The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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ECE Newsletter: Winter 2014

Message from Kris Hollot

Dear UMass Amherst ECE alumni and friends:

Our summer ’13 ECE newsletter announced the newly-created Institute for Applied Life Sciences, and since then the campus has been abuzz in establishing three centers:

CPHM is most strongly connected to engineering and ECE with a goal of impacting both biomedical engineering research and engagement with regional industry. CPHM’s research thrusts include:

  • next-generation sensing devices and electronic subsystems;
  • wireless sensor system design;
  • high-frequency biosensors.

We look forward to keeping you abreast of future CPHM developments and with the introduction of new allied faculty members for whom we are now conducting searches.

As always, the spring semester is a culmination of our seniors’ capstone senior design project, and we invite ECE alums and friends to save the dates for attending:

  • Senior Design Project Demo Day: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., Friday, April 25, 2014, Gunness Student Center of Marcus Hall.
  • ECE Project Showcase (Senior Design Projects and M5 Circuits and Code): 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 26, 2014, Gunness Student Center and M5, both located in Marcus Hall.

I hope you enjoy catching up with our department’s stories about alums, students, and faculty members. Please send me a note at, and here’s to an early spring.

NSF CAREER Research Will Upgrade Cryogenic Sensors
Joseph Bardin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a five-year grant of approximately $400,000 from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. Bardin’s research will greatly improve the cryogenic electronics used in scientific instruments, thereby enabling new and more powerful experimental tools for scientific researchers. The research focus of Bardin’s CAREER project is to design novel broadband silicon circuits, operating at ultra-low power dissipation and cooled to cryogenic temperatures, thereby boosting the information-gathering capabilities of current, cryogenically-cooled scientific instruments by about 10 times.
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ECE 361 Students Take Their Smart Cars on a Wild Ride
On December 6 in the Campus Center Auditorium, 170 junior and senior students in the ECE 361 Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering course showed off some 40 model “smart cars” they had designed during the course as collision-avoiding vehicles. This course is intended to provide non-electrical engineering majors, in this case students from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, with the relevant electrical and electronic engineering concepts and device knowledge to work effectively in multi-disciplined design, development, and manufacturing teams. View You Tube video:
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UMass Grad Wins Prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowship
Jorge L. Salazar, a doctoral graduate from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was awarded a prestigious National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Advanced Study Program Postdoctoral Fellowship. The postdoctoral program provides an opportunity for recent Ph.D. scientists and engineers to continue to pursue their research interests in atmospheric and related sciences. Salazar is currently working at the Earth Observing Laboratory at NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, developing an emerging technology for two-dimensional, electronically scanned, and dual-pol phased array radars for use in atmospheric research.
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Alums' RailPod Startup Wins $100,000 in MassChallenge
On October 30, RailPod, a startup company founded by College of Engineering alumni Brendan English (B.S. 1999 in Computer Systems Engineering) and Blair Morad (B.S. 1998 in Mechanical Engineering), won $100,000 in the 2013 MassChallenge (, the world’s largest startup accelerator. RailPod was one of five $100,000 first-prize winners out of 128 companies competing in the MassChallenge. RailPod is a railroad track inspection robot that provides a visual depiction of the track environment, supported by quantifiable measurements that quickly and accurately identify track problems.
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UMass Team Finishes in Top Six of Yale Hackathon
On November 8 and 9, Marco Chiang, a senior BSCSE major, and his team from the Computer Science Department finished in the top six out of more than 500 “amazing hackers” and 200 teams that competed in the Yale Hackathon in New Haven, Connecticut. According to Chiang, the Hackathon is an event in which students compete to create the most innovative and complex computer software and hardware hacks to win a variety of cash and prizes. As Chiang explained, “Leaf, the name of our product and vision, is working hard to bring a piece of technology into our lives to revolutionize social and professional interactions.”
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ECE Ph.D. Student Presents Runner-up Paper
John Logan, a Ph.D. student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, was Runner-up in the Student Paper Contest at the 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology ( His paper was entitled "Low-Cost mm-Wave UWB Phased Arrays." Logan’s advisor, ECE Professor Marinos Vouvakis, was the co-author of the paper. The conference was held on October 15 to 18 at the Westin Hotel in Waltham on Boston's famous Route 128 Technology Highway.
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ECE Researchers Win Best Paper Award
A paper authored by four researchers from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department – graduate student Kekai Hu, former graduate student Harikrishnan Chandrikakutty, and Professors Russell Tessier and Tilman Wolf – won the Best Paper Award at the First Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Communications and Network Security ( The paper is entitled “Scalable Hardware Monitors to Protect Network Processors from Data Plane Attacks.” The conference had 141 paper submissions, of which 40 were accepted for presentation.
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Swanson Delivers Tang Lecture
On Wednesday, October 16, Eric A. Swanson (’82 B.S., ECE) deliverered the 14th annual Tang Lecture in Campus Center Room 1009. The title of this year’s Tang Lecture was “Startup Stories: Personal Observations and Other Comments.” Mr. Swanson is the director of Acacia Communication, Curata Incorporated, and NinePoint Medical. In 2012 he was a co-recipient of the $1.3-million António Champalimaud Vision Award, one the world’s largest scientific and humanitarian prizes and the largest in visual research, for the discovery of optical coherence tomography, which plays a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of the most important blinding diseases of the industrialized world: macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
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Freshman Has Eight World Titles in Martial Arts
Freshman Steven So of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has arrived on campus with eight world titles in various martial arts under his Black Belt. Well, to be more accurate, it’s two Black Belts; one in Taekwondo, and the other in Traditional Mixed Martial Arts. He also holds multiple state and national titles and has won several grand championships all over the country. He also appeared and performed on ESPN multiple times and was featured in Karate World Magazine. The articulate, soft-spoken undergrad from Billerica, Massachusetts, also has the grades, academic awards, and smarts to enter UMass Amherst as part of the first class ensconced in the brand new and upgraded Honors College, where he lives on a residence floor devoted to talented engineering students.
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ECE Alum’s Company Wins 2013 Start-up to Watch Award
Dr. Vishal Misra, former Ph.D. student of Professor Weibo Gong of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, is the founder, CTO, and self-proclaimed “Chief Cheerleader” of Infinio Systems, which won the award for “2013 Start-up to Watch” on September 12 at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Awards (MTLA) Gala. This award recognizes a new and innovative technology company (two years or younger) that demonstrates the potential for significant growth and positive change to its market or industry. The award was determined by the tech community through a public online voting process. MTLA is the Commonwealth’s most prestigious tech awards program, dubbed the “Academy Awards” of tech, attended by more than 700 company executives.
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ECE Researchers Receive NASA Group Achievement Award
Four former researchers from the UMass Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department recently received a special Group Achievement Award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) “for engineering team excellence and dedication to developing the advanced weather radar HIWRAP.” HIWRAP stands for High-altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler. ECE Professor Emeritus Dan Schaubert, his former doctoral student Justin Creticos (now at MITRE), Lihua Li (former Ph.D. student of Robert McIntosh now at NASA), and former research faculty member Jim Carswell were all on the HIWRAP Radar Team of 18 scientists. The HIWRAP system was developed for use on NASA’s Global Hawk drone aircraft, used during hurricane season to gain many scientific insights into tropical storms.
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Kwon Publishes Book on Transformation Electromagnetics and Metamaterials
Do-Hoon Kwon of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has published a book with Springer Publishers entitled Transformation Electromagnetics and Metamaterials: Fundamental Principles and Applications. Kwon edited the book with Douglas H. Werner. The book provides “a systematic design technique for optical and electromagnetic devices that enables novel wave-material interaction properties.” It describes the recent invention of the transformation electromagnetics design technique, gives a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter from a group of leading scholars and researchers throughout the world, and includes both fundamental theoretical principles and application examples encompassing a wide range of spectra.
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