November 2015 Newsletter

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Greetings from West Lafayette

As the year nears its end, we look back with pride at a period of unprecedented growth in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. Over the past two years, we welcomed 17 new faculty members to ECE, ten of whom joined us just this year. This brings our total faculty count to 100, making our program one of the largest in the country by that measure and improving our ability to deliver top-ranked academic instruction and world-class research. Head of ECE Ragu Balakrishnan

Part of this growth has stemmed from the College of Engineering’s strategic hiring plan, including Preeminent Teams, a faculty hiring approach which brings together multi-disciplinary research teams selected via an open college-wide competition. This year, three new teams were selected for funding, including an ECE-led group aiming to identify, measure, and prevent traumatic brain injury in athletes and victims of blunt force impacts.

We also celebrate the achievements of our graduate students, many of whom have been recognized for their excellence in academics, research, and community service. For instance Mohit Singh, one of ECE’s more than 700 graduate students, is working with faculty to elevate his research on interactive 3D technology from the lab to the marketplace. And, by utilizing new state-of-the-art facilities to enrich experiential learning, our faculty are preparing undergraduate students for success in graduate school and industry.

I invite you to explore the work and accomplishments of ECE faculty and students featured in this newsletter. As always, we welcome your feedback and appreciate your continued interest in electrical and computer engineering at Purdue.


V. Ragu Balakrishnan
Michael and Katherine Birck Head
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

ECE preeminent team tackles head trauma

Purdue University's College of Engineering has named an ECE-led research group studying brain trauma as one of three preeminent teams selected in a multi-disciplinary pitch competition. The effort is part of the college's strategic growth plan, which will add as many as 107 faculty over five years.

ECE’s winning team, titled "engineering healthier brains through the assessment, treatment and prevention of neurophysiologic injury and disease," was led by Thomas M. Talavage, professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering and a founding co-director of the Purdue MRI Facility.

Purdue researchers were first to demonstrate that brain physiology can be altered by repeated non-concussive blows to the head, even in the absence of clinical symptoms. They have shown that medical imaging technologies can be used to reliably quantify injury to the brain.

The research effort aims to generate new clinical approaches by better understanding the underlying neuropathology of brain injury. Data from various imaging technologies will be used to model both normal and injury states and to identify imaging and biochemical markers for injury.

This was the third annual college-wide preeminent teams competition, bringing the total number of teams to 11, 6 of which are led by ECE faculty. The teams competed in a process similar to a pitch entrepreneurs would give to venture capitalists. This year 17 teams, comprising more than 110 faculty members, participated in the competition.

"The preeminent teams represent a faculty hiring strategy focused on research, and complements our discipline-based faculty hiring," said Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering. "These teams have the potential to build dramatically on Purdue's current strengths with strategic hires. Their research will have far-reaching impact."

Meet our new faculty!

Sunil Bhave

Sunil Bhave received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Berkeley in EECS in 1998 and 2004 respectively. Prior to joining Purdue, Bhave was an Associate Professor at Cornell University. Bhave received the NSF CAREER Award in 2007, the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2008 and the Ultrasonics Young Investigator Award in 2014. Bhave’s OxideMEMS Lab explores inter-domain coupling in opto-mechanical, spin-acoustic and atom-MEMS systems, and strives to leverage these coupled systems to design gyroscopes, clocks, magnetic field sensors, and field-programmable microwave chip-sets.

Meng Cui Meng Cui received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Nankai University, and his master’s in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan. He was a recipient of the Peter Franken Award and the Rosen Scholar Award. Prior to joining Purdue, he was engaged in postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, and then a lab head at the Janelia Research Campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Cui’s research interest is in vivo optical bioimaging. In particular, his lab aims to greatly improve the imaging throughput, depth and resolution for applications in neuroscience, immunology, development biology, and cell biology.
Aly el Gamal Aly El Gamal received a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Cairo University, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Nile University, a master’s degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois. Prior to joining Purdue, he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Southern California, then a Simons Fellow at the University of Texas. His research interests include information theory and wireless communications, learning theory and big data analytics, and graph theory.
Zubin Jacob Zubin Jacob received his master’s degree in electoral engineering from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. Prior to joining Purdue, he was an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is a visiting faculty member at the International Center for Theoretical Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore, India. He serves on the editorial board of Scientific Reports and Journal of Optics. Jacob was invited to present his group’s recent achievements at over 20 leading nanophotonics conferences worldwide.
Dana Weinstein Dana Weinstein received her bachelor’s degree in physics and astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley and her Ph.D. in applied physics from Cornell. She then joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT as an Assistant Professor, and served as an Associate Professor there between 2013 and 2015. Dana is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the DARPA Young Faculty Award, the Intel Early Career Award, and the IEEE IEDM Roger A. Haken Best Paper Award. Her current research focuses on hybrid MEMS-IC devices for low-power wireless communication, microprocessor clocking, and sensing applications. In particular, she is working to harness the benefits of acoustic vibrations to enhance the performance of next-generation electron devices.
Yiying Zhang Yiying Zhang received her Ph.D. from the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then worked as a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests span operating systems, distributed systems, computer architecture, networking, and data analytics, with a focus on building fast, reliable, and flexible systems for emerging hardware and applications. She has worked in various aspects of storage systems, including efficiently replicated non-volatile main memory, removing excess indirection in storage systems, storage-level caching, and redundant arrays.

Ph.D. student awarded Wigner Fellowship and other graduate honors

Fourth-year electrical and computer engineering graduate student Joseph M. Lukens has been awarded the Wigner Fellowship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Named after Eugene P. Wigner, Nobel laureate in physics and the first director of research and development at Oak Ridge, the three-year position is ORNL's most distinguished fellowship, designed to provide new scientific talent the opportunity to pursue technical excellence while making significant contributions to ORNL's national missions. Lukens is advised by ECE Professor Andrew M. Weiner and will join the Quantum Information Science group at ORNL after graduation.

Other recent ECE graduate awards and honors:

ECE professor and graduate student commercialize interactive 3D technology

Byunghoo Jung, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has teamed up with electrical engineering student Mohit Singh to create AccuPS, a startup company which will bring high definition 3D motion tracking technology products to market.

AccuPS is developing AeroWand, which transforms your smartphone and TV into a virtual reality entertainment system, and AeroDynaPen, a 3D stylus pen, which besides interacting with your phone, tablet, or screen, can work on a desk, your palm, or in the air.

The company looks to improve on existing 3D motion-based interaction devices, which have limited tracking and capture capabilities and can be expensive and computing intensive. AccuPS provides an accurate, fast, and simple device, which is compact enough to be compatible with home entertainment and mobile systems. It features a wide capture range including non-line-of-sight areas while requiring only a small amount of power consumption and computation.

These products are intended to be paired with existing home entertainment systems and computers sold directly to retail customers. Possible partnerships with home entertainment system providers, especially smart TV providers, will generate an additional revenue stream through licensing, and increase direct sales revenue.

The company has filed three patents and is building a second-generation prototype based on the inputs from a major TV manufacturer. They have raised $100K of commercialization funds from Purdue and the National Science Foundation.

The project has received funding and recognition as part of the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition, the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund Competition, and the Trask Innovation Fund, among others.

Read the full article.

Purdue uses nanotechnology cleanroom to prepare students for graduate school

Clean room
The Purdue College of Engineering is using the university's advanced cleanroom at Birck Nanotechnology Center (BNC) to give Purdue engineers a significant competitive advantage for graduate school.

"To be successful in industry or if they plan to continue their studies and research, our students in all areas of engineering, the sciences and technology understand the value of learning by using the most advanced facilities possible," said electrical and computer engineering professor David Janes.

"Birck's 25,000-square-foot cleanroom allows students from the many disciplines at Purdue to experience firsthand a micro- and nanofabrication process," he said. "It also exposes them to the relevant gowning, safety and operational protocols, educating our students about the critical role cleanrooms play in manufacturing for designing and producing integrated circuits, memory devices, biomedical test structures and other applications."

The only undergraduate class in the nation that uses this level of cleanroom as a laboratory, Purdue's ECE 557 requires a minimum weekly time commitment of six hours for the lecture and lab component. Joining ECE in supporting the class is the Purdue School of Mechanical Engineering. Through ECE 557, Purdue students leave with an ability to demonstrate:

  • A basic understanding of silicon electronic device and MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) device fabrication processes.
  • Hands-on experience and working knowledge of microelectronics or MEMS processing steps and process modules as well as device testing and characterization methods.
  • Proper lab procedures and lab-notebook maintenance.
Read the full article.

Explore Purdue College of Engineering research

Discovery: Innovation@Purdue Engineering is a Purdue College of Engineering publication focused on advances in research. The quarterly e-publication highlights faculty and student research, including collaborations with international partners. Significant initiatives in engagement with industry and in translating research to practice will also be spotlighted. Learn more about cutting-edge research in ECE and the College of Engineering.