News

ECE Assistant Professor Loai Salem receives a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award

May 8th, 2019

photo of loai salem To combat radio interference more efficiently and effectively, Salem intends to create the first fully integrated, self-adaptive radio receiver to facilitate high-quality communication

We’ve all felt the negative effects of radio interference, which has been with us since the days of the telegraph. It can show up as a minor annoyance such as radio static or as a major problem that renders wireless systems completely unusable. Society’s growing reliance on electronics has only amplified the issue because the number of potential sources of interference grows by the day.

Loai Salem, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at UC Santa Barbara, has proposed an innovative solution to silence the interference. His project, centered around his own invention, has so much potential that it piqued the interest of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). As a result, the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has presented Salem with its prestigious Young Faculty Award.

“I am very grateful to receive the award,” said Salem, who joined UC Santa Barbara in September 2018. “This will allow me to contribute to future generations with technologies I believe will greatly improve society and our quality of life.”

The DARPA Young Faculty Award program seeks to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions in an effort to develop the next generation of scientists who will address national security challenges. Award winners receive up to three years of grant funding and mentorship opportunities with DoD contacts.

“We are extremely proud of Professor Salem, and we congratulate him on this recognition of his outstanding research that could benefit anyone with a handheld device,” said Rod Alferness, dean of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering. “He reflects the college’s strong tradition of hiring the best junior faculty, who go on to be recognized for their innovative research that addresses society’s biggest challenges.”

Salem’s research focuses on power management, radio frequency circuits and their applications. Power management integrated circuits (ICs) are responsible for regulating the direction and flow rate of electrical power taken from the platform battery in portable and wireless devices.

The UCSB Current – "Strong Signals" (full article)

Salem's COE Profile

ECE Assistant Professors Mahnoosh Alizadeh and Zheng Zhang receive NSF Early CAREER Awards

April 29th, 2019

photo of zheng zhang and mahnoosh alizadeh
The awards received by Alizadeh and Zhang include funding to pursue cutting-edge research and advance excellence in education through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program

Zheng Zhang wants to make the manufacturing of semiconductor chips more reliable. Mahnoosh Alizadeh hopes to increase the levels of wind and solar energy in the power grid. In order to be successful, the two assistant professors in UC Santa Barbara’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department are designing innovative methods to quantify and account for the unknown. Their research projects received a significant boost when each received an Early CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

Through uncertainty-aware design automation, Zhang and his students hope to make semiconductor manufacturing more efficient and the products more consistent. Uncertainty awareness means Zhang wants to expect the unexpected and adjust ahead of time.

“I’m very excited,” said Zhang, whose research lies at the intersection of computational mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science. “With this award, I will be able to investigate some long-standing problems with a relatively long-term plan to discover solutions.”

Alizadeh’s research project centers on the uncertainties involved with humans and their use of electricity.

“Renewable energy is produced randomly. It depends on when the wind blows or the sun shines,” explained Alizadeh. “Our goal is to design mechanisms that incentivize users to shift their electricity demand to times when there is more renewable energy being produced so that we can integrate higher levels of solar and wind energy into the power grid.”

Zhang and Alizadeh are the latest junior faculty in UCSB’s College of Engineering to receive NSF CAREER awards. Bolin Liao in the Mechanical Engineering Department received one last month. According to UCSB’s Office of Research, the College of Engineering ranks first among public universities and third overall in the highest percentage of eligible assistant professors who received NSF CAREER awards. Between 2007-17, 38 eligible junior faculty in UCSB’s College of Engineering received a total of 44 awards.

“The NSF CAREER Award recognizes researchers based on their potential for future contributions to education and research,” said Rod Alferness, dean of UCSB’s College of Engineering. “Professors Zhang and Alizadeh are shining examples of the high-quality junior faculty we have in the College of Engineering, who possess tremendous potential to create new knowledge and innovations that address complex societal challenges and opportunities.”

COE News – "Two ECE Professors receive NSF Early CAREER Awards" (full article)

Alizadeh's COE Profile

Zhang's COE Profile

ECE Professor John Bowers and team’s mode-locked quantum dot lasers on silicon work in The UCSB Current article “A Glimpse into the Future”

April 3rd, 2019

illustration of mode-locked laser on silicon
Ten years into the future – that’s about how far Bowers and his research team are reaching with the recent development of their high-performance quantum dot mode-locked laser on silicon

It’s technology that not only can massively increase the data transmission capacity of data centers, telecommunications companies and network hardware products to come, but do so with high stability, low noise and the energy efficiency of silicon photonics.

“The level of data traffic in the world is going up very, very fast,” said Bowers, co-author of a paper on the new technology in the journal Optica. Generally speaking, he explained, the transmission and data capacity of state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure must double roughly every two years to sustain high levels of performance. That means that even now, technology companies such as Intel and Cisco have to set their sights on the hardware of 2024 and beyond to stay competitive.

Enter the Bowers Group’s high-channel-count, 20 gigahertz, passively mode-locked quantum dot laser, directly grown — for the first time, to the group’s knowledge — on a silicon substrate. With a proven 4.1 terabit-per-second transmission capacity, it leaps an estimated full decade ahead from today’s best commercial standard for data transmission, which is currently reaching for 400 gigabits per second on Ethernet.

The technology is the latest high-performance candidate in an established technique called wavelength-division-multiplexing (WDM), which transmits numerous parallel signals over a single optical fiber using different wavelengths (colors). It has made possible the streaming and rapid data transfer we have come to rely on for our communications, entertainment and commerce.

The Bowers Group’s new technology takes advantage of several advances in telecommunications, photonics and materials with its quantum dot laser — a tiny, micron-sized light source — that can emit a broad range of light wavelengths over which data can be transmitted.

The UCSB Current – "A Glimpse into the Future" (full article)

Bowers' COE Profile

Bowers' Optoelectronics Research Group

Award for Computer Engineering Senior Aditya Wadaskar brings his total to more than $6000 for the year

April 3rd, 2019

photo of Aditya Wadaskar
Congratulations to computer-engineering senior Aditya Wadaskar, who received a $1,000 scholarship during the 2019 National Engineers Week

Each year the National Engineers Week Committee of Ventura & Santa Barbara awards $1,000 scholarships to college students enrolled in local colleges or universities for the purpose of attaining a degree in any field of engineering.

Wadaskar, who was born in Bangalore, India, and raised in San Jose, said the scholarship would be a “considerable help” toward paying for his college education.

A hard worker who began taking apart electronic devices and, according to him, “occasionally putting them back together” when he was in fourth grade, he currently carries a 3.94 GPA, which has been helpful in securing a collection of scholarships worth a total of more than $7,000 in his senior year alone.

“The cost of applying for a scholarship is incredibly low — maybe a couple of hours of work — compared to the potential gain,” he said.

Wadaskar had his choice of attending several universities, both in and out of state, but came to UC Santa Barbara, he said, because his visits to campus left him with the impression that while students were competitive, they were also collaborative.

COE News – "Award for CE Senior Brings His Total to More than $6K for Year" (full article)

ECE graduate student Junkai Jiang’s Ph.D. Student Fellowship from IEEE EDS covered in The UCSB Current article “Pushing Past Limits”

March 15th, 2019

photo of jiang with award
Ph.D. Student Jiang awarded the prestigious student fellowship in the broad area of electron devices from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Electron Devices Society (EDS)

The steady improvement of the performance and versatility of our electronic systems is due in large part to the scaling-down of transistors and interconnects that drive them. Components on the chips have been shrunk, stacked and more densely packed to add increased functionality without expanding the systems’ small footprints.

But the smaller, denser arrangements present their own set of challenges, and electronics engineers and designers everywhere are trying to find ways to overcome the resulting degradation in performance, reliability and energy efficiency – and doctoral student Junkai Jiang is one of those people.

Jiang’s work centers on interconnects — the conducting channels of electronic signal and power between and through components. Interconnects play a dominant role in determining the performance and power-dissipation of all integrated circuits, including state-of-the-art microprocessors. As the dimensions of on-chip components have scaled down and their number has increased, the conventional copper wire interconnects have also had to shrink, causing them to hit limits in terms of their ability to conduct signal and power rapidly, reliably and without interference. As a result, the systems may slow down, overheat and drain their batteries sooner than expected.

The answer to this problem could come in the form of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon with interesting and valuable electronic properties.

“My research is focused on designing and fabricating fast, energy-efficient and highly reliable on-chip interconnects and passives uniquely enabled by low-dimensional carbon nanomaterials such as graphene,” Jiang explained.

Graphene, with its atom-thick dimension and electronic conduction properties, has emerged as a viable replacement for copper wire interconnects primarily driven by his advisor, ECE Professor Kaustav Banerjee over the past decade. But its ability to revolutionize modern electronics is directly related to the ease of large-scale manufacture, which also is a thrust of Jiang’s research.

“Supported by this award, I have been working on integrating graphene in the high-volume-manufacturing friendly or ‘CMOS-compatible’ process and its application in demonstrating a multilayer VLSI (Very Large Scale Integrated Circuit) interconnect scheme to establish its feasibility for the semiconductor industry,” Jiang added.

“I offer sincere congratulations to Junkai Jiang for receiving this prestigious award, and to Professor Banerjee for the support that is indispensable to such achievement,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering. “Given to only a single student in the Americas and only three in the world, this award is a major testament not only to Junkai, but also to the kind of students we attract at UCSB and the pioneering spirit they bring to tackling important problems.”

According to Professor Banerjee, “Junkai’s achievements in his research are certainly most deserving of this honor.” Jiang joined Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL) in 2012 as a dual M.S./Ph.D. student after completing his bachelor of science degree in microelectronics at Peking University in China.

The UCSB Current – "Pushing Past Limits" (full article)

IEEE Electron Devices Society Ph.D. Student Fellowship Award

Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL)

ECE postdoctoral scholar Chunfeng Cui selected to participate in the 2019 Rising Stars in Computational and Data Sciences workshop

February 15th, 2019

photo of Chunfeng CuiCui selected as one of 32 women from top-tier U.S. universities to participate in the workshop held at UT Austin’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES)

Rising Stars is an academic and research career workshop for women graduate students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing academic and research careers. Originally launched at MIT in 2012, Rising Stars events have been hosted in many different fields at institutions across the world. The first Rising Stars event in Computational and Data Sciences will bring the selected researchers together to network and for presentations, poster sessions and interactive discussions.

Chunfeng Cui’s research activities are mainly focused in the areas of tensor computing, uncertainty quantification, machine learning, and their interface. She has been working on tensor data analysis by convex and non-convex optimization, high-dimensional uncertainty quantification with non-Gaussian correlations for electronic and photonics IC, and theoretical structural analysis of deep learning. She is the recipient of the 2018 Best Paper Award of IEEE Electrical Performance of Electronic Packaging and Systems (EPEPS) and the Best Journal Paper Award of Scientia Sinica Mathematica.

Cui received her Ph.D. degree in computational mathematics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China in 2016 with a specialization in numerical optimization for tensor data analysis. From 2016 to 2017, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. In 2017, she joined Professor Zheng Zhang’s group as a Postdoctoral Scholar in UC, Santa Barbara’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

The 2019 Rising Stars in Computational and Data Sciences workshop will be held from April 9 to April 10, 2019 and is hosted by UT Austin ICES and Sandia National Laboratories.

2019 Rising Stars in Computational and Data Sciences

The Zhang Group

ECE Professor Yuan Xie receives the 10-Year Retrospective Most Influential Paper Award at ASP-DAC 2019

February 8th, 2019

photo of yuan xie with the award
Professor Yuan Xie and his former student Xiangyu Dong receive the award at the 2019 Asia and South-Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC’19)

The award was given in Tokyo, Japan on Jan. 22, 2019 for the paper titled “System-level cost analysis and design exploration for three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D ICs)” published in ASP-DAC in 2009. The original paper was also recognized as the Best Paper Candidate in ASP-DAC 2009.

Professor Xie is recognized as the world-class researcher in the areas of electronic design automation (EDA), computer architecture, VLSI design, and embedded systems. His most distinctive contributions lie in the revolutionary advances of design automation and architecture for three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D ICs), which offer new opportunities for system-level innovations that are not hinged only on technology scaling. He was elevated to IEEE Fellow (class of 2015) for contributions to design automation and architecture of three-dimensional integrated circuits.

Xie received BS degree and Ph.D. degree from Tsinghua University and Princeton University, respectively. He has worked for IBM and AMD, and was with Pennsylvania State University before joining UCSB in Fall 2014. He has published more than 200 scholarly articles in top journal and conference venues, and has received several Best Paper Awards (HPCA, ICCAD, ASPDAC, ISLPED, ISVLSI, GLSVLSI) and several Best Paper Nominations (MICRO, DATE, ASPDAC).

ASP-DAC 2019 is the 24th annual international conference on VLSI design automation in Asia and South Pacific region, one of the most active regions of design and fabrication of silicon chips in the world. The conference aims at providing the Asian and South Pacific CAD/DA and Design community with opportunities of presenting recent advances and with forums for future directions in technologies related to Electronic Design Automation (EDA). ASP-DAC intends to cultivate and promote interactions and presentations of novel ideas among EDA researchers/developers and system/circuit/device-level designers.

2019 Asia and South-Pacific Design Automation Conference (ASP-DAC’19)

ASP-DAC 2019 – 10-Year MIP

More about Xie's research: The UCSB Current – "Better, Faster, Smaller"

Xie's COE Profile

ECE Professor Dan Blumenthal and researchers work on a chip-scale laser with linewidth of less than 1 Hz covered in The UCSB Current article “‘Quiet’ Light”

January 24th, 2019

optical dynamics inside the laser ring cavity of the new Brillouin laser

Researchers describe a laser capable of emitting light quiet enough to move demanding scientific applications to the chip scale

Spectrally pure lasers lie at the heart of precision high-end scientific and commercial applications, thanks to their ability to produce near-perfect single-color light. A laser’s capacity to do so is measured in terms of its linewidth, or coherence, which is the ability to emit a constant frequency over a certain period of time before that frequency changes.

In practice, researchers go to great lengths to build highly coherent, near-single-frequency lasers for high-end systems such as atomic clocks. Today, however, because these lasers are large and occupy racks full of equipment, they are relegated to applications based on bench tops in the laboratory.

There is a push to move the performance of high-end lasers onto photonic micro-chips, dramatically reducing cost and size while making the technology available to a wide range of applications including spectroscopy, navigation, quantum computation and optical communications. Achieving such performance at the chip scale would also go a long way to address the challenge posed by the internet’s exploding data-capacity requirements and the resulting increase in worldwide energy consumption of data centers and their fiber-optic interconnects.

The UCSB Current – “‘Quiet’ Light” (full article)

Nature Photonics – "Sub-hertz fundamental linewidth photonic integrated Brillouin laser

Blumenthal's COE Profile

Blumenthal's Optical Communications and Photonic Integration Group (OCPI)

ECE Assistant Professor Mahnoosh Alizadeh receives a Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award

January 2nd, 2019

photo of Mahnoosh Alizadeh
UCSB COE assistant professors Alizadeh (ECE) and Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz (ME) co-recipients of the award for junior faculty in STEM fields who have demonstrated excellence in their teaching techniques, activities, and lectures, as well as in their interactions with students, colleagues, and staff

Alizadeh joined the ECE Department in November 2016 after completing postdoctoral studies at Stanford University. Her research interests include technologies for integrating renewable energy, and designing scalable and decentralized control and economic mechanisms to optimize the energy grid. She says that receiving an award based on student input makes this recognition even more special.

“I try to help everyone achieve their potential,” said Alizadeh, director of the Smart Infrastructure Systems Laboratory. “Our students come from different backgrounds and have different starting points, but with the right help and guidance, they all have excellent potential. My philosophy is to always provide encouragement if I see a student trying their best, even if they are not doing very well in class. It’s the improvement curve that matters.”

The most important responsibility of a professor, according to Alizadeh, is providing students with opportunities for growth.

“Seeing students challenge themselves when presented with exciting learning or research opportunities and watching their extraordinary academic and social growth have been the biggest joys of my career at UCSB,” she said.

COE News – "Two Engineering Junior Faculty Receive Excellence in Teaching Award" (full article)

Alizadeh's COE Profile

Rod Alferness, Dean of UCSB’s College of Engineering and ECE faculty member, named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

December 14th, 2018

photo of xxxx
Alferness joins 147 other renowned academic inventors for the NAI’s class of 2018, individuals who hail from research universities and from government and non-profit research institutes across the nation

Some of the best inventions are the ones you don’t even know you’re using; so integrated in current technology, they are a seamless part of your daily life. So it is for the estimated 3.2 billion of us who rely on the internet for instant communication, education, entertainment and simply to stay connected to the world — using a variety of media, it all comes naturally with the push of a button.

Twenty years ago, however, the idea of such rapid communications was nothing more than a dream. Reality consisted of slow-loading websites, delayed messages, unreliable signals and unreadable files. The fiberoptic information superhighway was still coming into its own, and scientists and engineers realized that to satisfy the skyrocketing demand for true high-speed data transmission, they’d have to exploit the properties of light to their fullest extent.

Rod Alferness, the Dean of the UCSB College of Engineering and an ECE faculty member, was among that forward-thinking group. With his colleagues at Bell Labs at the time, he worked to enhance the emerging optical telecommunications infrastructure with devices and architecture that not only eliminated the bottleneck on the information superhighway, but also vastly improved its capacity.

Among Alferness’s most notable accomplishments is his work with wavelength-division-multiplexed networks, which allow data to be sent back and forth through a single fiber via different wavelengths (colors) of light. His research led to development of titanium-diffused lithium niobate waveguide modulators, now standard devices in fiber optic transmission systems worldwide — and one of the reasons we can today chat, stream, search, conduct business, work remotely and generally stay connected online, in real-time. Such capability has opened the doors to new commerce, a modernized workforce and new avenues of expression and communication.

Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional distinction bestowed upon academic inventors who have, according to the NAI, “demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.”

“Our campus is excited to collectively congratulate Dean Alferness on his election to the National Academy of Inventors, a proud recognition of his innovation and creativity at the forefront of engineering in the interest of humanity,” said UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “Rod’s leading research has been central to the development of fiber optic communications networks across the globe — just one example of his many contributions to society.”

“I am both highly honored and deeply humbled by this recognition,” Alferness said upon learning the news. “The National Academy of Inventors includes so many marvelous people whose shared spirit of fearless innovation has inspired me throughout my career. To be recognized among such company is extremely gratifying.”

The Richard A. Auhll Professor and Dean of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering, Alferness leads one of the world’s consistently top-rated and productive engineering schools. The campus generates an average of 90 invention disclosures annually, the majority of which come from one of the college’s five disciplines and world-class facilities.

Alferness and the other new fellows will be inducted at NAI’s Eighth Annual Meeting, to be held in Houston, Texas, April 10-11, 2019.

The UCSB Current – "A Prolific Spirit of Innovation" (full article)

Alferness's COE Profile