ECE’s IEEE-HKN Chapter Wins Outstanding Chapter Award

At the beginning of the year, HKN received the 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award (OCA) conferred by the IEEE-HKN Board of Governors. The awards are based on the annual reports submitted by chapters, with successful reports presenting individual chapter activities, including multiple instances and perspectives of their work, all of which together highlight their accomplishments. Particular attention is paid by the evaluating committee to activities that support professional development, creativity, and scholarship, activities that further academic standards, engagement in public service, and actions that further the goals of the honor society. Of the approximately 200 participating chapters, 21 were recipients of the OCA, including the University’s IEEE-HKN chapter.

For our student members and officers, the award is a recognition of their accomplishments: significant increase in membership; a manifest increase in the number of engaged members who have consistently contributed to the chapter’s activities; and most significantly, the sustained academic support they have provided over the years in the form of tutoring.

A Brief Overview of ECE’s IEEE-HKN Chapter

Established in 1920, the University of Minnesota’s IEEE student chapter is currently advised by  Prof. John Sartori. Functioning within IEEE, HKN provides a way for like minded IEEE members to get together to engage in and further the group’s goals, while complementing the other groups that are part of the IEEE.

Over the past several years, they have set up and participated in activities to attract new and undecided students to the electrical engineering and computer engineering majors, and build community among students in the department. As the honor society of IEEE, and focused on raising academic standards, tutoring is a key support service it offers students, and the group has been performing admirably in this area. They typically offer 150 hours of tutoring every semester. The number of students coming through the doors seeking support has steadily increased: over the 2015-2016 academic year, the group saw approximately 70 students come in per semester and that number more than doubled in spring 2017 at 163 students.

As the group considers their goals for the future, they are determined to expand the tutoring services they currently offer students in the department. And as a committed member of the University community, HKN is evaluating the possibility of extending their services and resources beyond the University to the Twin Cities community. The Outstanding Chapter Award while recognizing their work, has also strengthened their resolve to not only continue their recruitment efforts, but also intensify and expand their engagement efforts. We look forward to seeing the group move from strength to strength in the coming years.

Get acquainted with our IEEE-HKN chapter officers:

Damennick Henry – President, senior year, BEE degree

  • Plans to attend graduate school in his interest area of controls
  • On the University of Minnesota Rocket Team
  • Is a researcher in Prof. Jarvis Haupt’s group
  • Likes to play tennis and is an ardent Game of Thrones, and Rick and Morty fan

Jacob Romero – Treasurer and in his junior year pursuing a BEE degree

  • Interning with Consulting Engineers Group doing power systems analysis
  • Is a Marine Corps veteran
  • On the UMN Triathlon Club team
  • Sushi is life

Renee Herdtle – Secretary, and in her junior year pursuing a BCompE degree

  • Plans to pursue a master’s degree at the University in electrical engineering, and focus on embedded systems
  • Pursuing a co-op at Medtronic through December doing hardware verification software development
  • Is a lead on the UMN Solar Vehicle Project
  • A fan of three life-giving things: Game of Thrones, free food, and napping

Noah Mebane – Membership Coordinator, and in his senior year pursuing a BCompE degree

  • Plans to attend graduate school for VLSI design
  • Is a researcher in Prof. Chris Kim’s team
  • Intern at Seagate Technology with the firmware qualification team
  • Enjoys watching baseball, football, and hockey, playing hockey and tennis, gaming, and watching TV

Sruti Paladugu – Vice President, and is in her junior year pursuing a BEE degree

  • Intends to pursue graduate school in electrical engineering
  • Treasurer for ECE’s WIE (Women in Engineering) student group
  • Interned at Siemens Energy
  • Is a researcher in Prof. Sairaj Dhople’s team
  • Has been a teaching assistant for a discrete mathematics course for two semesters
  • A fan of Doctor Who (and who isn’t) and clearly excited about Jodie Whittaker!

Eric Konitzer – Systems Admin, and recently commenced his master’s degree in electrical engineering in ECE

  • Focused on controls, estimation, and embedded programming
  • Interned for three years with Rockwell Automation in field service and electrical hardware development
  • Involved with the University marching band and athletic bands

Breaking barriers: graphene tweezers bring scientists a step closer to revolutionary diagnostic systems

In a joint research project undertaken by scientists from ECE, and Imperial College, London, graphene has once again proven to be a wonder material. In an article published in Nature Communications titled “Graphene-edge dielectrophoretic tweezers for trapping of biomolecules,” the research team present the path breaking development.

Scientists involved in the study are Prof. Steven Koester, Prof. Sang-Hyun Oh, Prof. Tony Low, graduate students Avijit Barik and Yao Zhang, postdoctoral researcher Roberto Grassi (all from ECE), and Prof. Joshua Edel and research associate Binoy Paulose Nadappuram from Imperial College.

To learn more about the impact their work check the news release.

Details of the study can be found in Nature Communications.

Notes from the Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Notes written by Hari Cherupalli

Supported by the ORAU and NSF, I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF) in late September. The Forum was a unique experience for me. Shaped as a conference it brings together some of the best minds in the fields of mathematics, and computer science, recipients of the ACM A.M. Turing Award, the Abel Prize, the ACM Prize in Computing, the Fields Medal, and the Nevanlinna Prize. The conference is open to undergraduate students, doctoral candidates, and researchers who can apply to be invited to the forum.

My own research involves developing application-specific design and optimization techniques for ultra-low-power embedded systems. These techniques are geared towards the coming Internet of Things revolution which will be primarily powered by embedded processors. In my research, I develop methodologies for power saving, cost and weight reduction, and security in ultra-low-power embedded processors based on the application running on the processor. To do this, I combine ideas from computer architecture, binary instrumentation, model checking, and VLSI. My application to the Forum was driven by the nature of my research.

Among the brilliant minds I met, was laureate Prof. Fred Brooks who coined the term ‘computer architecture’ and made significant contributions to the field while working at IBM. I also met Prof. Joseph Sifakis who is one of three Turing award winners for model checking. One of the techniques I use in my research, symbolic simulation, is used in model checking, and getting feedback from him on my research helped me assess my ideas and work. Some of the other laureates I had a chance to interact with are Jeff Dean, a University alumnus, Fields Medal winner Efim Zelmanov, father of computer graphics Ivan Sutherland, Nevanlinna prize winner Madhu Sudan, and developer of the famous quicksort algorithm, Tony Hoare. The Forum included several lectures by the laureates which helped me evaluate my research and identify forthcoming problems that need to be solved.

Apart from the lectures, the Forum had other events including visits to research institutes, workshops on current research ideas, and several social events. Attending the HLF exposed me to some exciting research from around the world, and I would encourage students interested in pursuing research in computer science or mathematics to consider applying to participate in the Forum.

(Please check this link if you are interested in knowing more about the Forum)

M. Hassan Najafi Wins ICCD Best Paper Award

The best paper award at the 35th IEEE International Conference on Computer Design (ICCD) conference has been awarded to “High Quality Down-Sampling for Deterministic Approaches to Stochastic Computing” authored by M. Hassan Najafi and Prof. David J. Lilja.

The paper was one of 75 accepted full-length papers out of 258 submissions at the November conference and also among the 12 top ranked ICCD papers selected for publication in the IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing, Special Issue on Emerging Technologies in Computer Design.

Hassan is a doctoral student working under the guidance of Prof. David Lilja and his research interests include stochastic and approximate computing, fault-tolerant system design, and computer architecture. He is also the recipient of the University’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship that recognizes outstanding research work, for the 2017-2018 academic year.

A brief description of the paper:

Recent work on stochastic computing (SC) has shown that computation using stochastic logic can be performed deterministically and accurately by properly structuring unary-style bit-streams. The hardware cost and the latency of operations are much lower than those of the conventional random SC when completely accurate results are expected. For applications where slight inaccuracy is acceptable, however, these unary stream-based deterministic approaches must run for a relatively long time to produce acceptable results. This long processing time makes the deterministic approach energy-inefficient. While randomness was a source of inaccuracy in the conventional random stream-based SC, the authors exploited pseudo-randomness in improving the progressive precision property of the deterministic approach to SC. Completely accurate results are still produced if running the operation for the required number of cycles. When slight inaccuracy is acceptable, however, significant improvement in the processing time and energy consumption is observed compared to the prior unary stream-based deterministic approach and also the conventional random-stream based approach.

Prof. Keshab Parhi Honored as AAAS 2017 Fellow

Prof. Keshab Parhi has been named by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as an AAAS Fellow for his contributions to architectures and methodologies for VLSI design of digital signal processing systems and physical layer communication systems that form the backbone of the Internet. Election as a Fellow is bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. The Association  has awarded the distinction of Fellow to 396 of its members for 2017, honoring their contributions to science and technology, scientific leadership and extraordinary achievements across disciplines. The new AAAS Fellows will be recognized at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas in February 2018. Fellows are elected annually by the AAAS Council from a list of approved nominees who have worked with distinction to advance science and its applications.

Prof. Parhi has made significant and long-lasting impacts through his seminal and pioneering research in the broad field of Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) design of digital signal processing, image processing and communications systems. His research is used in many integrated circuit chips for broadband communications systems that form the backbone of the internet. He is widely recognized for his pioneering work on pipelining and parallel processing of numerous recursive computations such as decision-feedback equalizers and Tomlinson-Harashima precoders using various look-ahead techniques. He developed the theory of folding and unfolding transformations for data-flow graphs that describe digital signal processing programs. He also authored the text book: VLSI Digital Signal Processing Systems (John Wiley and Sons, 1999). He is the author of over 600 papers and inventor or coinventor for 29 US patents.

Earlier, in May 2017, the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society (CAS) awarded Prof. Parhi the Mac Van Valkenburg Award  for pioneering contributions to VLSI digital signal processing architectures, design methodologies, and their applications to wired and wireless communications, and service to IEEE Circuits and Systems Society. Previously Prof. Parhi was awarded the 2012 Charles A. Desoer Technical Achievement award and a 2000 Golden Jubilee Medal from the IEEE CAS Society. He also received the 2003 Kiyo Tomiyasu Technical Field award from the IEEE and the 2004 Frederick Emmons Terman award from the American Society of Engineering Education.

Besides Prof. Parhi, three other University of Minnesota faculty have been honored as AAAS Fellows: Prof. David A. Bernlohr, Prof. Reuben S. Harris, and Prof. David J. Odde.





Diqing Su Receives Best Poster Award at 2017 MMM Conference

Doctoral candidate Diqing Su’s poster titled “Giant Magnetoresistance-based Handheld Platform for Rapid Detection of Influenza A Virus” has been recognized as the best poster among a hundred others that were presented at MMM 2017, the 62nd Annual Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials.

The poster presents the the performance of a giant magnetoresistance(GMR)-based handheld device in detecting the influenza A virus in a biological sample. Using a sandwich structure of capture antibody-antigen-detection antibody-magnetic nanoparticles on the GMR sensor surface, the system can successfully detect both, the influenza A virus nucleoprotein, and the purified H3N2 virus sample. The detection limit of this system is better than the commonly used Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). The size of a snack container with a user-friendly interface, the system is capable of onsite detection, and the whole detection process can be completed within 10 minutes.

The poster presents the work of Diqing and other researchers working in teams lead by Prof. Jian-Ping Wang (from ECE) and Prof. Andres Perez (from the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine). Diqing is a doctoral candidate working under the guidance of Prof. Jian-Ping Wang

(More details on the handheld system can be had in the Z-Lab story)

Z-Lab: Portable Diagnostic Device Promises Affordable Noninvasive Testing

Scientists at the University of Minnesota have successfully developed and tested a prototype of Z-Lab, a portable diagnostic platform designed to perform on site testing of biological samples for various ailments. This is the first version of the prototype developed for point-of-care diagnostics. The details of the device and results of the test are reported in the paper “Portable GMR Handheld Platform for the Detection of Influenza A Virus” published recently in ACS Sensors.

The prototype was used to test for the presence of the influenza A virus (IAV) in a treated sample. The testing process, which parallels the commonly used ELISA test process, involves antibodies acting as sensors capturing a biomarker, to which a detectable object is added that will bind to the sensor-biomarker complex. In the case of Z-Lab, a GMR (Giant Magnetoresistance) chip is used as the surface, and a magnetic label (MNP) is the detectable object. If the disease indicator is present in the sample, magnetic tags will bind to the GMR sensor resulting in a change in the electrical signal. The signal is monitored by the Z-Lab handheld device which is capable of data processing, display, wireless communication, and GPS location services depending on the needs of the specific application.

Z-Lab can be operational with minimal equipment. All it needs are a smartphone or similar device with a program that can receive, interpret, and display test results, and an adapter to charge the battery. The size of the Z-Lab (about the size of a large cellphone) makes it highly portable, allowing the device to be easily moved around and used in multiple settings. These features make it an accessible testing device that can be used in typical healthcare settings such as clinics, hospitals, and labs, as well as in homes. Test results can be transmitted wirelessly from Z-Lab to a secure application on a computer, smartphone or other mobile device. Lead scientist on the project and ECE faculty, Prof. Jian-Ping Wang (who is also   Robert F. Hartmann Chair, and director of C-SPIN) says, 

“The high sensitivity of this device allows it to detect various ailments—including infections, heart disease and even cancer—faster, easier and earlier than ever before. We see this as a preventative device that will ultimately save lives.”

The GMR chips used in this system give it multiplex capability, which can significantly reduce costs associated with multiple laboratory tests. Z-Lab can also potentially reduce costs associated with sending samples to labs, handling them safely, and skilled technicians to test them. Currently the device has successfully tested prepared samples, i.e. fluid samples that were treated and washed to isolate the virus.

The project scientists plan to develop Z-Lab’s capability to handle and diagnose unprocessed biological samples on-site which will be critical to the use of the device in non-lab or field settings. Looking forward, the team will continue testing and working on enhancements to Z-Lab to study its effectiveness with testing untreated samples using a proposed microfluidic device (to be integrated within Z-Lab) that can treat and prepare the sample. The assay will also have to undergo further evaluation to study its effectiveness in the case of biological samples. According to Prof. Andres M. Perez, who is on the faculty of the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine (and also lead scientist, and Director of CAHFS), 

“Z-Lab’ s ability to inexpensively test for multiple biomarkers at once, along with its ability to automatically send nonprivate information to databases, will enable scientists to identify new correlations and new lines of research.”

The goal is to offer affordable, and accurate tests to patients in practically any setting, be it at the doctor’s office or in their own homes, which is especially critical for individuals suffering from chronic conditions affecting their mobility. The device also holds promise for use in conducting tests on animals making it far more affordable than having to transport the samples to labs.


In addition to the two lead scientists, postdoctoral scholars Dr. Kai Wu, Dr. Venkatramana D. Krishna, and former student Todd Klein, (they contributed equally to the work), and graduate student Diqing Su, are the other  authors of the paper.

The authors acknowledge XPRIZE Foundation and Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE competition for motivating the design of the Z-Lab Diagnosis Platform which won Distinguished Prize Award. Prof. Jian-Ping Wang has equity and royalty interests in, and serves on the Board of Directors and the Scientific Advisory Board, for Zepto Life Technology LLC, a company involved in the commercialization of GMR Biosensing technology. The University of Minnesota also has equity and royalty interests in Zepto Life Tech LLC. These interests have been reviewed and managed by the University of Minnesota in accordance with its Conflict of Interest policies.

*Photo credit: Dr. Kai Wu (one of the paper authors)

Open Faculty Positions

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities invites applications for faculty positions in:

(1) Control systems
(2) Power and energy systems

The Control systems position invites applications at the assistant professor level and the Power and energy systems position invites applications at the assistant and associate level. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is fully committed to a culturally and academically diverse faculty; candidates who will further expand that diversity are particularly encouraged to apply.

Successful candidates will have outstanding academic and research records and are expected to establish a vigorous, funded research program, teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and be involved in service to the university and the profession.

An earned doctorate in an appropriate discipline is required at the time of the appointment. Rank and salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Applications will be considered as they are received. Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled, but for full consideration, please apply online by December 15, 2017.

Select the appropriate link below (or copy and paste into a browser) to access the corresponding posting. Either select ‘Sign In’ to access an existing account, or select ‘New User’ to create a new account. Review the job description and select the Apply button to begin your application.

(1) Control systems
Assistant Professor –

(2) Power and energy systems
Assistant or Associate Professor –

University team is runner up at Retinal OCT Fluid Challenge

University of Minnesota team is a runner up at the Retinal OCT Fluid Challenge held in conjunction with the 4th MICCAI Workshop on Ophthalmic Medical Image Analysis in September 2017 in Quebec, Canada. The team comprised Abdolreza Rashno (former pre-doctoral visitor with Prof. Parhi’s research group, and currently with Isfahan University of Technology, Iran), Dr. Dara Koozekanani from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, and Prof. Keshab Parhi from ECE.

Retinal pathologies such as fluid accumulation can be imaged using spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT). The goal of the Challenge was to compare automated algorithms that can detect and segment various types of fluids on a common dataset of OCT volumes, representing different retinal diseases, acquired using devices from different manufacturers. The Challenge entailed that participants develop and test existing and novel automated retinal OCT segmentation methods. For details on the methods deployed by the University team check IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

Alumna Vasu Jakkal Appointed CMO of FireEye

Alumna Vasu Jakkal has been appointed Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice-President of FireEye, Inc. The Milpitas, CA-based enterprise cybersecurity company made the announcement earlier in September. An 18 year veteran of the technology industry, Jakkal will report directly to FireEye CEO, Kevin Mandia.

Jakkal earned her Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota and  is a graduate of Stanford University’s Strategic Marketing Management, Executive Education program (Graduate School of Business). Over the years, she has held technical and managerial roles of successively greater complexity at Intel, LSI, and most recently at Brocade as Vice President of Corporate Marketing. Jakkal comes to FireEye with leadership experience in engineering, marketing, and strategy.

As Chief marketing Officer, Jakkal will oversee FireEye’s global marketing operations to raise revenue and to cement the company’s position as a leader in cybersecurity.