News

Ryu
August 2014

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford have discovered a fundamental constraint in the brain that may explain why a person has a relatively easier time learning a new skill if it's related to an ability he has already mastered.

Published in Nature, the research details for the first time that there are limitations on how adaptable the brain is during learning, and that these restrictions are a key determinant for whether a new skill will be easy or difficult to learn.

Understanding the ways in which the brain's activity can be "flexed" during learning could eventually be used to develop better treatments for stroke and other brain injuries.

"This gives insight into the neural basis for the limitation on learning new things," said co-author Stephen Ryu, a consulting professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and a neurosurgeon at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "One of the clinical implications is that it may provide a more intelligent way to train new cognitive tasks."

For the full story, visit http://news.stanford.edu.

K. Gaul
August 2014

EE Instructional Labs Manager Keith Gaul died due to a massive heart attack on Aug. 5, 2014. The attack occurred four days into his backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas, and despite CPR and a flown-in medical team, Gaul passed away.

He began working at Stanford in 1988 and had been a part of the electrical engineering (EE) community since 2000.

"His contribution to the department will be felt for a long time to come," wrote Department Chair Abbas El Gamal in an email to the EE community. "The loss of a good friend will be felt for much longer."

For a full story about his passing with quotes from several EE community members, visit The Stanford Daily.

S. Fan
July 2014

Scientists may have overcome one of the major hurdles in developing high-efficiency, long-lasting solar cells – keeping them cool, even in the blistering heat of the noonday Sun.

By adding a specially patterned layer of silica glass to the surface of ordinary solar cells, a team of researchers led by Shanhui Fan, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford University, has found a way to let solar cells cool themselves by shepherding away unwanted thermal radiation. The researchers describe their innovative design in the premiere issue of The Optical Society’s  new open-access journal Optica.

Solar cells are among the most promising and widely used renewable energy technologies on the market today. Though readily available and easily manufactured, even the best designs convert only a fraction of the energy they receive from the sun into usable electricity.

Part of this loss is the unavoidable consequence of converting sunlight into electricity. A surprisingly vexing amount, however, is causesd by solar cells overheating.

Under normal operating conditions, solar cells can easily reach temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) or more. These harsh conditions quickly sap efficiency and can markedly shorten the lifespan of a solar cell. Actively cooling solar cells, however – either by ventilation or coolants – would be prohibitively expensive and at odds with the need to optimize exposure to the sun.

For the full story, visit engineering.stanford.edu.

image of Himanshu Asnani
October 2014

EE PhD Candidate Himanshu Asnani (read EE Spotlight) received the 2014 Marconi Society Paul Baran Young Scholar Award, which recognizes academic achievements and leadership in the field of communications and information science. His advisor is Associate Professor Tsachy Weissman.

The selection committee cited Asnani’s outstanding research work on data compression in networks and genomic data, as well as cooperation in multi-terminal source coding; his excellent academic record; and his demonstrated entrepreneurial capabilities.

Marconi Young Scholars are individuals who have, at an early age, already demonstrated exceptional engineering or scientific research and entrepreneurial capabilities with the potential to create significant advances telecommunications and the Internet. They are students whose advisers and nominators believe will make a real difference in science and society, serving as role models and an inspiration for others.

Watch 2014 Marconi Society Young Scholars award video.

 

Feng Xiong
July 2014

Feng Xiong has been awarded the Materials Research Society (MRS) 2014 "Gold" Graduate Student Award.

Feng Xiong was born in Wuhan, Hubei, China. He received the Singapore Ministry of Education Scholarship for Pre-university Study in 2000 and finished his high school and junior college study in Singapore. Feng continued his study in Singapore to pursue his undergraduate education at National University of Singapore (NUS), where he worked with Prof. Wu Yihong on characterizing transport properties of graphene. After receiving his Bachelor of Engineering degree (with First Class Honors) in Electrical Engineering at NUS in 2008, Feng moved to the United States to continue his graduate study at University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign (UIUC), under the direction of Professor Eric Pop. Feng received his Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering from UIUC in Aug 2010 and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from UIUC in May 2014. Feng is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University under the supervision of Prof Yi Cui and Prof Eric Pop. Feng is a recipient of the C.R. Allen Outstanding International Student Award, the Beckman Graduate Fellowship and the TSMC Gold Student Research Award.  His research interests include (but are not limited to) phase change materials, resistive memory and carbon-based materials. Read More »

MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials science research display a high level of excellence and distinction. MRS seeks to recognize students of exceptional ability who show promise for significant future achievement in materials research and education.

July 2014

Two staff members each received a $50 Visa card in recognition of their extraordinary efforts as part of the department’s 2014 Staff Gift Card Bonus Program. The EE department received new nominations in June, and previous nominations were also considered.

Following are June’s gift card recipients and some of the comments from their nominators:

Doug Chaffee, Administrative Associate

  • "It's not one thing that Doug did, it's the collection. Doug is extremely resourceful about getting everything done seamlessly."
  • "He understands the bottom line of my group's needs, and how to get to it most efficiently. A true enabler. My bandwidth for research and teaching has increased significantly since I started working with him."

John DeSilva, Systems and Network Manager

  • "John is always available and willing to help no matter if it is an IT issue or a department function. We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated IT person."
  • "He's a big-picture thinker that keeps everyone calm during difficult situations; an invaluable team member."

The School of Engineering once again gave the EE department several gift cards to distribute to staff members who are recognized for going above and beyond. More people will be recognized next month, and past nominations will still be eligible for future months. EE faculty, staff and students are welcome to nominate a deserving staff person by visiting https://gradapps.stanford.edu/NotableStaff/nomination/create.

Doug Chaffee  John DeSilva

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
June 2014

At first glance, Titan has little in common with Earth. The largest moon of Saturn, temperatures on Titan's surface dip nearly 300 F below zero, its seas slosh with liquid methane, and its sky is a murky shade of creamsicle.

And yet, fresh analysis of mysterious features spotted on the moon indicates that it experiences one of the same global processes that is important here on Earth.

In a study published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience, scientists operating the Cassini satellite, including Stanford's Howard Zebker, present evidence that Titan has seasonal cycles analogous to Earth's, and that the moon's surface conditions change as the Titan year unfolds.

The Cassini satellite has been orbiting Saturn and its moons since 2004. Zebker, a professor of electrical engineering and of geophysics, is one of the lead scientists operating the spacecraft's radar instruments. Radar is critical for studying Titan in particular because the moon's atmosphere is typically too cloudy and thick for optical instruments to see through easily.

During five fly-bys of Titan's Ligeia Mare – a liquid methane sea larger than Lake Superior – the scientists noticed bright features that appeared and changed shape on the sea's surface. After ruling out a technical glitch or an exotic artifact of radar scattering, the group focused on three causes most likely for the phenomena.

"We are driven to use our imaginations and picture what could be happening on the sea to produce a transient feature," Zebker said.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

September 2013

A team of Stanford engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips.

This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising material.

The achievement is reported today in an article on the cover of Nature Magazine written by Max Shulaker and other doctoral students in electrical engineering. The research was led by Stanford professors Subhasish Mitra and H.S. Philip Wong.

"People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon," said Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist and Chambers Faculty Scholar of Engineering. "But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof."

Experts say the Stanford achievement will galvanize efforts to find successors to silicon chips, which could soon encounter physical limits that might prevent them from delivering smaller, faster, cheaper electronic devices.

For the full story, visit Stanford Engineering.

Ron Bracewell
October 2013

The world’s first and only radio sundial has been erected in memory of Ron Bracewell, a professor of electrical engineering and a pioneer in radio astronomy. The sundial was unveiled at the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope Observatory in New Mexico. It was constructed using pieces of a famous radio telescope that Bracewell built near the Stanford campus.

Bracewell, who died in 2007, was a pioneer in the transition from giant dish antennae to radio telescopes comprised of large-scale arrays of antennae.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

Shanhui Fan
October 2013

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter, an element used in specialized solar cells, that could significantly improve the efficiency of the cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can than be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity – a technology known as thermophotovoltaics.

Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart before temperatures reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius), the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 2,500 F (1,400 C).

"This is a record performance in terms of thermal stability and a major advance for the field of thermophotovoltaics," said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. Fan and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (Illinois) and North Carolina State University collaborated on the project. Their results are published in the Oct. 16, 2013 edition of the journal Nature Communications.

For the full story, visit Stanford News.

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February 2014

Three staff members each received a $50 Visa card in recognition of their extraordinary efforts as part of the department’s 2014 Staff Gift Card Bonus Program. The EE department received several nominations in January, and nominations from 2013 were also considered.

Following are January’s gift card recipients and some of the comments from their nominators:

Ann Guerra, Faculty Administrator

  • “She is very kind to students and always enthusiastic to help students… every time we need emergent help, she is willing to give us a hand.”
  • “Ann helps anyone who goes to her for help with anything, sometimes when it’s beyond her duty.” 

Teresa Nguyen, Student Accounting Associate

  • “She stays on top of our many, many student financial issues, is an extremely reliable source of information and is super friendly.”
  • “Teresa’s cheerful disposition, her determination, and her professionalism seem to go above and beyond what is simply required.”

Helen Niu, Faculty Administrator

  • “Helen is always a pleasure to work with.”
  • “She goes the extra mile in her dealings with me, which is very much appreciated.”

The School of Engineering once again gave the EE department several gift cards to distribute to staff members who are recognized for going above and beyond. More people will be recognized next month, and past nominations will still be eligible for future months. EE faculty, staff and students are welcome to nominate a deserving staff person by visitinghttps://gradapps.stanford.edu/NotableStaff/nomination/create.

Ann Guerra  Teresa Nguyen  Helen Niu

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