ECE Associate Professor Spencer Smith receives a 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)

July 16th, 2019

photo of spencer smith
The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

“The future of the College of Engineering depends to a great extent on our young faculty members, so every time they receive prestigious awards, we are delighted, knowing that the future is bright,” said Rod Alferness, dean of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering. “We therefore heartily congratulate both Spencer Smith, Phillip Christopher and Andrea Young for receiving these important PECASE awards.”

Smith, whose research lies at the intersection of engineering and neuroscience, was nominated for the award by the National Institutes of Health. He will use the award to continue his lab and colleagues’ effort to develop new imaging tools for neuroscience, aiming to gain insights into how neural circuitry works. “I always hope what I’m doing is useful to other people, and recognition like this makes me think that it is,” he said.

Smith, Christopher (ChemE) and Young (Physics) join more than 300 others across the country receiving the PECASE. Winners of the PECASE award will be honored in a ceremony to be held Thursday, July 25, in Washington, D.C.

The UCSB Current – "Early Career High Achievers" (full article)

Smith's COE Profle

Smith's SLAB lab

ECE 189 senior project teams recognized at the COE Engineering Design Expo (EDx)

June 28th, 2019

crowd at COE EDx 2019
Fourth-year undergrad engineers use their powers for good at the 2019 CE Capstone and the Engineering Design Expo

There was no shortage of good ideas at the College of Engineering’s 2019 CE Capstone event and Engineering Design Expo (EDx). The annual undergrad engineering showcase — which took place Friday, June 7 — was the culmination of year-long special projects undertaken by senior year students, often in collaboration with industry partners or campus research labs.

Drone technology was big at the 2019 Capstone and EDx events, with several student teams working on technology to enable drones for a variety of applications, some of which include ocean habitat monitoring and forest canopy sampling. Another strong theme this year was the therapeutic devices meant to help those with cerebral palsy and diabetes, tech to assist surgeons with their jobs, or to help provide a little customized self-care.

In addition to the valuable engineering and industry interface chops the Capstone projects were meant to hone, several teams gained cash prizes and recognition for their efforts.

Electrical and Computer Engineering senior project awards went to:

  • Altair Zen Pad: creators of a wireless, smartphone- or tablet-controlled massage pads received the $3,000 Excellence in Electrical Engineering prize
  • LegTrek: an assistive walking device took the $5,000 multidisciplinary Excellence in Engineering award

The UCSB Current – "Beneficial Tech" (full article)

LegTrek (COE Capstone webpage)

Altair ZenPad (COE Capstone webpage)

College of Engineering honors ECE’s Outstanding award recipients Douglas (Senior), Rodwell (Instructor) and Goebel (TA)

June 26th, 2019

photo of kyle douglas
More than 360 UC Santa Barbara undergraduate students complete the requirements to earn bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering during the 2018-19 academic year

They convened on Saturday, June 15 for the College of Engineering’s 2019 graduation ceremony, where a handful received special commendations for outstanding academic performance and service to the university.

Outstanding Seniors

Each year, the college recognizes the graduating senior with the highest cumulative grade point average from each degree program. This year’s Outstanding Seniors were Kyle Douglas (electrical engineering), Sayali Kakade (computer engineering), Dorian Bruch (chemical engineering), Hyun-Bum Cho (computer science),and Thomas Fork (mechanical engineering).

Accordingly, Douglas, Bruch and Fork serves as student marshals, carrying the banners and leading the academic procession into the ceremony. All three students earned 4.0 GPAs, the first three-way tie for the honor in College of Engineering history.

Douglas and Kakade were participants in the Capstone project Eternal Flight, which addresses the short-term battery life in unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Douglas, a native of San Diego, will continue on at UC Santa Barbara as a graduate student focusing on control theory. Following graduation, Kakade, who completed two summer internships with Google, will begin working for the company as a software engineer.

Outstanding Faculty and Teaching Assistant Awards

The senior class in each engineering degree program selected an outstanding faculty member and teaching assistant (TA).

The class of 2019’s Outstanding Faculty were Mark Rodwell (electrical engineering), Yoga Isukapalli (computer engineering), Michael Gordon (chemical engineering), Diba Mirza (computer science), and Elliot Hawkes (mechanical engineering).

The 2019 recipients of the outstanding TA awards were Michael Goebel (electrical engineering), Steve Bako (computer engineering), Koty McAllister (chemical engineering), William Eiers (computer science), and Jamie Booth (mechanical engineering).

The UCSB Current – "Engineering Excellence " (full article)

COE News – "College of Engineering Salutes Class of 2019" (full article)

ECE student Evan Blasband member of first place team that wins Technology Management Program “New Venture Competition”

May 31st, 2019

photo of the team with their checks
Secure-by-design authentication software developer Allthenticate takes the big prize at 2019 TMP New Venture Competition Finals

Are you ready to ditch your password? The one you’re using for too many of your online accounts? The one you keep forgetting? The one for the email you can’t access even after the provider sent you the clue to prompt your memory?

If so, your lucky day might be right around the corner thanks to UC Santa Barbara students Chad Spensky, Evan Blasband, Rita Mounir and Jake Tear. Their tech startup, Allthenticate, took the $10,000 First Place and $2,500 People’s Choice awards at the 2019 Technology Management Program (TMP) New Venture Competition (NVC) finals Wednesday, May 29. Impressing both the judges and the audience with their smartphone-based single device authentication software, Allthenticate bested five other teams to gain the top spot in the months-long tech business plan competition.

“You were all magnificent today in your presentations,” Dave Adornetto, TMP entrepreneurship director, told the students during the final competition. Indeed, the participating teams turned out polished pitches in front of judges, mentors and a couple hundred of their closest friends at Corwin Pavilion.

Now in its 20th year, the New Venture Competition is the culmination of a rigorous eight-month process open to students from all disciplines at UC Santa Barbara. All that’s required is a good tech-based idea and the energy to to bring it to reality. Mentored by individuals experienced in the fast-paced world of tech entrepreneurship, students are given first-hand knowledge and the opportunity to hone their entrepreneurship skills and refine their business plans.

Several winners of the NVC have gone on to establish successful ventures in the wider world, including Inogen (1999), NextEnergy (2010), Apeel Sciences (2012), Salty Girl Seafood (2014) and EV Match (2016), among others.

The UCSB Current – "A One-Stop Sign-In Shop" (full article)


Technology Management Program (TMP) New Venture Competition (NVC)

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