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.

Prof. Giannakis Ranked Among Top Researchers Worldwide in Computer Science and Electronics

Prof. Georgios Giannakis from ECE is ranked 18 worldwide in the areas of computer science and electronics, and has an H-index of 123. The author of more than 380 journal articles and 650 refereed conference proceedings publications, he has over 58,000 citations. In addition, he has authored seven books and numerous book chapters.

Prof. Giannakis has served as director of the University of Minnesota’s Digital Technology Center since 2008. He  has also held the ADC Endowed Chair in Wireless Telecommunications since 2001. He holds 28 patents in wireless technologies, several related to the 4G LTE standard. More recently, he has been a pace-setting leader in bringing the power of statistical signals and system theory to the emerging challenges in the smart grid and the integration of renewable energy systems into the grid. He is ranked at the top in areas of signal processing and wireless communication. 

He has received numerous awards from the University and professional organizations, including being named the inaugural recipient of the Fourier Technical Field Award in Signal Processing by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2015.

Prof. Giannakis has been honored with one of the University’s highest faculty awards, a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair. The Presidential Endowed Chair acknowledges the critical contributions of University faculty to the missions of research, education, and public engagement. Prof. Giannakis is only the third professor from the College of Science and Engineering to receive the honor.

He has advised or co-advised 43 Ph.D. students and 55 post-doctoral fellows and has led more than 60 sponsored projects with funding in excess of $16 million. He leads a research team of 20, comprising doctoral students, postdoctoral associates, and visiting researchers.

Prof. Giannakis received his undergraduate degree in electrical and electronic engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece in 1981. He   went on to receive master’s degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics in 1983 and 1986 and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1986, all from the University of Southern California. After serving as a professor at the University of Virginia, Giannakis joined the University of Minnesota faculty in 1999.

Hamza Farooq in Nature’s Scientific Reports

Doctoral candidate Hamza Farooq from ECE, in collaboration with other researchers and faculty from CMRR and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has shown that intricate brain tissue microstructure imaging can be obtained using diffusion MRI (dMRI) data. The paper titled “Microstructure Imaging of Crossing (MIX) White Matter Fibers from diffusion MRI” published in the Nature research journal Scientific Reports, addresses the key question of imaging crossing white matter fibers with their detailed tissue structure. It presents a new and versatile technique to fit advanced biophysical models to dMRI data, thus identifying features such as axonal orientation dispersion, density, and diameter in complex white matter fiber configurations. The study not only provides a flexible computational framework that enables evaluation and classification tissue analysis, but also improves state of the art tissue biophysical models. Hamza is advised by Prof. Emeritus Tryphon Georgiou from ECE and Prof. Christophe Lenglet from CMRR.


Prof. Sachin Sapatnekar Named ACM Fellow

The Association for Computing Machinery has named Prof. Sachin Sapatnekar as one of its 2016 ACM Fellows for “contributions to the enhancement of performance and reliability in integrated circuits.” Prof. Sapatnekar’s research focuses on computer-aided design (CAD) of VLSI systems. Some of the  specific problems that his research team have worked on recently include spintronics-based design, thermal analysis, reliability, timing analysis and optimization, power grid analysis, and 3D integration.

Sachin Sapatnekar earned his doctoral degree in 1992 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 1992 to 1997, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota in 1997, and holds the Robert and Marjorie Henle Chair and the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship. He has served on the editorial boards of several IEEE journals, and also as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on CAD. He has been technical program chair and general chair for several conferences. These include the Design Automation Conference (DAC), and the International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD). He is a recipient of the NSF Career Award, the SRC Technical Excellence Award, the SIA University Researcher Award,  and several Best Paper Awards at the DAC and other conferences. Most recently, he received the ICCAD Ten-Year Retrospective Most Influential Paper Award for the second time. He is also a Fellow of IEEE.

The Fellows program was established by the ACM in 1993 to recognize the professional, technical and leadership-based contributions of its outstanding members. The number of members recognized as Fellows cannot exceed one percent of the number of ACM professional members. The 2016 Fellows have been recognized for contributions in areas that impact our work and daily life. These include cloud computing, computer security, data science, Internet routing and security, large-scale distributed computing, mobile computing, spoken-language processing and theoretical computer science.

Best Poster Award for Chunhui Dai

ECE doctoral student Chunhui Dai has won the Best Poster award at the 2016 Materials Research Society’s (MRS) Fall meeting. His research poster was one of only 5 Best Poster award winners from among 600 posters presented at the MRS meeting. Chunhui’s poster is titled “Nanoscale In Situ Self-Assembly Using Ion-Beam Microscopy System.” He is advised by Prof. Jeong-Hyun Cho.

In the Crystal (Ball): Future Perspectives and Applications of 2D Materials

In an international/multi-institutional undertaking, Prof. Tony Low from ECE and researchers from other institutions have conducted a study that highlights how manipulation of 2D materials could make our modern day devices faster, smaller, and better. The findings are published in the most recent edition of Nature Materials, a leading journal in materials science and engineering research.

Two-dimensional materials are a class of nanomaterials that are only a few atoms in thickness. Electrons in these materials are free to move in the two-dimensional plane, but their restricted motion in the third direction is governed by quantum mechanics. Research on these nanomaterials is still in its infancy, but 2D materials such as graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides, and black phosphorus have attracted attention from scientists and engineers for their potential to improve electronic and photonic devices.

In this study, researchers from the University of Minnesota, MIT, Stanford, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, IBM, and universities in Brazil, UK and Spain, teamed up to present a state-of-the-art review that unifies understanding, for the scientific community, of light-matter interactions in 2D materials, and explores possibilities for future research. They discuss how polaritons, a class of quasiparticles formed through the coupling of photons with electric charge dipoles in solid, allow researchers to marry the speed of photons to the small size of electrons.

“With our devices, we want speed, efficiency, and we want small. Polaritons could offer the answer,” said Tony Low, a professor at the University of Minnesota with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is also the lead author of the study.

By exciting the polaritons in 2D materials, electromagnetic energy can be focused down to a volume a million times smaller compared to when it’s propagating in free space.

“Layered two-dimensional materials have emerged as a fantastic toolbox for nano-photonics and nano-optoelectronics, providing tailored design and tunability for properties that are not possible to realize with conventional materials,” said Frank Koppens, group leader at the Institute of Photonic Sciences at Barcelona, Spain, and co-author of the study. “This will offer tremendous opportunities for applications.”

Pointing out the potential applications, Phaedon Avouris, IBM Fellow at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and co-author of the paper says, “For example, an atomic layer material like graphene extends the field of plasmonics to the infrared and terahertz regions of the electromagnetic spectrum allowing unique applications ranging from sensing and fingerprinting minute amounts of biomolecules, to applications in optical communications, energy harvesting and security imaging.”

The new study also examined the possibilities of combining 2D materials; combining these materials could create new materials that may have the best qualities of both.

To read the full research paper, entitled “Polaritons in layered two-dimensional materials,” visit the Nature Materials website.

The above post has been extensively drawn from the CSE news release by Rhonda Zurn. To read the complete news release, please check

Prof. Steven Koester Named IEEE Fellow

ECE faculty, Prof. Steven Koester has been named an IEEE Fellow effective January 2017. He is cited by the IEEE for “contributions to group-IV electronic and photonic devices.” Prof. Koester’s research focuses on novel electronic, photonic and sensing device concepts with an emphasis on graphene and other 2D materials. He has authored or co-authored over 200 technical publications, conference presentations, and book chapters, and holds 65 United States patents. He is an associate director for the SRC/DARPA-funded center for spintronic materials interfaces and novel architectures (C-SPIN) and an associate editor for IEEE Electron Device Letters.

Steven Koester earned his doctoral degree in 1995 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1997 to 2010 he was a research staff member at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and performed research on a variety of electronic and optoelectronic devices, with an emphasis on those utilizing the Si/SiGe material system. From 2006-2010 he served as manager of Exploratory Technology at IBM Research where his team investigated advanced devices and integration concepts for use in future generations of microprocessor technology. Since 2010, he has been a Professor with the Department Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota.  

The grade of Fellow, the highest membership grade, is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors on individuals with an outstanding record of accomplishments in an IEEE field of interest. Fewer than one-tenth of one percent of the total number of voting members are elevated as Fellows. The grade is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.