the development of InP-based semiconductor lasers and photonic integrated circuits for optical fiber communications

Professor Coldren received the award on June 30th at the 2015 Compound Semiconductor Week (June 28 – July 2) held at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

About the IPRM Award
The International Conference on Indium Phosphide and Related Materials (IPRM) has a long tradition of recognizing individuals who made significant contributions to the success of previous IPRM conferences through technical and/or organizational accomplishments by presenting the IPRM Award (formerly Michael Lunn Memorial Award). It is intended to continue this tradition also in 2015.

The nomination and selection procedures are taken care of by the International Steering Committee of IPRM. The 2015 award will be presented to the winner at the CSW ISCS/IPRM Award Ceremony.

About Professor Coldren
Larry A. Coldren is the Fred Kavli Professor of Optoelectronics and Sensors and holds appointments in Materials and Electrical & Computer Engineering. In addition, Coldren is a leading researcher with the Institute for Energy Efficiency’s Electronics and Photonics Solution Group. Coldren received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1972. After 13 years in the research area at Bell Laboratories, he joined UC Santa Barbara in 1984 and is Director of the Optoelectronics Technology Center. In 1990 he co-founded Optical Concepts, later acquired as Gore Photonics, to develop novel VCSEL technology; and in 1998 he co-founded Agility Communications, later acquired by JDSU, to develop widely-tunable integrated optical transmitters. Coldren has authored or co-authored over a thousand papers, 8 book chapters, 2 textbooks, and has been issued 65 patents. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, OSA, and IEE, the recipient of the 2004 John Tyndall Award, the 2009 Aron Kressel Award, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

2015 Compound Semiconductor Week

The Coldren Group

Professor Chris Palmstrom named by the DoD as a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow (NSSEFF)

June 30th, 2015

photo of chris palmstrom
ECE and Materials Professor Christopher Palmstrom selected in the topic area of functional materials for his project titled “Engineered Heusler Compound Heterostructures and Superlattices”

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced the selection of seven distinguished university faculty scientists and engineers forming the next new class of National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows (NSSEFF). The NSSEFF program awards grants to top-tier researchers from U.S. universities to conduct long-term, unclassified, basic research of strategic importance to DoD. These grants engage the next generation of outstanding scientists and engineers in the most challenging technical issues facing the Department.

Up to $3 million of research support will be granted to each NSSEFF Fellow for up to five years. The fellows conduct basic research in core science and engineering disciplines that underpin future DoD technology development. This year’s topics included quantum information science, engineering biology, neuroscience, nanoscience, novel engineered materials, and applied mathematics and statistics. In addition to conducting this unclassified research, the NSSEFF Program includes opportunities for fellows to participate in the DoD research enterprise and share their knowledge and insight with DoD military and civilian leaders, researchers in DoD laboratories, and the national security science and engineering community.

The National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF) program is sponsored by the Basic Research Office, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD (R&E)). NSSEFF supports basic research that may lead to extraordinary outcomes such as: revolutionizing entire disciplines, creating entirely new fields, or disrupting accepted theories and perspectives. It is the Defense Department’s largest single-investigator program.

Professor Chris Palmstrom, one of the world’s leading researchers of electronic materials, joined the ECE faculty at UCSB in the Fall of ’07. Palmstrom received his PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Leeds (England) in 1979. After five years of research on semiconductor materials and contact techonologies at Cornell, he joined Bellcore in 1985. There, he did groundbreaking research on semiconductor surfaces, semiconductor doping, polymer/polymer diffusion and the molecular beam epitaxial growth of metal/semiconductor heterostructures. In 1994, Dr.Palmstrom went to the University of Minnesota, where he soon became a leading researcher in several fields, including new spintronic materials that combine the functions of electronic and magnetic manipulation and storage on information.

National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF)

Palmstrom Research Group

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra’s Gallium-nitride technology and startup Transphorm featured in The Wall Street Journal

June 23rd, 2015

photo of Umesh Mishra

“Energy-Saving Material Gets a Boost” (WSJ) — KKR leads funding round with $70 million to Transphorm, a startup developing an alternative to silicon

Gallium-nitride (GaN) a material used to make power-saving light bulbs is gaining momentum in the world of semiconductors. KKR & Co. is the latest to place a bet. “This is a multibillion-dollar market,” said David Kerko, a senior adviser to KKR. “This technology has extremely broad applicability.”

Umesh Mishra, Transphorm’s chairman and co-founder, estimates that 10% of all power used in the U.S. stems from losses during power conversion in electric motors and other products. Shifting entirely to gallium-nitride technology could save $20 billion annually in the country, his company estimates.

Transphorm is developing electronic components using gallium nitride rather than silicon, hoping to save energy in products that include solar panels, electric motors and power supplies for server systems. Other large and small companies are also developing semiconductors based on the material, which is used to make light-emitting diodes for light bulbs that consume less power and last longer than conventional bulbs.

The effort to take advantage of GaN is partly a response to technical and economic factors that have slowed improvements in silicon-based chips. While companies are still finding ways to fabricate smaller transistors in silicon, reductions in cost and power consumption have been more difficult to achieve.

Gallium-nitride technology is at a much earlier stage of development. Where some conventional chips now have billions of tiny transistors, companies such as Transphorm are fabricating individual transistors.

GaN circuits can switch on and off much more quickly than silicon and handle higher voltages, said Alex Lidow, Efficient Power Conversion’s chief executive — another startup using GaN. That makes the material particularly good for chores that involve power conversion, such as shifting from alternating to direct current or from high to low voltage.

Dr. Mishra doubles as a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a longtime center for gallium-nitride research. His colleagues there include Shuji Nakamura, who won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in perfecting the use of the material in lighting.

The Wall Street Journal — "Energy-Saving Material Gets a Boost" (full article)

ECE Assistant Professor Katie Byl and lab featured in The UCSB Current article about the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) and their entry “Robosimian”

June 18th, 2015

robosimian in action and team photo
UCSB and Caltech/JPL’s RoboSimian takes a top spot at the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

Drive up, get out of the car, make your way to the front door, open said door, step inside. We humans have performed this sequence of maneuvers countless times: going to work in the morning, coming home after a night of partying, in various kinds of weather and locations and at different hours of the day. For the most part, it’s effortless and unconscious.

But, that same set of movements is a huge challenge for robots, as UC Santa Barbara professor Katie Byl and her robotics team can attest. RoboSimian, a collaboration between Byl’s team and researchers from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, completed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Robotics Challenge Finals in early June and came in fifth out of about two dozen teams from across the country and around the globe.

“I’m really happy with how we did,” said Byl, professor of electrical and computer engineering and of mechanical engineering at UCSB. “JPL designed and built RoboSimian, and my students — Brian Satzinger and Chelsea Lau — and I at UCSB have been helping JPL to write the software to control how the robot moves for the DARPA Robotics Challenge.” The DARPA contest’s overarching theme was to have competitors produce a robot that could eventually handle unpredictable terrain and manipulate tools for use in conditions inhospitable to humans. Think Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown or other disaster-response situations.

But first, the competitors had to figure out how to get their robots — many of them upright and bipedal — to drive the car proficiently, get out of the vehicle without losing balance and travel to the door and open it without keeling over. Proprioception, the ability of humans and animals to sense their positions relative to the environment and adjust their bodies’ reactions and movements to maintain balance under varying conditions, still has some way to go before it can be replicated in machines.

However, RoboSimian is ahead of the curve. It was one of only two robots (the other one is called CHIMP) that didn’t require human intervention to reset during either day of competition. The most common failure mode for other robots was falling down.

“RoboSimian has a phenomenal track record,” said Byl, whose research focuses on robot agility, reliability and response in variable conditions. “It’s fallen down maybe once in the past year of testing.” Even the creators of the winning robot, a humanoid designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, had to take advantage of the grace period built into the competition that allows the robots’ handlers to reset their machines on the first day of testing, said Byl.

Videos selected Byl and her comments:

Tested interview with Professor Katie Byl: “Meet RoboSimian”

More information:

The UCSB Current — "Future Simian" (full article)

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)

Byl's UCSB Robotics Lab