December 2018

Congratulations to Professor Jennifer Widom for receiving the 2018 Erna Hamburger Prize from the EPFL-WISH Foundation. The award acknowledges her significant contributions and research in data management and analysis. Award honorees are celebrated for their dedication to informing, educating and motivating other women in science. Jennifer is the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering, and a staunch advocate of education for all, which she supports through MOOCs and by taking her teaching to other parts of the world.

Prior to becoming Dean, she visited 15 countries – including Bangladesh, Chile, India, Tanzania and Nigeria – for an "instructional odyssey." She gave short courses and workshops at universities and other institutions in her areas of expertise: big data, design thinking and collaborative problem solving.

"I commend the EPFL-WISH Foundation for creating the Erna Hamburger prize to honor women in science and humanities," said Professor Widom. "Professor Hamburger is an inspiration. I'm flattered and humbled to join the truly distinguished list of recipients of the prize in her name."

EGFL-WISH Foundation established the Erna Hamburger Prize in 2006 in honor of the first female professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).


Please join us in congratulating Jennifer on this meaningful honor!



Excerpted from Stanford's "Dean Jennifer Widom receives the 2018 Erna Hamburger Prize", December 12, 2018 and EPFL's "A MOOC pioneer honored at EPFL" August 8, 2018.

December 2018

Please join us in congratulating Professor Benjamin Van Roy on his elevation to IEEE Fellow. He is being recognized for contributions to reinforcement learning and approximate dynamic programming. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields. Recently, Ben received the Stanford Management Science and Engineering Graduate Teaching Award, and the Stanford Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He also received the NSF CAREER Award in 2000.

Ben's research focuses on understanding how an agent interacting with a poorly understood environment can learn over time to make effective decisions. He is interested in the design of efficient reinforcement learning algorithms and stochastic control. He also leads the DeepMind Research team in Mountain View, and has led research programs at Unica (acquired by IBM), Enuvis (acquired by SiRF), and Morgan Stanley.


Please join us in congratulating Ben on his well-deserved recognition!


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November 2018

Please join us in congratulating Jelena Vuckovic on her elevation to IEEE Fellow. She is being recognized for contributions to experimental nano and quantum photonics. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields. Jelena received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2006, the Humboldt Prize in 2010, and the Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship in 2013. In addition to her research activities, she helped to organize, and participated, in the 2017 Rising Stars in EECS Academic Conference.

Jelena leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also a faculty member of the Ginzton Lab, PULSE Institute, SIMES Institute, and Bio-X. Jelena is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics - MPQ (in Munich, Germany), and of the scientific advisory board of the Ferdinand Braun Institute (in Berlin, Germany). Currently, she is also an Associate Editor of ACS Photonics, and a member of the editorial advisory board of Nature Quantum Information. Her research areas include • nanophotonics, quantum information, quantum technology, quantum optics, Integrated quantum photonics, photonics inverse design, nonlinear optics, optoelectronics, cavity QED.


Please join us in congratulating Jelena on her well-deserved recognition!


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November 2018

Researchers from the Pop Lab, with help from UC Davis researchers, published an article about electrochemically-driven nanoscale thermal regulators.

The paper's abstract states, "the ability to actively regulate heat flow at the nanoscale could be a game changer for applications in thermal management and energy harvesting. Such a breakthrough could also enable the control of heat flow using thermal circuits, in a manner analogous to electronic circuits. Here we demonstrate switchable thermal transistors with an order of magnitude thermal on/off ratio, based on reversible electrochemical lithium intercalation in MoS2 thin films."

In order to make this heat-conducting semiconductor into a transistor-like switch, the researchers bathed the material in a liquid with lots of lithium ions. When a small electrical current is applied to the system, the lithium atoms begin to infuse into the layers of the crystal, changing its heat-conducting characteristics. As the lithium concentration increases, the thermal transistor switches off. Working with Davide Donadio's group at the University of California, Davis, the researchers discovered that this happens because the lithium ions push apart the atoms of the crystal. This makes it harder for the heat to get through.

The researchers envision that thermal transistors connected to computer chips would switch on and off to help limit the heat damage in sensitive electronic devices.

Besides enabling dynamic heat control, the team's results provide new insights into what causes lithium ion batteries to fail. As the porous materials in a battery are infused with lithium, they impede the flow of heat and can cause temperatures to shoot up. Thinking about this process is crucial to designing safer batteries.

In a more distant future the researchers imagine that thermal transistors could be arranged in circuits to compute using heat logic, much as semiconductor transistors compute using electricity. But while excited by the potential to control heat at the nanoscale, the researchers say this technology is comparable to where the first electronic transistors were some 70 years ago, when even the inventors couldn't fully envision what they had made possible.

Excerpted from "How can we design electronic devices that don't overheat?" Nov 9, 2018.


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November 2018

Professor Dan Boneh is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the School of Engineering and head of the Applied Cryptography Group. He and advisee, PhD candidate Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, developed a system called 'Prio.' Their data privacy system aims to allow data collection to be strictly device data, not personal data.

Many internet-enabled devices need to know how people use their products in order to make them better. But when faced with the request to send information about a computer error back to the developers, many of us are inclined to say "No," just in case that information is too personal.

The Applied Cryptography Group, has developed a new system for preserving privacy during data collection from the internet. Their technique emphasizes maintaining personal privacy.

"We have an increasing number of devices – in our lightbulbs, in our cars, in our toasters – that are collecting personal data and sending it back to the device's manufacturer. More of these devices means more sensitive data floating around, so the problem of privacy becomes more important," said Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, a graduate student in computer science who co-developed this system. "This type of system is a way to collect aggregate usage statistics without collecting individual user data in the clear."

Their system, called Prio, works by breaking up and obscuring individual information through a technique known as "secret sharing" and only allowing for the collection of aggregate reports. So, an individual's information is never reported in any decipherable form.

Prio is currently being tested by Mozilla in a version of Firefox called Nightly, which includes features Mozilla is still testing. On Nightly, Prio ran in parallel to the current remote data collection (telemetry) system for six weeks, gathering over 3 million data values. There was one glitch but once that was fixed, Prio's results exactly matched the results from the current system.


"This is rare example of a new privacy technology that is getting deployed in the real world," reports Dan, "It is really exciting to see this put to use."


Excerpted from Stanford News, "Stanford researchers develop new data privacy technique" November 1, 2018.

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October 2018

Published in Nature Nanotechnology, the team's research is also featured in the Stanford News. By structuring nanowires in a way that mimics geckos' ears, this team has found a way to record the incoming angle of light. This technology could have applications in robotic vision, photography and augmented reality.

"The typical way to determine the direction of light is by using a lens. But those are big and there's no comparable mechanisms when you shrink a device so it's smaller than most bacteria," states co-author and EE professor Shanhui Fan.

More detailed light detection could support advances in lens-less cameras, augmented reality and robotic vision, which is important for autonomous cars.

A long-term commitment This project began when co-author Dr. Zongfu Yu (EE postdoc & research associate '09-'13), was a student in Shanhui Fan's lab and took the initiative to combine his work there with research by Mark Brongersma and his lab. They made progress but had to put the work on hold while Yu applied for faculty positions and, subsequently, established his lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is now an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and in whose lab Soongyu Yi works.

Many years later, and after publishing the current proof-of-concept, the researchers said they look forward to building on their results. Next steps include deciding what else they might want to measure from light and putting several nanowires side-by-side to see if they can build an entire imaging system that records all the details they're interested in at once.

"We've worked on this for a long time – Zongfu has had a whole life story between the start and end of this project! It shows that we haven't compromised on quality," Professor Brongersma said. "And it's fun to think that we might be here for another 20 years figuring out all the potential of this system."


Congratulations to all the authors!

Authors include: Soongyu Yi; Ming Zhou; Zongfu Yu; Pengyu Fan; Nader Behdad; Dianmin Lin (PhD, '16); Ken Xingze Wang; Shanhui Fan; Mark Brongersma. Abstract: Sensing the direction of sounds gives animals clear evolutionary advantage. For large animals, with an ear-to-ear spacing that exceeds audible sound wavelengths, directional sensing is simply accomplished by recognizing the intensity and time differences of a wave impinging on its two ears. Recent research suggests that in smaller, subwavelength animals, angle sensing can instead rely on a coherent coupling of soundwaves between the two ears. Inspired by this natural design, here we show a subwavelength photodetection pixel that can measure both the intensity and incident angle of light. It relies on an electrical isolation and optical coupling of two closely spaced Si nanowires that support optical Mie resonances. When these resonators scatter light into the same free-space optical modes, a non-Hermitian coupling results that affords highly sensitive angle determination. By straightforward photocurrent measurements, we can independently quantify the stored optical energy in each nanowire and relate the difference in the stored energy between the wires to the incident angle of a light wave. We exploit this effect to fabricate a subwavelength angle-sensitive pixel with angular sensitivity, δθ = 0.32°. Source, Nature Nanotechnology.

Paper link www.nature.com/articles/s41565-018-0278-9

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October 2018

Andrea Goldsmith is the Stephen Harris professor in the School of Engineering and professor of EE. Goldsmith is featured in an October 'People of ACM – Andrea Goldsmith' — a bulletin that features ACM members whose unique scientific accomplishments and compelling personal attributes are making a difference in advancing computing as a science and a profession.

The bulletin details how she became interested in engineering and communications networks, and the future challenges of wireless communications.

In 2018, Goldsmith received several awards and recognitions. Including the

Andrea's research is focused on the design, analysis, and fundamental performance limits of wireless systems and networks, as well as the application of communications and signal processing to biology and neuroscience.

Andrea also serves on Stanford's Budget Group, Academic Council Advisory Board, Faculty Senate, and Faculty Women's Forum Steering Committee. She previously served as Chair of Stanford's Faculty Senate and as a member of its Commissions on Graduate Education and on Undergraduate Education, as well as its Task Force on Women and Leadership.


Please join us in congratulating Andrea!

October 2018

Professor emeritus Thomas Kailath was awarded the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Simon Ramo Founders Award. "For pioneering contributions to diverse fields of electrical engineering and for leadership in technology commercialization and in engineering education, guiding a stellar array of young scholars". The award ceremony was held during NAE's annual meeting.

Tom's acceptance remarks acknowledged his discovery of Simon Ramo and John Whinnery's 1944 textbook, Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics.

The Simon Ramo Founders Award recognizes achievement and is the most pretigious award from NAE. The Founders Award was established in 1965 by the Academy to honor an outstanding NAE member or foreign member who has upheld the ideals and principles of the NAE through professional, educational, and personal achievement and accomplishment. In 2013, the award was renamed after SImon Ramo, who was at the time the only surviving founding member of the NAE. He was a member of a committee of 25 that in 1964 advocated for establishing the National Academy of Engineering, which operates under the same congressional charter that governs the National Academy of Sciences.


Tom Kailath's acceptance remarks are available on the 2018 Simon Ramo Founders Award Acceptance Remarks page.


Please join us in congratulating Tom on this outstanding accomplishment!

October 2018

Dan Boneh has been named the inaugural holder of the Cryptography Professorship.

Shan Wang has been appointed the fifth holder of the Leland T. Edwards Professorship.


Dan joined the Stanford faculty in 1997 and has become one of the world's leading authorities on cryptography, encryption, cybersecurity, and most recently, blockchain. He also co-directs Stanford's cross-disciplinary Cyber Initiative. Dan is known by his colleagues as an extraordinary scholar who brings deep mathematical insight to his practice, while at the same time doing work that is transforming the industry. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and a recipient of the ACM Prize in Computing.
Dan's students describe him as an educator who is not only inspiring, but encouraging, fun, and humble at the same time.

Shan's work is remarkable both for its impact on society and for the way it captures the imagination of students and other faculty across a variety of areas. His current research explores the use of nano-sensors to detect cancer and other diseases, and he is also a leader in the field of information storage technologies. A few years ago, a group of his graduate students came up with a lab motto — "Make magnetics work for humankind, not vice versa!" — which Shan said was in part the students' tongue-in-cheek rebellion against their workload, and in part a pledge to focus on practical applications of their research. There's no question that Shan's work is having an extraordinary impact across a range of fields.

Previous holders of the professorship include Jens Nørskov, James Swartz, and Calvin Quate.


Please join us in congratulating Dan and Shan on their well-deserved appointments!



Read the "Report of the president: Appointments and promotions", October 18, 2018


October 2018

Professor Balaji Prabhakar researches traffic and routes and how a nudge can help us better manage our commute. Stanford Radio host Russ Altman speaks with Balaji on "The Future of Everything". 

While well-known mapping apps have transformed the daily commute through better information, Balaji Prabhakar is exploring ways to digitally incentivize people to improve their driving habits.

He calls it "nudging," and says that small shifts in commute times — just 20 minutes earlier or later — can make a considerable impact on the day's congestion in highly trafficked urban areas, like San Francisco.

A few years ago, Prabhakar made headlines with a Stanford-only study that used small monetary incentives backed by larger lottery-like rewards to reduce peak-hour commuting on campus. He later undertook a similar but much larger effort in Singapore to promote off-peak train travel. In four years, participation in Singapore grew from 20,000 to 400,000 users.

Listen to the Stanford Radio, "Nudging your Commute with guest Balaji Prabhakar"

Excerpted from the School of Engineering, Research & Ideas, "Balaji Prabhakar: Can digital incentives help alleviate traffic?" October 2018. 

Related News

"Research by EE PhD candidates Geng, Liu, and Yin featured in NYT Tech article", July 2018.

"Balaji Prabhakar has been named ACM Fellow", December 2017.


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