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Chandrakasan honored at ISSCC’s 60th Plenary Session

Anantha P. Chandrakasan earns prestigious award for outstanding contributions to his field.
Anantha Chandrakasan, left, receives the 2013 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award from IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society president Rakesh Kumar at the 60th Anniversary Plenary Session of the IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference awards presentation on Feb. 18.
Anantha Chandrakasan, left, receives the 2013 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award from IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society president Rakesh Kumar at the 60th Anniversary Plenary Session of the IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference awards presentation on Feb. 18.
Photo courtesy of ISSCC (Dave Bush)

Anantha P. Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, was honored with a prestigious award at the 60th annual IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), held in San Francisco from Feb. 17-21.

In presenting Chandrakasan with the 2013 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits, the IEEE recognized Chandrakasan for his outstanding contributions to the field of semiconductor circuits in terms of benefitting society, enhancing technology and demonstrating professional leadership. Chandrakasan, who also heads up MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been conference chair of ISSCC since 2010.

Named for the late electrical engineering professor Donald O. Pederson, a founder of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society and its scholarly publication, the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits (the JSSC), the Pederson award is the most prestigious IEEE award presented in its field. It is typically awarded to an individual whose lifetime career demonstrates the qualities represented by Pederson, who taught at the University of California at Berkeley.  

Stanford University professor of electrical engineering Mark Horowitz, who nominated Chandrakasan for the award, described his motivation in a tribute article in the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine: “I nominated Anantha for the Pederson Award this year because he is one of the most creative circuits people I know, and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. While young to receive the award, Anantha has been prolific in creating advances that have moved the field into new, interesting areas. So he has already accomplished more than most do in a lifetime.”

In terms of technical contributions, Horowitz, the 2006 recipient of the Pederson award, noted that Chandrakasan’s “incredible breadth as a researcher and innovator allows him cross-layered optimizations that are not possible for many others.” When meeting Chandrakasan for the first time, Horowitz said he immediately recognized not only leadership qualities, but also his “tremendous system and circuit design abilities.”

The Pederson award is also given in recognition of teaching and engaging future generations in the field. Horowitz noted in tribute article that Chandrakasan “completely throws himself into teaching, like everything else he does, and he does a fabulous job. MIT has a strong tradition of using its best teachers for undergraduate courses. I would say that Anantha exemplifies the goal that MIT aspires to — an extremely accessible researcher who spends enormous energy creating and teaching at the undergraduate level. He truly believes in the importance of undergraduate teaching.”

The same article described Chandrakasan’s leadership roles in ISSCC, the premier conference in the area of solid-state circuits: “While maintaining his prodigious research output, Anantha’s role in ISSCC grew from program committee membership to subcommittee chairmanship, to program committee chairmanship, and conference chair. In all of these roles, his performance has combined fairness, consensus building and decisive action.”

At the conference, Chandrakasan was also recognized as the author with the highest number of ISSCC publications. The ISSCC honors top contributors in two categories: the top 10 over the past decade (2004 through 2013), and the top 12 over the 60-year history of ISSCC (1954 through 2013). Chandrakasan had the highest number of publications in both categories — 36 and 44, respectively.

At the 1994 ISSCC, Chandrakasan presented his PhD thesis research paper titled “A Low-Power Chipset for Portable Multimedia Applications.” Focusing on a low-voltage/low-power chipset for a multimedia terminal, this work has become a landmark publication in the field. John Trnka, the ISSCC 60th anniversary events chair, noted that “Anantha still holds the record for having the only ISSCC presentation that ever was repeated at the Conference, because there was not enough room in the session to accommodate everyone who wished to see it!”

Writing in the circuits magazine, Dennis Buss, consultant to Texas Instruments and a visiting scientist at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL), discussed the effect that this work had when Chandrakasan delivered it at the ISSCC: “At a time when switching speed and the silicon area of digital CMOS circuits were the primary design metrics used for circuit optimization, and comparable chips operated at 100X higher power, 5mW for six chips was a revolutionary finding. It shocked the industry.”

Another paper co-authored by Chandrakasan, “Low-Power CMOS Digital Design,” is the second most-cited paper in the history of the JSSC. Buss writes, “Today, Anantha’s visionary concepts provide the core ideas for ultra-low-power design for remote sensor and medical monitoring applications.”

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