The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ECE Newsletter: Winter 2018

Message from Kris Hollot

Hi, UMass Amherst ECE alumni and friends:

University professors have the best job in the world – teaching, researching, and mentoring in technical areas that we love. On top of that, we work with the best students on campus – engineering students are bright, hard-working, and a joy to be around. Our great students turn into the best and most accomplished of UMass alumni, and at Homecoming 2017 the college honored Ellen Ferraro (’89, ’94PhD) and Yong Liu (’02PhD) as ECE Outstanding Alumni. Congratulations, Ellen and Yong!

Our highlighted stories for this winter contain three about ECE women who are making an impact: 

  • Forbes Magazine recognized Dr. Akshaya Shanmugam (’12MS, ’15PhD) on its list of “30 under 30 entrepreneurs for Healthcare.”
  • N2 Women named ECE Professor Lixin Gao as one of 10 women in the world chosen as a “Star in Computer Networking and Communications.”
  • Research engineer Shira Epstein joined the M5 staff while bringing her expertise in working at hackerspace Sector67 in Madison, Wisconsin.
At a recent ECE open house for accepted high school students, I spoke about some of the exciting technologies on the horizon for ECE graduates. My choices were:
  • New Computer Paradigms: The speed and large data sets of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain algorithms are driving the need for new computer architectures. Also, Moore’s Law has ended, and an answer for faster and smaller computers is yet to be answered: Will it be quantum, neuromorphic, brain-inspired, nanoblob, or XYZ computing? We just don’t know, and that’s pretty exciting.
  • 5G telecommunications: This promise of ubiquitous, low-latency, adaptive, mobile communications requires high-speed electronics, multifunctional antenna systems, and ultrawide band wireless technologies – all in the wheelhouse of the ECE department.
  • IoT: The meeting between cyberspace and the physical world places a high premium on their interfacing and on ECE expertise in embedded systems, network and wireless systems, cloud computing data analysis, and security.

What technologies would you choose to highlight?

Finally, please SAVE THE DATE for Senior Design Project (SDP) Demo and Project Showcase Days:

  • SDP Demo Day: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Friday, April 27, 2018, Marcus Hall, Gunness Student Center.
  • ECE Project Showcase: noon to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 28, 2018, Marcus Hall, Gunness Student Center and M5 (Marcus Hall, Room 5).



C.V. Hollot
Professor and Head
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

Gao Selected as One of 10 International “Stars in Computer Networking and Communications” by N2 Women

Professor Lixin Gao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has been selected to this year’s list of the Networking Networking Women (N2 Women) “Stars in Computer Networking and Communications,” previously known as “10 women in networking /communications that you should KNOW.” As the N2 Women co-chairs wrote to Gao, “Many people from around the world submitted one or more outstanding nominations for this list, and it was difficult to choose only 10 amazing women. You are one of these incredible women!”

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ECE Alum Marc Hildebrant Remasters Thomas Edison’s Musical Recordings

Alumnus Marc Hildebrant (BSEE, ’71) of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department was featured earlier this year in IEEE Spectrum’s "Geek Life," describing his work in restoring old music, particularly that recorded by Thomas Edison. The article, dealing with Hildebrant using digital techniques to restore mechanically recorded music to its full glory, also appeared in the February 2017 print version of The Music Man.

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Wolf Named Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst News Office, Dr. Tilman Wolf, professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been named senior vice provost for academic affairs by acting provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs John McCarthy. The appointment is effective at the beginning of the new academic year. Wolf will assume most of the responsibilities of Betsy Dumont, who has recently taken a position as dean of the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced.

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ECE Alumna Akshaya Shanmugam Earns Spot on Forbes' '30 under 30' for Healthcare

Akshaya Shanmugam — a UMass Amherst alumna of our Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department and CEO and co-founder of the Amherst-based spinoff company Lumme Inc. — has been recognized in Forbes Magazine’s list of “30 under 30” entrepreneurs for Healthcare. At Lumme, Shanmugam has developed helpful and effective software for smokers who want to quit.

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Anderson Named Terrence Murray Commonwealth Honors College Professor

Professor Neal G. Anderson of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has been named the Terrence Murray Commonwealth Honors College Professor. The two-year award was approved through a competitive application process. The Murray Professorship supports distinguished faculty members in developing innovative courses and programs for students in the 3,800-member Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst.

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UMass Electrical Engineers Describe Pioneering Hardware Security Device, Supported by Memristors, in Nature Communications

Professors Qiangfei Xia and J. Joshua Yang of our Electrical and Computer Engineering Department led a team of scientists who have developed a groundbreaking new type of hardware security device enabled by memristors, or resistive switching devices, as described in an article in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

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Pishro-Nik Receives $1-million NSF Grant to Study User Privacy on the Internet of Things

By exploiting a wealth of user-specific data to improve user experiences, the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionize people’s lives in the decades ahead through such phenomena as smart cities, connected vehicles, smart homes, and connected healthcare devices. However, as we’ve witnessed with recent much-publicized data hacks, the sharing of such info can compromise users’ privacy.

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Epstein Lives Her Makerspace Dream as New Engineer-in Residence at M5

One of the most overlooked but critical features of the M5 makerspace in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is the 25 or so white boards lining the walls in numerous places around the facility or waiting to be installed. Such white boards didn’t appear as if by magic. Deploying them, in fact, and getting them installed on the walls, is one of the many organizational duties of new M5 Engineer-in-Residence Shira Epstein, who typically works behind the scenes to organize, stabilize, and categorize the day-to-day operations in the makerspace.

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CASA to Adapt Its Weather Radar Systems So They Can Also Be Used for Detecting Small Drones

The Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is in the process of adapting its weather radar networks so they can also detect small drones. In part, CASA’s new initiative is designed to address industry estimates that there could be as many as 3-million drones in skies worldwide by the end of 2017. As the UMass News Office reports, “The [CASA] system is designed to scan the airspace closest to the ground where drones and severe weather are not currently visible to existing weather radar and aircraft surveillance systems. The project is funded with an 18-month, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).”

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Taneja Works on $680,265 Grant to Measure Crucial Electricity Reliability in Ghana

Jay Taneja, an Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been funded as a subawardee in a $680,265 grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for a proposal entitled "A Pilot Study of Novel Low-Cost Technologies for Measuring Electricity Reliability in Urban Ghana." Taneja is collaborating with the Development Impact Lab (DIL) and the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, to conduct a pilot deployment of a suite of DIL-developed technologies for monitoring and evaluating the performance and reliability of the electric power distribution grid in Ghana.

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Aksamija and His Graduate Students Publish Paper in Scientific Reports

As Aksamija says about the research in the Scientific Reports paper, “We study atomic monolayer materials, such as graphene, because of their potential applications in future ultra-nanoscale devices. Graphene is a material of superlatives, including very low electrical resistivity, but it’s missing a key property that other semiconductors have: an energy bandgap. The lack of a bandgap means graphene devices cannot be completely turned off.”

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ECE Docotoral Student Wins Best Student Paper at International Conference on Rebooting Computer

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Neal Anderson’s doctoral student Natesh Ganesh has won the Best Student Paper award at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 2017 International Conference on Rebooting Computing (ICRC). The title of his paper and presentation was "A Thermodynamic Treatment of Intelligent Systems." The conference was held on November 8 and 9 in Washington, DC.

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Xia and Yang Publish Article on “Memristor Computing Engine” in Nature Electronics

Professors Qiangfei Xia and Joshua Yang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at UMass Amherst have just published an article about their research on a “computing engine using large memristor crossbars” in the opening issue of Nature Electronics, a research journal launched recently by the Nature Publishing Group. Xia, Yang, and their research colleagues say that “Memristor crossbars offer reconfigurable non-volatile resistance states and could remove the speed and energy efficiency bottleneck in vector-matrix multiplication, a core computing task in signal and image processing.”

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