Prof. Gopinath Awarded 2017 Microwave Application Award by IEEE MTT-S

Prof. Anand Gopinath has been awarded the 2017 Microwave Application Award of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S) for his contributions to the analysis of microstrip lines and their discontinuities.

Microstrip lines are widely used in high frequency circuits and the generic form is a printed line on a dielectric substrate with a ground plane. This citation recognizes the early vectorial solutions of wave propagation in these lines and also the calculation of phase shift through different types of discontinuities.

Dr. Gopinath has also published papers on microstrip losses and resonators, and in the microwave active circuits area. He has also contributed novel components for photonic integrated circuits, and more recently to the area of RF coils in Magnetic Resonant Imaging systems.

Prof. Gopinath earned his doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of Sheffield (UK) in 1965. His research areas include MRI systems, RF/microwave applications, analog RF/microwave circuits, metamaterials, photonic systems and devices, integrated and nano optics, and optoelectronics. He has previously been honored as Fellow of IET (London, 1982), IEEE (1990), and OSA (2002).

The Microwave Application Award was instituted to recognize an individual for an outstanding application of microwave theory and techniques such as the creation of a new device, component or technique, or novel use of a device or component.

The award will be conferred at the annual Society Awards Banquet scheduled for June 2017 at the International Microwave Symposium to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii.



Prof. Beth Stadler Receives 2017 Taylor Award for Distinguished Service

Prof. Bethanie Stadler is a recipient of the 2017 Taylor Award for Distinguished Service. The award is in recognition of her services to the magnetics and materials research communities, and her service to the department, the University, and the surrounding community.

The George W. Taylor Awards are endowed within the College of Science and Engineering in memory of George W. Taylor, a 1934 graduate of the department of Mechanical Engineering. The Service award is for a faculty member who has performed exemplary service within the University as well as in a professional capacity to outside public or governmental organizations.

Stadler’s record of service has included leadership roles within ECE, professional societies such as IEEE Magnetics Society and Materials Research Society, science outreach to the surrounding community through science summer camps, and service contributions to the University in roles such as member of the Senate Research Committee, and the CSE Consultative Committee.

At the departmental level, Prof. Stadler has chaired or co-led several key committees including the Graduate Committee, the ECE Summer REU and RET Programs, the ECE Consultative Committee, and the ECE Faculty Recruiting Committee. She also served as the faculty mentor for Society of Women Engineers (SWE) from 2005 to 2015. Reaching beyond the department, she has worked energetically to engage school children in science. She has led week-long summer camps for 10 years, designed for children between the ages of 8 and 15 teaching them the basics of circuits theory. The camps are called Circuits are a Snap and Electric Ladies Week, with the latter being an all-girls camp. Other activities by Prof. Stadler include science demos at various venues, a nanotechnology open house attended by 450 students from across Minnesota, and the statewide Kick-Off for FIRST Technical Challenge.

As a scientist, engineer, and teacher, Prof. Stadler has contributed her expertise in multiple ways to the IEEE Magnetics Society and the Materials Research Society. She was invited to be a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE in 2015, an honor and a significant commitment of time as Distinguished Lecturers are required to give between 20 to 40 lectures over the course of a year. She accepted the role and gave 59 lectures in 15 countries including Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Stemming from her lecture in Saudi Arabia, Prof. Stadler has received a grant from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. As part of the grant project, she will be travelling to the country for research, and outreach to women students of science in colleges across Saudi Arabia.

Prof. Stadler’s invited lectures at the IEEE Magnetics Summer School in Chennai, India and Assissi in Italy were extremely well received. Impressed with the immense value of hosting such a school, she proposed and successfully won the bid to have the 2015 IEEE Magnetic Summer School hosted at the University of Minnesota. The feedback on the school was overwhelmingly positive. But Prof. Stadler’s extended her engagement with the summer school further by writing the first IEEE Magnetic Summer School handbook drawing on not only her own experience leading one, but also on the experiences of chairs of previous such schools. The handbook was used by the 2016 host, Tohoku University in Japan, and is being used by the 2017 host, Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in Spain.

As an engaged volunteer of the Materials Research Society, Prof. Stadler established and directed the Undergraduate Materials Research Initiative in the late 1990s. A successful program, it was designed to encourage undergraduates to submit proposals to receive funding for research and travel to MRS meetings. 40 grants were awarded every year by the MRS while the program was in effect. She has also served the MRS in a variety of leadership roles and as secretary of the society in 2008, she took on the task to update the volunteer manual. She currently serves on the Program Development Subcommittee (PDSC), and will serve as Chair of the PDSC starting 2018.

Stadler is also the recipient of the Outstanding Mentor Award for the President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentor Program for Underrepresented Students (2011, and 2013), and a University of Minnesota McKnight Presidential Fellow (2006 – 2009) among several other awards.

The George W. Taylor Award was established in 1982. Besides Stadler, other ECE professors who have received this award include Stephen Campbell, James Leger, Douglas Ernie, Larry Kinney, and K.S.P. Kumar.

Prof. Mehmet Akçakaya Wins NSF CAREER Award for “Geometric Techniques for Big Data Medical Imaging”

Prof. Mehmet Akçakaya has been awarded the CAREER award by the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. This is one of the most prestigious awards instituted by the NSF to recognize and support faculty early in their careers who show the potential to “serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” The CAREER award ranges from $400,000 to $500,000 (depending on the research area) and is disbursed over a 5-year period.

The field of medical imaging has benefited from advances in signal and image processing, such as better data acquisition, superior reconstruction, and improved analysis of massive amounts of imaging data. However, with improving resolution and the push for comprehensive diagnosis, medical imaging faces new challenges such as larger data sizes, longer scan durations, and susceptibility to artifacts.

Mehmet’s CAREER award winning project seeks to address these challenges. It develops a multi-disciplinary framework to provide theoretical, algorithmic and application developments based on geometric methods to characterize the limits, and to improve the state of medical imaging reconstruction and analysis. His research uses geometric packing and covering techniques to theoretically characterize the performance of learning algorithms, phase retrieval for low-dimensional models, and optimization strategies for a class of parameter estimation problems in imaging. Algorithmic developments for each of these problems will complement the theoretical work, and will be applied to tackle existing medical imaging problems. These applications bear significant potential for translational impact within the US healthcare system, including improved diagnosis and throughput.

Prof. Akçakaya plans to integrate his research into the graduate and undergraduate curriculum, and expand the research process and outcomes to include the local community through outreach to K-12 students.

Mehmet earned his doctoral degree in 2010 from Harvard University (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences). He was a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) from 2010 to 2012, and was an instructor with Harvard Medical School (BIDMC) from 2012 to 2015. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2015  as a faculty member with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is also affiliated with the University’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. His research interests include biomedical image processing, big data signal processing, and magnetic resonance imaging. He has over 35 journal papers, and 11 approved/pending patents. He also holds an R00 award from the National Institutes of Health.

Flipping a magnetic memory cell with a light pulse

Scientists at the University of Minnesota have created a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) that can be switched by a pulse of light lasting one trillionth of a second, setting a speed record. The magnetic tunnel junction is a device critical to information technology with the termination of Moore’s law, a principle that has ruled the microelectronics industry for five decades.

This advancement holds promise for the development of new, optically controlled, ultrafast magnetic devices collectively called spintronics (electronics that combine optical and magnetic nanotechnologies). These devices could lead to innovations in the storage, processing, and communication of information in the coming decade. An example of such innovation would be the development of a system that like the human brain, can both store and analyze a large amount of data simultaneously.

The details of the device and the tests conducted on it are reported in the paper “All-Optical Switching of Magnetic Tunnel Junctions with Single Subpicosecond Laser Pulses,” published in Physical Review Applied (volume 7, issue 3).

For Prof. Mo Li, one of the lead scientists and associate professor in ECE, the outcome holds exciting prospects. “Our result establishes a new means of communication between fiber optics and magnetic devices. While fiber optics afford ultra-high data rate, magnetic devices can store data in a non-volatile way with high density.”

Typically, the MTJ has a sandwich-like structure comprising two layers of magnetic materials with an insulating layer, called barrier, in the middle. Information is written on the magnetic material by reversing the magnetization of one of the layers. This reversing process often involves spiral motion in the spinning electrons, called spin processing. However, there is a limitation on how fast the spin processing can be; the brakes are applied at roughly 1.6GHz, a current speed record that is much slower than silicon transistors. To enable faster writing speeds, the limitations on speed have to be overcome.

With the invention of a new MTJ by scientists at the University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, there is now a way to speed up things. Inspired by the 2007 discovery by Dutch and Japanese scientists that the magnetization of an alloy of gadolinium (Gd), a rare earth element, iron (Fe), and cobalt (Co) could be switched using light pulses, our scientists used the alloy to replace the upper magnetic layer of a conventional MTJ. Another modification they made to the device was to use a transparent electrical material called indium tin oxide for the electrode to allow light to pass through it. These layers are stacked into a pillar with a diameter of 10µm, which is only one tenth the diameter of a typical human hair.

To test, scientists sent laser pulses to the modified device using a low-cost laser based on optical fibers that emits ultrashort pulses of infrared light. The pulses are sent one in every microsecond (a microsecond is one millionth of a second), but each pulse is shorter than one trillionth of a second. Every time a pulse hit the MTJ pillar, the scientists observed a jump in the voltage on the device. The change in voltage confirms that the resistance of the MTJ sandwich changes each time the magnetization of the GdFeCo layer is switched. Because each laser pulse lasts less than 1 picosecond (a millionth of a microsecond), the device is capable of receiving data at a rate of 1 terabit per second!

According to C-SPIN director and ECE faculty, Prof. Jian-Ping Wang, also a lead scientist on the project, “The results offer a path towards a new category of optical spintronic devices that have the potential to address bandwidth limit and scaling challenges for future intelligent systems. These systems could use spin devices as neurons and synapses to perform computing and storage functions just like the brain, while using light to communicate the information.”

The ultimate goal for this research team is to shrink the size of the MTJ to less than 100 nanometers and reduce the required optical energy. To this end, the team is continuing its research, and is currently engaged in optimizing the material and structure of the device, and working on integrating it with nanophotonics.

In addition to Prof. Mo Li, and Prof. Jian-Ping Wang, postdoctoral associate Dr. Junyang Chen, and graduate student Li He, (both of whom made equal contributions to the work), are the leading authors of the paper.

This work was supported by C-SPIN, one of six centers of STARnet, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program, sponsored by MARCO and DARPA.

*Photo credit: Junyang Chen (an author of the paper)


Alumnus Todd Zarfos made Fellow of AIAA Class of 2017

Todd Zarfos has been inducted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to its Class of 2017 AIAA Fellows. The distinction of Fellow is conferred by the AIAA on individuals who have made significant contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics and astronautics. The Fellow Grade Committee reviews nominations of Associate Fellows from the Institute’s membership and makes recommendations to the Board of Directors, which makes the final selections. One Fellow for every 1000 voting members is elected each year.

Todd earned his B.E.E. degree in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1985. After completing his undergraduate degree, he worked with Boeing in various engineering positions, during which time he also earned his Master of Science degree at the University of Washington.

He took on positions of progressively greater responsibility and leadership, as Chief Project Engineer and later Director of Engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. He has served in several critical engineering, leadership, and strategy positions as vice-president overseeing product development for the 747, 767, and 777 programs, and the 747-8 Freighter and Intercontinental airplanes. More recently, Zarfos has served as Vice-President of Engineering for Boeing’s Commercial Aviation Services, integrating its business and technology goals. Currently he is Vice-President of Engineering for Boeing’s Washington State Design Centers (Commercial Aviation Services). He has maintained close ties with the University and currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society

The AIAA is the world’s largest aerospace professional society, with more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries and nearly 100 corporate members. Since the inception of this honor in 1934, close to 1900 fellows have been inducted. The Class of 2017 includes 21 Fellows and three Honorary Fellows.

C-SPIN’s Fourth Annual Review Ushers in Final Year

C-SPIN recently began its fifth and final year.

The Center’s fourth Annual Review marked the beginning of its final lap. As always, the Review brought together all the PIs (37 total), most of their graduate students and post-docs (67 total), and a dozen industry representatives.

The formal presentations from the PIs revealed just how far C-SPIN has pushed the frontiers of spintronics science in the past four years – and all the promising technology that can be developed in the remaining year. In particular, C-SPIN scientists plan on building and testing several new spintronic computing devices in Year 5, some of which may be taken up by industry for more development. The students and post-docs also presented over 50 posters, all of which were reviewed by at least one industry representative.

As in some previous years, C-SPIN included “deep dive” sessions in the Annual Review. These sessions brought students, PIs, and industry representatives together to share research and ideas for moving the field of spintronic computing forward. For the first time, however, C-SPIN held pre-Review “focus session” workshops to promote focused discussion about two important spintronics fields: non-STT spintronic approaches to memory and non-Boolean/non-Von Neumann computing. According to participants, these workshops generated important directions for current and future spintronics research.

C-SPIN will host a fifth Annual Review in September 2017. The Review will primarily be a celebration of the Center’s achievements since 2012, but will also serve as a launching pad for future spintronics research and development around the globe – some of which will, no doubt, include University of Minnesota researchers and facilities.

In Memoriam: Prof. William T. Peria

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering mourns the passing of Prof. William T. Peria.

Prof. Peria was an ECE faculty member from 1960 to 2001, and was department head from 1970 to 1976. He left an indelible impression on all who met and interacted with him, be they students or faculty members. Since news of his passing, remembrances have been pouring in, and the sentiment that every email or note has expressed is one of gratitude for having known him. He is remembered as being unfailingly kind, a mentor, and a tough but dedicated teacher.

As a teacher, he had high expectations from his students, and was committed to providing them with the best learning experience. About his reputation as a tough teacher, Prof. Beth Stadler has this interesting story to share: “An alumnus from Honeywell led a senior design group with me one semester.  Now successful and paying forward (by helping current students), he ran into Bill one day. He said, “Prof Peria, you were on my thesis committee.” Bill replied, “Oh, give you a hard time, did I?” The alumnus tipped his fedora and said, “Yes, and for that I thank you!” Similar stories about Prof. Peria as an exacting but nurturing teacher abound.

Faculty remember him as a great colleague, a generous mentor, and a friend who freely shared his time and resources. Prof. Ned Mohan remembers being hired in 1975 as an assistant professor, when Prof. Peria was the head of the department. Despite his own research field being different, he introduced Mohan to as many Twin Cities power communities as he knew.

Like Peria, Prof. Doug Ernie too worked with vacuum systems and gas discharges, and he remembers having frequent discussions over their experiment results or problems with equipment. It was in the course of the many lunches at Campus Club, where Prof. Peria regularly held a table, that Ernie learned about his involvement in the development of standard surface diagnostic techniques, and the establishment of Physical Electronics in 1969. In Ernie’s words: “I can’t thank him enough for all his help, advice, and friendship over the years. He will be greatly missed.”

Prof. Peria is also remembered for being an unassuming individual, who had a deep dislike for awards. Prof. Bill Robbins notes: “I recall him on several occasions offering the opinion that the paychecks we receive for doing our jobs serve as faculty awards.”

Of his generosity, Prof. Rhonda Franklin has this to say: “He was one of the first in the department to help me set up to conduct porous silicon research and generously shared resources he had in his lab.” On a similar note, Prof. Stadler comments how he gave her spare parts for a sputtering system in her lab, when it needed repairs, during her early days in the department when she had no funding of her own.

In all the remembrances coming in from faculty, there is the constant note of Prof. William Peria being a friend and a principled man. An instance recounted by Prof. Jim Leger illustrates this: “I remember walking to the Campus Club with him one cold winter lunchtime. We all stopped at the stoplight to cross Washington Ave.  There being no cars in sight, we started to walk across the street, against the red light.  At the other end, we looked around to see Bill still standing at the light.  We waited for him to cross when the light turned green. When he rejoined the group he said, “You know, if you don’t show concern for the law in front of these students, they are never going to respect it.” 

Prof. Jim Holte’s words probably best represent the department’s collective sentiment: “Bill was my best friend. No one can replace him.”

To honor the work and legacy of Prof. Peria, ECE faculty will be meeting at the Campus Club on Friday, Feb. 10, at 4:30 pm.

Obituary on Prof. William T. Peria in Star Tribune

Prof. Sairaj Dhople Named 2017-19 McKnight Land-Grant Professor

Prof. Sairaj Dhople has been named McKnight Land-Grant Professor. He is one of nine recipients of the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Program for 2017-19. His research is primarily concerned with ways by which renewable sources such as solar and wind power can be harnessed in conjunction with conventional sources such as coal and nuclear power. Among his significant contributions to the field are development of high performance electronics for photovoltaic energy conversion systems, computer modeling of renewable energy systems reliability, control of small-footprint power systems known as microgrids, and optimal management of photovoltaic systems. Prof. Dhople has also crossed disciplinary borders and collaborated with other departments in engineering, biosystems, and public policy. A notable example is his work with Prof. Anu Ramaswami at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs as part of the National Science Foundation Sustainable Research Network. The network connects faculty in institutions  across the United States and abroad to develop and operate smart and sustainable cities in the future. His research group has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Department of Energy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Program was established to advance the careers of new assistant professors at a crucial point in their professional lives. The designation of “McKnight Land-Grant Professor” is held by recipients for a two-year period.

More information on the program 

Prof. Rhonda Franklin Receives 2016-17 Tate Award

Prof. Rhonda Franklin has been awarded the 2016-17 John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. She is one of four recipients named for this year’s award. Prof. Franklin has been a keen and dedicated participant in the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), and the NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. As ECE’s interim Director of Undergraduate Studies, she renovated the welcome event to make it more student friendly, and introduced new programs that specifically addressed the needs of students based on where they were in their academic career. She has been a mentor to female faculty across the United States through the Next Prof program (administered by the University of Michigan). Prof. Franklin initiated and has been an active participant in “Preparing Teachers to Prepare Future Engineers,” a program in the Roseville Area Schools. She was instrumental in the founding of the IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) student branch in the University, and served as its first faculty advisor. As an engineer and scientist, she has been an active member of IEEE, planning and participating in programs that introduce students to microwave and wireless technologies, which are her specific areas of research interest. Prof. Franklin has a long and distinguished record of active engagement and achievements not only as a scientist, but also as a mentor helping her students and other charges through professional development and career planning.

The John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising is named in honor of John Tate, Professor of Physics and first Dean of University College (1930-41). The Tate Awards serve to recognize and reward high-quality advising at the University of Minnesota. They call attention to the contributions academic advising and career services make in helping students formulate and achieve intellectual, career, and personal goals. By recognizing professionals for their outstanding commitment to students, the Tate Awards celebrate the role that academic advising and career services play in the University’s educational mission. The other recipients of this year’s award are Chyng-En Anny Lin Senior Academic Advisor, Undergraduate Program, Carlson School of Management, Prof. Jennifer Jane Marshall, Art History, and Megan Seltz, Senior Academic Advisor, Construction and Facility Management, Undergraduate Programs, College of Continuing Education.

The award ceremony will be held on March 9, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium.

See Prof. Franklin at the European Microwave Conference in London (video in second row, right)


Prof. John Sartori Wins NSF CAREER Award for “Application-specific Power Management”


Prof. John Sartori has been awarded the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. This is one of the most prestigious awards instituted by the NSF to recognize and support faculty early in their careers who show the potential to “serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” The CAREER award ranges from $400,000 to $500,000 (depending on the research area) and is disbursed over a 5-year period.

John’s research will focus on the development of novel techniques for application-specific power management that will reduce the power consumed by general purpose processors (GPPs) without reducing performance. Low-power GPPs are used extensively in several key current and emerging applications such as smart sensors, health monitors, wearable electronics, and the internet of things. The energy efficiency of these systems determines essential characteristics such as size, weight, cost, reliability, and lifespan. Prof. Sartori’s research has the potential to significantly reduce power and energy requirements for emerging low-power systems, which could result in devices that weigh and cost less, but have greater reliability and a longer lifespan. His research also provides a non-intrusive way to improve the energy efficiency of existing systems without re-designing system hardware or software.

Prof. Sartori will use the NSF award to continue to integrate his research goals with his educational activities, and provide research experience for undergraduate and graduate students. Educational activities will center around project-based learning experiences that will allow students to directly engage and contribute to knowledge creation in the project, while also learning key engineering and research skills. Sartori has consistently refreshed courses that he leads with substantial project-based learning components that are essential to helping students not only learn critical engineering skills and concepts, but also put them into practice. He has included a project symposium or design show in each class that he teaches that afford students a platform to deploy what they have learned, and also develop soft skills such as presenting their work to a public audience. EE 1301 is an example of this endeavor. Required of all students aspiring to enter the electrical and computer engineering majors, John helped to redesign the course, and it now introduces students to the emerging field of internet-of-things (IoT) devices that are quickly becoming the most abundant type of computer part manufactured and deployed today. Under the new course design, students create IoT devices, under the broad requirements that these devices connect to the Internet, have the ability to sense the environment, and change the environment as appropriate. The course culminates in a design show which provides a means of community outreach to engage K-12 students as well as other members of the university and the community at large. The NSF CAREER award will also allow Prof. Sartori to engage in global outreach by introducing education on IoT technology to a Kenyan  educational initiative on best practices in farming.

John earned his doctoral degree in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he joined the University of Minnesota soon after. He is the recipient of several best paper awards, and the author of three invited conference papers, besides authoring over 30 regular conference papers. His research contributions include the creation of automated techniques for approximate hardware and error-resilient software design, study of peak power management for many-core processors, exploration of CAD and architecture methodologies for energy-efficient multi-modal processing, and the feasibility and benefits of computing with programmable stochastic processors. His leading research interests include extreme energy efficiency, stochastic computing, and exploiting parallelism and scalability.