2019 Innovation Award for Prof. Jian-Ping Wang

In recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit and his outstanding ability to bring to life and commercialize innovative new technologies, Prof. Jian-Ping Wang (Robert Hartmann Chair in Electrical Engineering) has been awarded the 2019 Innovation Award for Entrepreneurial Researcher. The award celebrates his research on the magnetic spin of electrons, and exploration of its usage for next-generation computing technologies. His work has led to the setting up of two startups: Niron, and Zepto Life Technology.

Founded in 2014, Jian-Ping’s start up Niron Magnetics is engaged in the mass production of permanent magnets. Niron’s proprietary iron nitride magnets have greater magnetization and are the less expensive answer to rare-earth magnets, ready to revolutionize the design of electric motors and generators. The magnets are manufactured by a unique process said to be the first of its kind in the world.

Zepto Life Technology is engaged in pioneering work that supports early disease detection that can lead to better patient outcomes and reduce the burden of cost on the patient. The company is developing portable diagnostic devices as well as large scale diagnostic equipment, based on giant magnetoresistance technology and information technology, that are highly sensitive, low cost, and easy to use.

The Innovation Awards, hosted by the OVPR, are a celebration of the achievements of the University’s researchers and the breakthroughs that come about as a result of their efforts. There are four categories of the award: Early Innovator, Entrepreneurial Researcher, Impact, and Committee’s Choice. Read more about the award here

Learn more about Prof. Wang’s research

Learn more about spintronics

Prof. Tony Low Receives McKnight Presidential Fellowship

Prof. Tony Low has been awarded the McKnight Presidential Fellowship for 2019-2020 through 2021-2022. The award recognizes his outstanding research into light-matter interactions in two-dimensional atomic crystals.

Professor Tony Low has made significant contributions to the fundamental understanding of plasmonic and optoelectronic properties in the exciting class of atomically thin two-dimensional materials. His internationally recognized theoretical research provides original blueprints on the use of these materials to manipulate light, particularly in the mid-infrared spectrum. These materials offer the promise of key breakthrough applications in the mid-infrared spectrum, such as nanophotonics, biosensing, beam forming, and thermal detectors. (From the McKnight Presidential Fellows site)

The McKnight Presidential Fellows Program is a three-year award given to exceptional faculty who have been granted both tenure and promotion to associate professor within an academic year. The award recognizes their accomplishments and supports their ongoing research and scholarship. Recipients are recommended by their college dean and chosen at the discretion of the executive vice president and provost based on excellence in research and scholarship, leadership, potential to build top-tier programs, and ability to advance University of Minnesota priorities.

Prof. James Leger is Editor-in-Chief of Optics Express

Prof. James Leger has been named the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of Optics Express, one of the Optical Society of America’s flagship journals.  Jim started the position in January this year. It is a three year appointment that is renewable once.   With this appointment, he takes leadership of one of the largest optics journals in circulation.

As Editor-in-Chief, Jim is responsible for the overall management of the journal, setting policy and direction, managing and hiring personnel, and ensuring that the journal maintains its high standards of technical quality and fairness. He is assisted by 119 associate editors and 10 deputy editors to handle the over 7,000 submissions made annually to the journal.*

Starting in 1994 as a topical editor for OSA’s Applied Optics, Jim has been involved with editing almost every year since.  His first position at Optics Express in 2004 was as an associate editor, where he was responsible for soliciting reviewers and making final decisions on paper acceptance.  He moved to the position of deputy editor in 2010 where he managed a large number of associate editors and participated in policy decisions.  In 2013 he was elevated to the position of senior deputy editor, where he ran large projects for the journal, helped shape journal policy, and served as vice Editor-in-Chief. The current Editor-in-Chief position caps a twenty-three year editing career with OSA journals.

“Whether it is serving as a reviewer or an editor, our individual efforts are critical to academic discourse.”

In his inaugural journal editorial, Jim described the changes in the academic publishing landscape over the last several decades, and how the internet has been central to this transformation.  Commenting on his first editing experience at Applied Optics in 1994, he observed, “Applied Optics was an all-print journal that was still sending review material through the US mail.  The thought of an all-electronic journal [such as Optics Express] was a foreign concept to many of us….Over the last twenty years, Optics Express has transformed the landscape of publishing in optics, and in the process has become one of the most desirable journals in which to publish.”

Reflecting on  his new position, Jim said, “I believe that peer-reviewed journals are central to a healthy academic community, and that we all have a duty to support the review process.  Whether it is serving as a reviewer or an editor, our individual efforts are critical to academic discourse.” With the appointment of his EiC position, Jim will be working to keep this discourse healthy for the future.

To provide some perspective within the realm of academic publishing, the 3200 articles published in Optics Express last year was second in number only to Nature Communications in the optics and photonics category. The H5 index, a measure of the number of highly cited articles published in the last five years, is second only to Nature Photonics.

Chair and Professorship Announcements for Nicola Elia, and Steven Koester

Prof. Nicola Elia has been appointed to the Vincentine Hermes-Luh Chair in Electrical Engineering, and Prof. Steve Koester has been appointed as Louis John Schnell Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Both positions are for a 5-year term and are effective July 1, 2019.

The Vincentine Hermes-Luh Chair was established in 1996 to recognize and retain outstanding faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to teach and research issues in the systems area. This includes specialties in controls, and dynamic systems including robotic automation, networks, signal processing, and communication systems. Faculty holding the Chair are responsible for conducting research with graduate and undergraduate systems, and other faculty to strengthen and initiate new developments in the systems area of research.

Key donor to the Vincentine Hermes-Luh Chair, Dr. Johnson Y.S. Luh, earned his doctoral degree in 1963 from the department.

The Louis John Schnell Professorship was established in 2000 by Selma Riggs, a representative of the Louis John Schnell Estate, to recognize and retain outstanding faculty teaching and carrying out research and teaching in the department.

Louis John Schnell was a 1932 graduate of the department.  

Learn more about Prof. Nicola Elia’s research here

Learn more about Prof. Steven Koester’s research here, here, and here

Collaborative Team of University and Macalester College Students Win at MinneHack 2019

University of Minnesota students Anushree Ramanath (ECE), Kate Kuehl (CFANS), and Jacob Lindahl (CS&E), and Jacob Weightman from Macalester College formed a winning team and placed first overall at MinneHack 2019. Based on the problem statement, the team designed and implemented a website called FishInA.net—a site that helps fish farmers correctly estimate the optimum amount of feed for fish.

The project comprised an Internet of Things-based (IoT) Arduino water temperature sensor to help fish farmers make better decisions about what to feed their fish, how much, and at what time.  The hardware to measure temperature was developed using a temperature sensor, and Arduino kit with Bluetooth functionality to facilitate dynamic updates. The Node server was hosted on Google Cloud with an SQL database.

During the first round of the hackathon,  judges circulated listening to each team’s description of their project, and of the work they had completed over the previous twenty odd hours. Out of 80 participating teams, 6 teams were short-listed for the next round, where participants presented their work. The Unicersity-Macalester collaborative team’s presentation of the  implementation was well received. Following the presentation round, the team were were declared among the winners of the hackathon and each member was awarded a medal along with a Google Pixelbook as the prize. Their choice of domain name was also recognized with a special award
— Best Domain, sponsored by Domain.com, and each team member received a Raspberry Pi & PiHut Essential Kit.

In the photograph, place left to right: Jacob Weightman, Anushree Ramanath, Kate Kuehl, and Jacob Lindahl

MinneHack is a 24 hour hackathon that welcomes hackers from across the country to “create, collaborate, and compete to make something amazing!” The event is hosted by the University’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. This year’s event was held on February 2-3, 2019. The largest hackathon in the Twin Cities, the event drew more than 300 students from 14 institutions across 5 states. The hackathon problems for 2019 centered on farming practices: agricultural data that could increase yield, and promote sustainable agricultural practices, and disease prediction and preventative measures that support shrimp farming.

Anushree Ramanath Wins Best Poster Award at 2019 IEEE PECI

Doctoral candidate Anushree Ramanath has received the best poster award at the 2019 IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois. The poster is titled, “Analysis, Design, and Implementation of Cuk Converter with Integrated Magnetics for Residential Solar Applications.” Anushree’s poster was recognized among 166 entries from other institutions and industry entities.  

An ideal photovoltaic interface (such as a rooftop solar panel) has ripple-free terminal currents, and high step-up ratio.With multiple magnetic components sharing the same magnetic core, the Ćuk converter can operate as a DC transformer with ripple-free input and output currents. It is an ideal choice for applications such as residential solar panels because of its wide operating range. However, its use in such systems has lagged due to adaptability barriers such as design complexity and absence of a simple way to determine the integrated magnetics that will yield the zero-ripple currents. Anushree’s poster proposes a novel design of the Ćuk converter that is an efficient, reliable, and economical solution. She takes a descriptive approach and provides an analytical tool for determining the component values suitable for a range of applications for various Ćuk converter topologies. Subsequently, the resulting converter, based on Anushree’s  proposed design can be integrated with an inverter to produce a system equivalent to a micro-inverter.

Anushree is completing her doctoral research under the guidance of Oscar A. Schott Professor Ned Mohan (National Academy of Engineering) in power electronics and control systems. Her research interests span across power and renewable energy systems, embedded systems, and data science applications. In the photo above, Anushree is on the extreme right.

Anushree’s attendance at the conference was supported by an NSF Travel Grant that she was awarded based on an abstract of her research.


Prof. Sang-Hyun Oh Receives Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

Prof. Sang-Hyun Oh (Sanford P. Bordeau Chair in Electrical Engineering) has received the University of Minnesota’s Distinguished McKnight University Professorship for 2019. The award recognizes the achievements and contributions of outstanding mid-career faculty whose careers have developed and flourished at the University. Recipients hold the title of Distinguished McKnight University Professor for as long as they remain at the University of Minnesota. They also receive a grant of $120,000 to be used over five years to support their scholarly and research activities. 

Scientist and Inventor

In his lab, Oh leads a multi-disciplinary team of researchers working at the intersection of nanotechnology and life sciences toward developing new tools for scientific discovery processes.  Oh’s expertise includes nanofabrication, biosensors, nano-optics, and microfluidic biotechnology. He has collaborated with Prof. David Norris (now at ETH Zurich) to develop a new technique called “template-stripping” for the manufacture of ultra-smooth patterned metals. This method is widely used by many researchers to produce atomically smooth metal films and ultra-sharp metal tips for applications involving nano-optics, biosensors, and graphene devices.

Oh’s team has demonstrated a new method called atomic layer lithography that can create ultra-long atomic-scale gaps at the wafer scale. The resulting structures open the door to carrying a series of new experiments at the nanoscale for investigating fundamental physics as well as for developing practical biochemical sensors and optoelectronic chips. Seven of his former PhD students and postdocs are currently tenure-track faculty members at universities in the US, Korea, and India. Many of his former group members are also working in high-tech industry.

Awards and Honors

Oh is the recipient of several awards and honors, all of which point to his commitment to research and passion for breaking new ground. Early in his career he was the recipient of the 3M Faculty Award (2008), the American Chemical Society New Investigator Award (2009), and the UMN Initiative for Renewable Energy and Environment Early Career Award (2010). Most recently, he was the recipient of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award, the DARPA Young Faculty Award, and the NSF CAREER Award, all in 2011. In 2016 he was awarded the Sanford P. Bordeau Endowed Chair in Electrical Engineering. Prof. Oh’s prolific research, and outstanding contributions to engineering and its applications will have long term impact. His scientific techniques have been adopted by other researchers, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is proud of his accomplishments. We congratulate Prof. Oh on being awarded the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship.

Prof. Sang-Hyun Oh earned his doctoral degree in Applied Physics at Stanford University, worked at Bell Labs, Agere Systems, IBM Microelectronics, and University of California at Santa Barbara. He joined the University as faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2006.

Administered by the Office of the Executive Vice-President and Provost, the Distinguished McKnight University professorship awards are made possible by generous donations from the McKnight Foundation.





Prof. Yahya Tousi and Co-authors Win the IEEE JSSC Best Paper Award

Prof. Yahya Tousi and co-authors were recipients of IEEE’s Journal of Solid State Circuits (JSSC) best paper award. The award winning paper is titled “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.

The paper documents a significant development, presenting the first reported 28-GHz phased-array IC for 5G communications. The next generation mobile technology is poised to deliver significant improvements in mobile experience such as higher data rates, and lower latency. Phased arrays at millimeter-wave frequencies can establish high bandwidth directional links between the base station and the mobile device, which can, in turn, support multiple users with high data rates.

These millimeter-wave transceivers are expected to bring orders of magnitude improvements in wireless data rates and latency. In such a system, the front-end performance is crucial due to its drastically higher frequency of operation compared to previous generations of wireless systems. The work documented in the award winning paper presents the first fully integrated phased array transceiver with dual polarized concurrent transmission and sub-degree accuracy beam steering enabling deployment in 5G base stations.

This research was conducted by Prof. Tousi in collaboration with IBM and he led the design of the mm-wave front-end.

ECE joint effort creating special in-memory computation is best paper at 2019 ISQED

“Using Spin-Hall MTJs to Build an Energy-Efficient In-memory Computation Platform,” a paper that is the product of research conducted in ECE, has received the best paper award at the 2019 International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (ISQED).  

The paper is an outcome of collaborative research conducted by multiple ECE research teams led by professors Ulya Karpuzcu, Jian-Ping Wang, and Sachin Sapatnekar.

Through their join efforts the teams have created a specialized in-memory computation system called SHE-CRAM, a computational RAM using spin-Hall-effect-based nanomagnets, that performs efficient data processing within the memory.

In conventional computing, data is brought from the memory to a CPU for processing, or through near-memory processing, to a computational unit at the edge of the memory. Both of these approaches are prohibitively expensive for big-data applications due to the high cost of transporting data outside the memory.

The creation of SHE-CRAM is the coming together of novel spintronics-based spin-Hall storage technologies, memory circuits, computation algorithms, and memory architectures. It has been demonstrated that SHE-CRAM is over 2000x faster and at least 130x more energy-efficient than state-of-the-art near-memory processing for applications such as 2-D convolution and neural computation.

The paper authors are Masoud Zabihi, Zhengyang Zhao, Zamshed Chowdhury, Michael Resch, Thomas Peterson, Mahendra DC, Jian-Ping Wang, Ulya Karpuzcu, and Sachin Sapatnekar. The best paper award will be presented on March 6, at the ISQED luncheon.  

Prof. Nicola Elia Named IEEE Fellow

ECE faculty, Prof. Nicola Elia has been named an IEEE Fellow effective January 2019. He has been cited by the IEEE for his contributions to networked control systems.

Prof. Elia’s research focuses on topics within decision and control systems, including control with communication constraints and networked control systems. His recent research has focused on networked distributed optimization, and cooperative multi-agent systems.

Integrated Theory of Information and Control

Control theory and communication theory and their applications have been evolving independently over the recent decades, but with the wide availability of large communication networks, there was the potential for groundbreaking new applications that would entail close interaction between control and communication systems. Prof. Elia recognized the challenge and spearheaded the development of an integrated theory of information and control. In the separate evolution of the two lines of theory, each focused on unique problems and used different mathematical tools in their approach to problem-solving, which presented significant conceptual roadblocks. Elia and some of the early researchers recognized the need for a unified theory that could augment both control and communication theories as they currently existed.

Elia’s research contributions were based off his search for an integrated theory that would interpret feedback control systems as real-time information processing systems, while simultaneously interpreting feedback communication systems as causal decision making systems. His work has shone new light on how limited information provided by unreliable communication channels can impact the performance and stability of feedback systems. At the level of applications, his research has demonstrated how feedback controls could help design efficient communication systems.

Prof. Elia’s Research Contributions

Elia’s body of research is pivotal, and has made significant contributions in the bringing together of information and control theories, which in turn have impacted the analysis and design of networked systems. His work will have wide ranging impact, from better designed networks of autonomous vehicles and robots to electric grids, and from manufacturing systems to social networks. The education and training of systems engineers will eventually reflect Elia’s unified theories, which will lead to further technological innovations.

Prof. Elia has made seminal contributions to networked control systems as seen in his numerous technical publications, reports, and presentations (communication uncertainties, networked control systems design, design of communication systems with access to feedback, and controller design methods). But in addition to these, he has also actively and generously shared his time by serving as a chair and member of various IEEE and non-IEEE committees, as associate editor and reviewer for journals, and organizer of multiple expert sessions and workshops.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is proud of Prof. Nicola Elia’s accomplishments, and those of the team he leads, and congratulate him on his elevation to IEEE Fellow.


From the IEEE website: “[…] the IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the Board of Directors upon a person with an extraordinary record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. The total number selected in any one year does not exceed one-tenth of one percent of the total voting Institute membership.”