News

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

ECE Professor Joao Hespanha’s research featured in COE Convergence Fall 2018 article “Toward a Secure Electrical Grid”

December 14th, 2018

illustration of locked electrical grid
UCSB professor João Hespanha suggests a way to protect autonomous grids from potentially crippling GPS spoofing attacks

Not long ago, getting a virus was about the worst thing computer users could expect in terms of system vulnerability. But in our current age of hyper-connectedness and the emerging Internet of Things, that’s no longer the case. With connectivity, a new principle has emerged, one of universal concern to those who work in the area of systems control, like João Hespanha, a professor in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. That law says, essentially, that the more complex and connected a system is, the more susceptible it is to disruptive cyber-attacks.

“It is about something much different than your regular computer virus,” Hespanha said. “It is more about cyber physical systems — systems in which computers are connected to physical elements. That could be robots, drones, smart appliances, or infrastructure systems such as those used to distribute energy and water.”

In a paper titled “Distributed Estimation of Power System Oscillation Modes under Attacks on GPS Clocks,” published this month in the journal IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, Hespanha and co-author Yongqiang Wang (a former UCSB postdoctoral research and now a faculty member at Clemson University) suggest a new method for protecting the increasingly complex and connected power grid from attack.

COE Convergence Fall 2018 – "Toward a Secure Electrical Grid" (full article)

COE Convergence Fall 2018 (full issue)

Hespanha's COE Profile

ECE Professor B.S. Manjunath selected as an Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow

December 12th, 2018

photo of b.s. manjunathACM names two professors in UCSB’s College of Engineering, ECE Prof. B.S. Manjunath and CS Prof. Elizab​eth Belding, ACM Fellows for significant contributions during the digital age

A professor in the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science Departments, Manjunath was honored for his contributions to image search and retrieval with applications in digital libraries, marine sciences, and biology. He serves as the director of UCSB’s Center for Multimodal Big Data Science and Healthcare, and his lab created BisQue, an image management and analysis platform that makes it easier to share and distribute large data sets and use them to collaborate. The platform manages imaging data for marine science, biology, materials science, and neuroscience. Manjunath is also a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Fewer than one percent of the association’s global members are selected as ACM Fellows. The fifty-six Fellows in this year’s class hail from the United States, Finland, Greece, Israel, Sweden, and Switzerland.

“The ACM Fellow program publicly recognizes the people who made key contributions to the technologies we enjoy,” said ACM President Cherri M. Pancake. “We are honored to add a new class of Fellows to ACM’s ranks, and we look forward to the guidance and counsel they will provide to our organization.”

The ACM will formally recognize its 2018 Fellows at the annual Awards Banquet in San Francisco on June 15, 2019.

COE News – “Belding and Manjunath Selected ACM Fellows” (full article)

Manjunath's COE Profile

Center for Multimodal Big Data Science and Healthcare

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra delivers UCSB Faculty Research Lecture: “Thank God for GaN”

December 6th, 2018

umesh mishra presenting at corwin pavilion
In the 63rd annual UCSB Faculty Research Lecture, delivered on November 26, Mishra explained to a large audience why we should, “Thank God for GaN” – the honor is the highest bestowed upon a UCSB professor in recognition of extraordinary scholarly distinction

After being introduced by Chancellor Henry Yang, Mishra spent the next hour explaining why he believes the semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN), which has been the subject of extensive research in the UCSB College of Engineering, is destined to replace silicon as the most important semiconductor material in the world. That would be especially good for UCSB, he added, because “We have pioneered the technologies of these materials.”

He began with recalling that Shuji Nakamura, while working in Japan before becoming a UCSB faculty member, used GaN to invent the blue LED in 1993, which enabled the white LED, which revolutionized lighting around the world and earned Nakamura a Nobel Prize.

“Shuji’s revolution with LED cannot be overstated,” Mishra said. “Efficiency is the best way to minimize the need to produce more power; it is key to a healthy planet. Over forty percent of electricity used now in the U.S. will be saved in 2030 by widespread deployment of LEDs.”

Since the blue LED emerged, GaN has enabled LED and laser lighting applications in consumer electronics, optical switches and circuits, lidar, medicine, space flight, and national defense. When the U.S. Navy needed better radar to identify missiles being launched from mountain caves, UCSB developed GaN-based radar, which was five times more powerful than existing systems. Now, twenty years later, Mishra explained, the Navy is switching its entire radar platform to be based on GaN.

Why does GaN work so well? One reason, Mishra said, is related to defects, known as “dislocations,” which are highly undesirable in most semiconducting materials, because they negatively affect performance. GaN is filled with dislocations, but because they are stable, materials scientists can design around the imperfections.

To have widespread application, Mishra said, “A semiconductor has to be high performance based on where it will be used. It has to be very reliable, and it has to get cheaper with every generation of an application.”

As a case in point, he noted, “LED lights were once twenty dollars each. Now they are about a dollar. The adoption of LEDS is one of fastest technological shifts in human history.

“We are all cost sensitive,” he continued. “People on Amazon don’t go for the highest-cost item. That applies to semiconductors, too. But to get low cost, you have to have wide market penetration. You cannot have only one application and hope for it to be low cost. It has to permeate all the application sets. I believe very strongly that GaN satisfies all these requirements.”

Read the full article from the COE News – “Umesh Mishra’s Faculty Research Lecture: ‘Thank God for GaN’

Related articles:

The UCSB Current – “GaN Rising” – Nov. 15, 2018

The UCSB Current – “The Next Big Challenge” – Apr 16, 2018

Mishra's COE profile

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra to deliver the 63rd Annual Faculty Research Lecture on Nov. 26th – “GaN Rising”

November 19th, 2018

photo of Umesh Mishra on the steps of the Engineering Science Bldg
On Monday, November 26th Mishra to deliver the 63rd Annual Faculty Research Lecture – the highest honor bestowed upon UC Santa Barbara professors in recognition of extraordinary scholarly distinction

The proliferation of electronic devices and the growing need to process large amounts of data are among the reasons why the world needs to marshal its energy resources wisely. Add to that the obsolescence of our conventional electrical grid, the emerging Internet of Things and the call to bring essential human requirements — such as light and agriculture — into the 21st century. Underlying those new technologies and energy-saving efforts is gallium nitride (GaN), a compound with unique and valuable electronic properties.

UC Santa Barbara electrical and computer engineering professor Umesh Mishra anticipated the need for higher performance and energy efficiency a long time ago. For decades he has focused his research primarily on the development of GaN materials and devices for electronics while contributing to opto-electronics such as optical data storage, semiconductor lasers and — last but not least — white LEDs pioneered by UCSB professor Shuji Nakamura, which have revolutionized lighting throughout the world. Due in part to Mishra’s efforts, GaN has now become the cornerstone for advanced, energy-efficient technologies including power electronics and RF electronics for radar and 4G and 5G communications.

Titled “Thank God for GaN,” Mishra’s lecture outlines the power of GaN to not only drive innovation but also to modernize existing technology, reduce power consumption and limit energy waste.

“Prof. Nakamura is the founder of the excitement that is GaN because of his Nobel Prize-winning breakthrough of the ubiquitous blue and white LED,” Mishra said. “Along with him and my other colleagues Steve DenBaars, Jim Speck and many others, we hope to create the second wave of excitement based on electronic devices with potential impact as broad as the photonic applications of GaN.”

The Donald W. Whittier Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Santa Barbara, Mishra joined the faculty in 1990 after an early career spent both in industry and in academia. He received his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, his master’s degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. He is an IEEE Fellow, an International Fellow of the Japanese Society of Applied Physics, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

The November 26th event, which will be held at Corwin Pavilion, is free and open to the public and begins with a reception at 4 p.m. followed by the lecture at 5:15 p.m.

The UCSB Current – "Gan Rising" (full article)

Mishra's COE Profile

Energy efficiency project led by ECE’s Dan Blumenthal funded by the Department of Energy (DOE)

November 15th, 2018

photo of Dan Blumenthal

Blumenthal’s project, FRESCO: Frequency Stabilized Coherent Optical Low-energy Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) DC Interconnects, received $3,750,000 to develop a low power, low-cost solution to overcome power and bandwidth scaling limitations that will occur with the emergence of hyperscale data centers and related exponential growth in global data traffic and address future energy efficiency needs

FRESCO was among 40 new projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of OPEN 2018, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA E) latest open funding opportunity. The $98 million in funding supports the research and development projects of America’s top energy innovators as they seek to develop technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.

“ARPA-E’s open solicitations serve a valuable purpose. They give America’s energy innovators the opportunity to tell us about the next big thing,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Many of the greatest advances in human history started from the bottom up with a single person or idea, and OPEN 2018 provides a chance to open our doors to potentially the next great advancement in energy.”

The FRESCO transceiver leverages recent advances in fundamental laser physics to enable terabit, coherent optical (light-based) data transmission inside data centers using an ultra-pure and ultra-stable laser signal. The outcome of the project will be an integrated photonic package capable of connecting to 100 terabit-per-second networking switches over coherent optical short-reach data center fiber links. This effort could disrupt the way data centers, data center interconnects, and terabit Ethernet switches are built, drastically reducing their global energy consumption.

“The funding is significant in that it establishes our leadership in the next generation of optical fiber research and energy efficient data centers,” said Blumenthal. “It also ushers a broad team of academic and industry researchers and resources into a new era of communications that will bring the performance of systems normally found in large scientific instruments, like atomic clocks, onto the chip scale.”

Yale University; Northern Arizona University; University of Colorado, Boulder; Stanford University; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Morton Photonics; Microsoft; and Barefoot Networks are collaborating with UCSB on the project.

COE News – “Energy Efficiency Project led by UCSB Funded by DOE” (full article)

Blumenthal's COE Profile

Optical Communications and Photonic Integration Group

ECE Ph.D. candidate Junkai Jiang and co-authors receive the 2018 IEEE S3S Best Student Paper Award

October 30th, 2018

photos of jiang, parto and cao
Jiang and co-authors demonstrate for the first time that 3D chips made with 2D materials can achieve 10-folds higher integration density as compared to conventional electronic materials at the 2018 IEEE SOI-3D-Subthreshold Microelectronics Technology Unified Conference (IEEE S3S) held in San Francisco, CA

The technical program committee of the conference presented the Best Student Paper Award to Jiang from Professor Kaustav Banerjee’s Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL) for the selected paper “Monolithic-3D Integration with 2D Materials: Toward Ultimate Vertically-Scaled 3D-ICs.” The paper was published in the 2018 Proceedings of the IEEE S3S and is co-authored by Professor Banerjee and two other NRL members – Kamyar Parto, a second year ECE graduate student and Dr. Wei Cao, a post-doctoral fellow. While the article is not yet available on IEEE Xplore, a discussion of the work can be found in a recent invited article on 2D materials from the NRL co-authored by Cao, Jiang, et al., in the October 2018 issue of the IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices.

The semiconductor industry has been looking for alternative 3D IC technology solutions, particularly monolithic 3D integration that promises higher integration density and better performance compared to conventional methods including the Through-Silicon-Via (TSV)-based 3D ICs that are currently in the market. However, monolithic 3D integration with conventional electronic materials faces several challenges including thermal, electrical, and process issues. Jiang and co-authors demonstrate through detailed modeling and simulation, why atomically-thin (2D) layered materials provide a better platform, with respect to bulk materials (such as Si, Ge, GaN, etc.), for realizing ultra-high-density monolithic 3D-ICs for next-generation electronics.

Over the past several decades the IEEE S3S Conference has developed into one of the most relevant venues and a hot spot for the latest research and deliberations on state-of-the-art technology topics including 3D Integration, Ultra-Low Power Circuits and Devices, and Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) Technology.

Jiang’s doctoral research is focused on modeling, design, synthesis, and characterization of novel interconnect structures and materials. Professor Banerjee is widely regarded as one of the key visionaries behind the 3D IC technology being employed by the semiconductor industry for continued scaling and integration beyond Moore’s law, and led the research.

IEEE S3S Conference

IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices article

Nanoelectronics Research Lab (NRL)

College of Engineering Dean and ECE faculty member Dean Rod Alferness receives The Optical Society’s (OSA) highest award

September 25th, 2018

photo of rod alferness
Alferness receives the 2018 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize for his “basic contributions and leadership in the development of integrated optics, high-speed optical modulation and switching, and configurable WDM networks that have provided significant economic and societal impact”

Where would modern life be without the internet as we know it? When the technology became mainstream in the 1990s, demand for high-speed data transmission exploded, and that need was filled with light — unrivaled for its speed and data capacity. By the end of the 20th century, fiber optic cables and other optical infrastructure had been established around the globe, enabling speed-of-light communications and commerce. Light remains the medium of choice for the next generation of rapid long-distance data transmission.

Among those leading the charge into the era of optical networks was Rod Alferness. With other researchers and colleagues at Bell Labs, he had for years been investigating ways to harness the power of light for telecommunications. Now, as the Richard A. Auhll Professor and Dean of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering, Alferness continues to push for the study and development of optics and photonics technologies to usher in future high-performance, energy-efficient devices and telecommunications infrastructure.

“We are tremendously proud that Dean Alferness has received the highest award from The Optical Society for his leadership in integrated optics and optical switching technology and architecture,” remarked UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “Recognition by one’s peers is especially meaningful and speaks to Rod’s reputation within his field. This accolade honors not only him, but also our institution.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive the 2018 Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize from OSA, the society and community that has been my professional home for nearly 45 years,” Alferness said. “My thanks to the OSA Board of Directors, the Awards and Selection Committees, those who supported my nomination and my many collaborators.”

World renowned for his work on integrated-optic devices and optical switching technology and architecture, Alferness is perhaps best known in the technology of his field for his efforts in the realm of wavelength-division-multiplexed (WDM) optical networks, a technology that enables several signals to be carried over a single optical fiber via different wavelengths. His research, according to OSA, led to the “early development of titanium diffused lithium niobate waveguide modulators which are now deployed as the high-speed signal-encoding engine in fiber optic transmission systems around the world.”

Alferness is known also for his leadership in the industry of optics and photonics, having spent much of the early part of his professional career heading research efforts at Bell Labs. Among his most significant early accomplishments is his leadership in the five-year, DARPA-funded MONET project — an experiment that connected six U.S. government agencies in Washington, D.C., via a transparent optical network — which ultimately proved the practicability of such networks. Alferness would go on to lead even larger groups and more expansive efforts as senior vice president of research at Bell Labs’ later incarnations, including parent company Lucent Technologies and at Alcatel-Lucent, eventually becoming chief scientist at Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent before joining UC Santa Barbara in 2011.

Alferness is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of OSA and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He served as OSA president in 2008 and as a member of the OSA board of directors from 2001 to 2003. He also was president of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-optics Society (now Photonics Society) in 1997. His work and research have earned him numerous awards throughout his career, including the OSA’s Robert E. Hopkins Leadership Award in 2010, the IEEE Millennium Award and the IEEE Photonics Award.

The UCSB Current – "Guiding Light" (full article)

The OSA Announces Rod Alferness as 2018 Recipient of the Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize

Alferness' COE Profile

ECE Prof. Yasamin Mostofi’s research featured in The UCSB Current article “Crowd Counting through Walls through WiFi”

September 24th, 2018

image from video of crowd counting research
The new methodology and experimental results were presented by Mostofi at the 2018 IEEE 15th Annual IEEE International Conference on Sensing, Communication, and Networking (SECON)

Researchers in UC Santa Barbara professor Yasamin Mostofi’s lab have given the first demonstration of crowd counting through walls using only everyday communication signals such as WiFi. The technique, which requires only a wireless transmitter and receiver outside the area of interest, could have a variety of applications, including smart energy management, retail business planning and security.

“Our proposed approach makes it possible to estimate the number of people inside a room from outside,” said Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. “This approach utilizes only WiFi RSSI measurements and does not rely on people to carry a device.”

In the team’s experiments, one WiFi transmitter and one WiFi receiver are behind walls, outside a room in which a number of people are present. The room can get very crowded with as many as 20 people zigzagging each other. The transmitter sends a wireless signal whose received signal strength (RSSI) is measured by the receiver. Using only such received signal power measurements, the receiver estimates how many people are inside the room — an estimate that closely matches the actual number. It is noteworthy that the researchers do not do any prior measurements or calibration in the area of interest; their approach has only a very short calibration phase that need not be done in the same area.

This development builds on previous work in the Mostofi Lab, which has pioneered sensing with everyday radio frequency signals such as WiFi, with several publications in this area since 2009. For instance, their 2015 paper showed crowd counting without relying on people to carry a device, but with the transmitter and receiver in the same area as the people.

“However, enabling through-wall crowd counting is considerably more challenging due to the high level of attenuation by the walls,” said Mostofi. Her lab’s success in this endeavor is due to the new proposed methodology they developed.

The UCSB Current – “Crowd Counting through Walls through WiFi” (full article)

"Through-Wall Crowd Counting with WiFi, Without Relying on People to Carry a Device" (YouTube)

Mostofi Lab's research on Crowd Counting Through Walls with WiFi

More about Mostofi and her research