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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