Alumna Prof. Becky Peterson named Director of Lurie Nanofabrication Facility

University of Minnesota and ECE alumna Prof. Becky Peterson was recently named the new director of the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility at the University of Michigan. The facility serves the University of Michigan as well as users from other institutions and industry. 

Peterson is an associate professor at the University of Michigan, in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, with courtesy appointments in the Applied Physics Program, and the Materials Science and Engineering Department. She joined the department as a tenure track faculty in 2013. She earned her MSEE degree from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities under the guidance of Prof. Rhonda Franklin, working on porous silicon for RF MEMS applications. She went on to earn her doctoral degree from Princeton University, NJ. She was a post-doctoral researcher at the Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, at the University of Cambridge, UK, working on solution-processed thin film transistors.

Prof. Peterson’s research interests include thin film electronics, semiconductor physics, and device fabrication, and self-assembled nanofabrication, and additive manufacturing of electronics. 

Learn more about Prof. Becky Peterson’s appointment

Prof. Jian-Ping Wang Elected Fellow of American Physical Society

Distinguished McKnight University Professor Jian-Ping Wang has been elected fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). The APS citation reads: “For outstanding contributions to the synthesis and fundamental understanding of magnetic and spintronic materials, and to the fabrication of devices for applications in computing.”

The Society’s Fellowship Program recognizes members who have contributed to the advancement of physics through original research, publication, innovations in science and technology, teaching, and service.

Jian-Ping’s research interests include nano magnetic and spintronic materials and devices, magnetic and spintronic information storage and computing technologies, magnetic biomedical technologies. His contributions to the study and innovations in the field of magnetism are immense: 400 refereed journal papers, with an h-index of 57. He also holds 40 patents, besides 16 that are pending. He was among the first scientists to demonstrate the exchange-coupled composite (ECC) disk media for magnetic recording, which addressed key problems facing perpendicular recording technology, and extended areal density up to 1 Terabit/square inch. His work gained him the 2006 Technical Achievement Award from the Information Storage Industry Consortium, and the ECC media has been in use by the hard disk drive industry since 2016. He also made important contributions to the development of L1₀ Iron-Platinum thin films used in heat assisted magnetic recording media and is the inventor of a nanoparticle deposition technique to fabricate monodispersed L1₀ Iron-Platinum fine nanoparticles. 

Jian-Ping’s 2019 SRC Technical Excellence Award serves as a testimony to his outstanding contributions to spintronics: he was among the first to study spin transfer torque in a perpendicular magnetoresistance device, and invented a fully functional programmable spintronic type logic device based on magnetic tunnel junction. His work has advanced the use of metallic spintronic devices for in-memory processing. His accomplishments include the first experimental observation and theoretical calculation of the quantum confinement effect in granular topological insulator thin films, and demonstration of magnetization switching using topological insulators as a spin-orbit torque channel.

In addition to his research contributions, Jian-Ping has also generously shared his time and expertise with the magnetics community as Program Co-Chair for the 2015 Intermag Conference, and as Director of C-SPIN from 2012 through 2017. Starting 2018, Jian-Ping has been serving as Director of SMART (Spintronic Materials for Advanced Information Technologies). Both C-SPIN and SMART are world class research centers that bring together scientists from across the nation to develop technologies for spin-based computing and memory systems.

Fellowship in the APS is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers. Each year, no more than one half of one percent of the Society’s membership (excluding student members) is recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Learn more about Prof. Jian-Ping Wang’s research.

Labs and Lectures Look Different This Fall

You Can Help Us Retool

The return to classrooms for students across the country has been vastly altered. The pandemic has forced several changes in course delivery, classroom setup, and several other typical student activities at all levels and settings from elementary schools to four year institutions. We at the University of Minnesota are similarly working with our students in classrooms that have been altered to fit in with the realities of our new pandemic altered landscape.

For students and instructors in ECE, the fall 2020 semester will look very different, although our collective missions stay the same. Our students will return curious as always, ready to solve problems, and seek answers. And our instructors will be ready to nourish  curiosity, stoke imaginations, and teach our students how to solve problems. 

To continue our legacy of excellence in education, the department will be introducing several changes to physical learning spaces such as labs and classrooms, as well as learning support resources such as tutoring and group work. Here are some ways in which we are continuing our academic mission.

And you can help us carry on the legacy.


Classes for the fall 2020 semester will be delivered using in-person, remote (synchronous), online (asynchronous), and hybrid modalities, and we are using a variety of different technologies to support student learning. One instance is the use of Digilent’s Analog Discovery 2 (AD2), an instrument that can measure, generate, control, and perform several other functions, and substitute for standard laboratory equipment in some cases. A USB device, it can be simply plugged into a student’s computer. ECE will be mailing these out to international students unable to get back to the U.S., and to students who are unable to attend classes or labs in person because they are immuno-compromised or live with someone who is. Most students however, will be in our labs, learning about circuits, electronics, and embedded systems as they always have.

We have developed protocols, and rearranged the labs to accommodate a safe learning environment. After reviewing the ECE lab occupancy capabilities, several adaptations have been identified to provide high quality distanced in-person instruction to our students. For instance, with the move to handwritten homework being scanned and submitted online, teaching assistants will use pen-based input devices to complete grading. A successful prototype program was executed in spring and is ready to be deployed this fall using iPads and pens.

EE 3005, Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering, and EE 3006, the accompanying lab, are service courses that the department provides to mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering and mechanics majors. This course has a large number of students and labs are always completely full, making it particularly difficult to transition to in-person distanced instruction. An effort is underway this summer to offer an online-only version of this lab. This requires take-home (loaned) equipment which provides the same features as our in-lab scopes, signal generators, and power supplies. Digilent’s Analog Discovery 2 (AD2) is a USB device that plugs into a student’s computer and provides all these features. We would like to expand this program into two sections this fall requiring 26 AD2 devices plus accessories (~$210 each.) In addition, we would need 0.5 additional TA appointments ($42k each) to service these sections. This would cost $27,000.


Junior and senior design courses are inherently group-based and executing a group project in a socially distanced manner requires rethinking the way we implement our lab space for these courses. The use of 7 feet hexagonal tables will allow students to work together without encroaching on personal space. Lab equipment will be placed in the middle to allow some isolation, and yet allow students to talk across the table with each other.


The IEEE honor society HKN is working on more nimble tutoring solutions. One option that is being actively considered is the use of a Discord server so our HKN tutors can deliver online and socially distanced tutoring, making sure students keep up with the challenges of the classroom while they deal with the challenges of the pandemic. These are just some of the ways in which the department is preparing for the upcoming academic year. There might be hurdles along the way, but we are ready to tackle them, and ensure that our students have a fulfilling and rewarding learning and co-curricular experience. 

Classes and labs are looking different this fall, but they will remain true to ECE’s legacy of academic excellence. With your support, we can provide our students with the outstanding educational experience they have earned through their own years of hard work. Gifts of all sizes matter and will make an immediate impact as students return to learning. Thank you for considering a gift in support of ECE students!


*The carousel image for the story is a photograph of Keller Hall layered over with an illustration by chenspec from Pixabay.*

Prof. Ned Mohan and Dr. Siddharth Raju Author Textbook on Electric Drives

Regents Professor Ned Mohan (NAE) and Dr. Siddharth Raju are the authors of Analysis and Control of Electric Drives: Simulations and Laboratory Implementations. Designed as a textbook for both undergraduate and graduate students, and published by Wiley (September 2020), the book offers a comprehensive understanding of electric drives and their applications in electric vehicles and wind turbines. It begins with a basic overview of information required to understand electric drives, and an examination of DC and AC machines in steady state using a physics-based approach. The book also includes information on electric machines with Interior Permanent Magnets. The content layout and features, and topics covered make the book an essential guide to understanding electric vehicles, wind turbines, and increased efficiency of motor-driven systems.

Regents Professor Ned Mohan is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering,  Oscar A. Schott Professor of Power Electronic Systems, and Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Ned specializes in energy systems and power electronics, and his work is an embodiment of the University’s key missions: research and education. He carries out these entwined missions with his eyes set on the future, while being keenly aware of the simultaneous need for access, equality, and social justice. He has worked tirelessly to introduce innovations in both areas, power engineering education, and research. 

Ned is the founder of CUSP (Consortium of Universities for Sustainable Power), an organization comprising 450 faculty from 235 universities in the United States. He has authored five widely used textbooks on power systems and power electronics that have been translated into nine languages and implemented as standard texts in universities in the United States. All textbooks are published by Wiley. 

Dr. Siddharth Raju earned his doctoral degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2017 for his work on multi-level matrix converters. His research interests include real-time embedded controls, electric drives controls, power electronics numerical modelling, and AC-AC power converter design. Siddharth is deeply motivated by the need to make education more accessible, and recognizes the need to replace modelling software that are limiting because of the costs associated with them.

Dr. Siddharth Raju and Prof. Ned Mohan have been working to create a free-of-cost modelling and real-time control platform through grants from the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Working on their goal to increase accessibility of lab resources, Siddharth and his colleagues established Sciamble Corp. in November 2018, based on the license obtained from the University of Minnesota for research conducted towards his master’s and doctoral degrees. The startup builds the lab kits developed in Ned’s lab, and makes them commercially available at low costs. Over the next few years, Siddharth hopes to further diversify the products offered by Sciamble Corp., and reach a broader audience. Currently, the team are working on a project that will offer users remote lab capability.

Commenting on Analysis and Control of Electric Drives, Siddharth points to its unique feature: “It starts from the very basic physics required, followed by the theory of AC/DC motor operation and basic controls for the undergraduate user, and ends with advanced controls of AC motors for the graduate user.”

The book also includes detailed simulation models in MATLAB Simulink as well as the Sciamble Workbench. Eventually, the combination of the simulation models, the workbench, and remote lab capability could allow anyone using the book instant access to try the concepts learnt using both simulation and an actual piece of hardware.

Prof. Mingyi Hong Receives Intel-NSF Research Award and 2020 IBM University Award

Prof. Mingyi Hong was recently named the recipient of 2 awards: an Intel-NSF joint research award to develop artificial neural networks for wireless network systems, and the 2020 IBM University Award.


The Intel-NSF joint research award for wireless communication stems from the program, Machine Learning for Wireless Network Systems (MLWiNS), the latest effort in a series of programs jointly undertaken by Intel and NSF to encourage and speed up innovations in wireless communications for future applications. 

The MLWiNS program lays particular emphasis on machine learning as it has the potential to manage and support the growing complexity and density of a burgeoning wireless network.

With this award, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities will partner with Northwestern University, and Oregon State University to work on a project titled, “Artificial Neural Networks for Interference Limited Wireless Networks.” 

The goal of the project is to develop solutions for wireless access networks to meet future demand for wireless data services by increasing capacity and maximizing network utilization while also overcoming the limitations of current solutions. Under the aegis of the Intel-NSF grant, the project will introduce novel artificial neural networks (ANN) based tools to enable a new data-driven design of next generation wireless systems.

The groups’ research will entail merging supervised and unsupervised learning techniques with time-tested models of physical resources, channels, traffic, and network utilities. This involves the critical task of exploiting commonalities of ANN-based solutions for a number of subproblems that will then contribute to the development of solutions for the larger wireless networking problem. The driving questions that Mingyi and researchers at the partner institutions will seek to answer are when, how, and why ANN-based learning techniques can be applied to a wide range of wireless networking problems with realistic constraints. The intent is to develop scalable, efficient, and adaptive solutions supported by theoretical backing that together can offer generalizable design principles. These ANN-based solutions are expected to be a major building block for next generation wireless access networks. The project is aimed to benefit industry, as well as academic research. According to Mingyi, “The framework that will be designed in this project will enable the researchers to properly integrate classical model-based approaches with the emerging data-driven approaches, and will have the potential of finding new algorithms, and wireless system architectures that are far more efficient than the state-of-the-art.”

Commenting on the significance of his work, Mingyi says: We envision that data-driven approaches, such as the ANN based learning techniques to be designed in this project, will be fundamental to the design of next generation wireless networks.


There is a pressing need to explore and introduce innovations in wireless communications that can be available to vertical and horizontal markets and consumers. The Intel press release on the awards spells it out explicitly: “As demand for advanced connected services and devices grows, future wireless networks will need to meet the challenging density, latency, throughput and security requirements these applications will require. Machine learning shows great potential to manage the size and complexity of such networks – addressing the demand for capacity and coverage while maintaining the stringent and diverse quality of service expected from network users. At the same time, sophisticated networks and devices create an opportunity for machine learning services and computation to be deployed closer to where the data is generated, which alleviates bandwidth, privacy, latency and scalability concerns to move data to the cloud.”

As we all log on and connect to the internet, and as the number of such devices connecting increases exponentially, we have to turn our attention to how and whether our existing networks can support such device density. (Estimates indicate that by 2025, approximately 75 billion devices will be connected to the internet.)

In a conversation with Forbes contributor John Koetsier, Thyaga Nandagopal, a deputy director with the NSF, says: “Traditional 4G networks that your current mobile devices rely on typically can support a region that has about 300 to 2,000 devices in their coverage area. We are thinking about device densities [with] tens of thousands in a small region … [going] all the way up to millions of devices in a coverage area of a single cell site in a wireless network.”

MLWiNS, the Intel-NSF joint program, was established to develop improvements to wireless networking in such extremely device dense environments. A highly competitive program, it has granted 15 awards to multiple institutions. 

More information about the awards and descriptions of projects are available in the Intel newsroom and press release fact sheet.


Prof. Mingyi Hong was also recently recognized with the 2020 IBM University Award for his contributions to decentralized and adversarial learning in his project, “Decentralized Robust Adversarial Learning for Scalable Trustworthy AI.” The award promotes research and innovation in areas that comprise strategic interest for IBM as well as academic institutions.

Mingyi’s work will address a significant limitation of today’s machine learning (ML): the lack of robustness against adversarial attacks. This research project proposes a novel framework to significantly improve the efficiency in training machine learning systems so that they can be robust under such attacks. By utilizing cutting-edge decentralized optimization-based techniques, the proposed design will be able to utilize large-scale, and heterogeneous distributed computational resources, and obtain 100x speedup compared to the state-of-the art schemes. The proposed work is expected to have impact beyond the theoretical domain. By using the algorithms developed in this work, companies can release officially robust pre-trained ML models, and users can then fine-tune their down-stream robust ML models.

Nominations for the IBM University awards are through IBM employees who have technical and/or research collaborations with full-time faculty at an accredited institution that has a graduate program in their field. Nominees should have made outstanding contributions to their field or show great professional promise.

Prof. Mingyi Hong earned his doctoral degree in systems and information engineering from the University of Virginia in 2011. His research interests are in the areas of design and optimizing future generations of networks including wireless and energy networks; theory and methods for statistical and distributed signal processing; the theory and methods of large-scale optimization; the theory and methods for machine learning and big data.

Alumna Laura Odell Receives Society of Women Engineers’ WE20 Spark Award

Alumna Laura Odell was recently honored with the WE20 Spark Award by the Society of Women Engineers. The award recognizes individuals who have “contributed to the advancement of women by mentoring those around them.” 

Laura earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1986 from the University of Minnesota. She currently serves as an assistant director in the Information Technology and Systems Division (ITSD) of the Institute for Defense Analyses’ Systems and Analyses Center. 

In IDA’s news release covering the award news, Laura emphasizes the importance of an advocate who can support a newer entrant in a field, someone who can provide clarity and guidance. She says, “Everyone needs an advocate to offer up their name when opportunities arise, a coach to help them understand what they don’t learn in textbooks and classrooms, and a mentor to understand their vision for themselves and guide them through the progression of their career aspirations.”

Commending Laura on receiving the SWE honor in the release, Margaret Myers, ITSD director says, “I am so proud of Laura for her contributions to advancing women professionals at IDA. She’s taken the initiative to support these individuals and their development while creating an inclusive and collaborative environment where they thrive.”

SWE typically recognizes awardees by hosting a SWE Awards Banquet. However, to keep all guests safe in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura and other award recipients will be recognized during a virtual awards ceremony at SWE’s WE20 Virtual Conference and Career Fair, November 2–13, 2020. Recipients of all WE20 awards can be found in the SWE news Alltogether.

Prof. Yahya Tousi Receives DARPA’s 2020 Young Faculty Award

Prof. Yahya Tousi is a recipient of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s 2020 Young Faculty Award for his project titled, “Wideband and Interference-Resilient Mixed Mode Time Transfer for Distributed Radios.”

The purpose of the DARPA YFA is to identify and support promising junior researchers and expose them to the needs of the Department of Defense, and “DARPA’s program development process”, and to develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who will focus a significant portion of their career on DoD and National Security issues.

Yahya’s research interests lie in high-performance circuits and novel architectures for mm-wave and terahertz systems with applications in communication, sensing, and healthcare. Under his guidance, his research group focuses on building innovative integrated systems with applications ranging from high performance wireless communication and radar, to low power and low cost sensing and imaging.

In 2017, Yahya and co-authors were recipients of IEEE’s Journal of Solid State Circuits (JSSC) best paper award for “A 28-GHz 32-element TRX phased-array IC with concurrent dual-polarized operation and orthogonal phase and gain control for 5G communications.” An eminent publication in the field of integrated circuits and systems, JSSC presents the award to the best paper among all those published in the journal during the previous year.

Prof. Yahya Tousi earned his doctoral degree from Cornell University in 2012. After graduation, he was with Situne Corporation, San Jose, CA working on integrated wideband satellite receivers. In 2014, he joined IBM T. J. Watson Research Center at Yorktown Heights, NY, where he contributed to the realization of one of the first fully-integrated 5G mm-wave phased-array transceiver on silicon. Among his other accomplishments are the 2011 IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Graduate Fellowship, the 2011-12 IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society Pre-Doctoral Achievement Award, and the 2017 ISSCC Lewis Award for Outstanding Paper. He joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota in 2017 as an Assistant Professor.

Learn more about Prof. Yahya Tousi’s research.

ECE faculty steps in to contribute to pandemic mitigation measures


At the start of the spring 2020 term, Prof. Rhonda Franklin embarked on a semester leave to focus on her research projects, and learn and share her expertise at conferences. But by March, there were signs that things would probably not play out as she planned. As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, and the shortage of personal protective equipment started dominating the news, Rhonda began to look for ways in which she could make a difference to the evolving situation. She reached out to Prof. John Bischof (Carl and Janet Kuhrmeyer Chair in Mechanical Engineering), director of the University of Minnesota Institute for Engineering in Medicine inquiring about how she could help. That inquiry culminated in Rhonda leading a team of University scientists who designed and developed MNmask Style 3, a mask meant for wider use beyond healthcare workers.

Learn more about MNmask Style 3 and how Prof. Rhonda Franklin and her collaborators developed it.

Vidya Chhabria Receives Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship

Doctoral student Vidya Chhabria is a recipient of the Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Fellowship is awarded by the Graduate School to women graduate students in the natural or physical sciences and engineering, who hold superior academic records and show professional promise.


Vidya’s research focuses on electronic design automation (EDA) which helps in the systematic, efficient, and rapid design of complex electronic circuits. These circuits have billions of microscopic components that are tightly packed into small packages. The increased complexity of compact electronic systems such as implantable medical devices and cell phones have led to increased chip power densities. This can affect performance and cause heating issues which impact battery life, and lead to device failure. Vidya’s research primarily addresses this challenge. Her work involves developing novel algorithms that leverage machine learning (ML) techniques to automatically design power delivery networks and analyze temperature, performing both tasks across the entire chip. 

EDA tools typically design chips using heuristic methods which have been rather effective. With the help of machine learning (ML), chip designers can now leverage decades worth of designs by turning the data into valuable insight. ML-based EDA tools minimize errors in new designs, and reduce costs and turnaround times.


Chip design costs have risen exponentially over the years because of two key reasons: the prohibitive costs of EDA software, and the cost of chip fabrication. Vidya’s research has the potential to make a valuable contribution towards reducing costs. She is working on building open-source software by contributing to the OpenROAD project (Foundations and Realization of Open Accessible Design), an effort that involves over 30 researchers across four universities that aims to create a public-domain EDA toolchain. She is also working towards establishing a new machine learning (ML) paradigm that develops novel software to analyze the impact of the high power densities on power delivery network design, and temperature for advanced chips.

Vidya earned her bachelor’s degree in India. While an undergraduate student, her senior design project in digital logic design proved to be a turning point: the experience cemented her interest in the field. As a graduate student at the University, she has been working under the guidance of Prof. Sachin Sapatnekar, contributing towards research in the field. For her, the field combines her enthusiasm for algorithms and hardware design, which enable the development of complex systems with diverse applications. The interdisciplinary nature of EDA, and its capacity to build advanced systems with extensive applications motivate her interest in the field. 

Prof. Rhonda Franklin and Prof. Chris Pennell (Medical School) receive IEM Abbott Professorships in Innovative Education

Prof. Rhonda Franklin is an inaugural recipient of the IEM Abbott Professorships in Innovative Education awarded by the Institute for Engineering in Medicine. She shares the award with Prof. Chris Pennell of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. 

The newly instituted Abbott Professorships will be awarded to the faculty co-directors of the IEM Inspire Program which aims to motivate students to pursue STEM careers in medicine and healthcare. 

Sharing her thoughts on the award, Prof. Franklin says, “The program’s aim is to connect students from diverse backgrounds to careers in engineering for medicine.  Dr. Chris Pennell and I are working together to develop a program that supports exposing and preparing students for careers in engineering with applications to biomedicine as well as medicine.”

Learn more about the Abbott Professorship and the goals of the inaugural recipients.