Recognition for ECE Alumni Eric Severson and Tong Zhang

2019 saw ECE alumni receive recognition and support for their research. Alumnus Eric Severson received the NSF CAREER award in the Energy, Power, Control, and Networks sub-division (under the Directorate for Engineering) and alumnus Tong Zhang was recently elevated to IEEE Fellow effective January 2020. 


Eric’s research will endeavor to develop a new type of motor that does not use bearings; instead it will use electric current to create magnetic forces that will function as bearings, thereby creating a completely bearingless motor that levitates its own shaft. The intention is to usher in efficient and reliable systems targeting a “9 percent reduction in US energy consumption by enabling new concepts in compressor technology, electrified transportation, and energy generation and storage.” Eric and his team will also be developing bearingless motor technology for both high speed motor systems such as industrial compressors and power grid flywheel storage, as well as low speed motor systems such as rim-driven motors for flight electrification. 

The CAREER award 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.

After graduating with his doctoral degree in 2015, under the guidance of Regents Professor Ned Mohan, he worked as a postdoctoral associate for a year at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin – Madison as an Assistant Professor in 2017. He is also the Associate Director of WEMPEC (Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium, the largest research consortium in the field of electric machines and drives with nearly 90 industrial members), and a fellow of the Grainger Institute for Engineering.  In his 2 1/2 years at UW, Eric has established an internationally-funded research program in the area of bearingless motors and electric machine design that is supported by the NSF, the Department of Energy, and industry in the form of contracts and federal Small Business Technology Transfer funding. 

Learn more about Prof. Eric Severson’s research

NSF Career Award Abstract


ECE alumnus Tong Zhang was recently elevated to IEEE Fellow effective January 2020, for his “contributions to system design and VLSI implementation for data storage.” Tong’s research focuses on computer system design, emphasizing data-centric heterogeneous computing.

Guided by real life applications, his work has spanned computer architecture, memory and data storage, VLSI signal processing, error correction coding, digital communication, and multimedia processing. His contributions to the field include his service as Associate Editor for the ACM Transactions on Storage, IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems – II, and IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing.

Tong earned his doctoral degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2002 under the guidance of Prof. Keshab Parhi. He then joined the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a tenure-track assistant professor in 2002, and rose to become full professor in 2013.

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.