Two UCLA Engineering Professors Named to Endowed Chairs in Electrical Engineering

Oct 26, 2009

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

By Wileen Wong Kromhout

Two professors from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been named inaugural holders of endowed chairs in electrical engineering. M.C. Frank Chang will hold the Wintek Endowed Chair in Electrical Engineering, and Alan N. Willson Jr. will hold the Charles P. Reames Endowed Chair in Electrical Engineering.

The endowed chairs, part of the engineering school’s Enhancing Engineering Excellence initiative, were each established with a $1 million gift.

“Both Frank and Alan are outstanding scholars, exceptional teachers and leaders in their fields. I am pleased they are the first holders of each chair,” said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. “I am also extremely grateful for the generous support from our alumni and friends who have made the establishment of these chairs possible.”

M.C. Frank Chang: Wintek Chair

M.C. Frank Chang has made major contributions to the development of high-speed semiconductor devices and integrated circuits. His work has transformed the landscape of modern high-speed electronics, with benefits for daily life around the globe.

His work has included the development of GaAs HBT and BiFET devices and power amplifiers used in the production of 2G and 3G mobile phones worldwide. The current generation of phones — and even transceivers — could not be realized cost-effectively without the use of these high-efficiency, high-linearity power amplifiers.

In the early 1990s, Chang’s research team mass-produced GaAs HBT amplifiers to facilitate the deployment of the first commercial CDMA handsets in Hong Kong and South Korea, and then throughout the world. CDMA, a multiple-access scheme for digital radio, can send voice data and signaling data, such as a dialed phone number, between mobile phones and cell sites.

This GaAs HBT technology has evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry, with more than 5 billion such power amplifiers distributed over the past decade. In 2007 alone, more than 80 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion mobile phones were equipped with GaAs HBT or BiFET power amplifiers.

Chang’s pioneering circuit research has resulted in the development of ultra–high-speed and high-frequency RF and mixed-signal circuits for wireless and wired communication. His development of analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion has also opened doors for the development of the next generation of digital radars and radios.

His creative techniques for generating Terahertz signals with commercial CMOS technology, which is used in digital logic circuits like microprocessors and in analog circuits such as image sensors and data converters, have paved the way for the future development of low-cost and portable wireless signaling devices (wireless radio, chip-to-chip interconnections) and imagers with unprecedented bandwidth and resolution.

Chang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2008 and received the IEEE David Sarnoff Award for exceptional contributions to electronics in 2006.

The Wintek Chair was established by Hyley Huang, chairman of Wintek Corp., a Taiwan-based manufacturer of small-to-medium–sized LCD panels used in digital cameras, cell phones, PDAs and video cameras.

Alan N. Willson Jr.: Charles P. Reames Chair

Much of Alan Willson’s research has focused on electronic circuits, including mathematically intensive theoretical work and investigations that have yielded new insights into the development of very practical circuits. His projects in this field have led to innovative means of predicting instability in circuits, as well as new methods for computer-aided circuit design and analysis.

In recent years, Willson has worked extensively on the design of direct digital frequency synthesizers, a specific type of digital oscillator, leading to a number of commercially successful products for one of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers.

A member of the engineering school faculty for 37 years, Willson served as assistant dean for graduate studies from 1977 to 1981 and as the school’s associate dean from 1989 to 2001. He established the UCLA chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, the honor society for undergraduate electrical engineering students, and continues to serve as its faculty adviser. The chapter recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Two courses created by Willson in the 1970s in the field of digital signal processing brought the specialization to UCLA for the first time; among Willson’s achievements in this field is a novel and much improved way for implementing digital filters, which are used in many products today to remove undesired frequencies from electronic signals.

In 2010, Willson will receive the IEEE Leon K. Kirchmayer Graduate Teaching Award for exemplary teaching and curriculum development and for inspirational guidance of doctoral student research in the area of circuits and systems. He is the only researcher to have twice won the IEEE W.R.G. Baker Prize Award, given for the most outstanding paper reporting original work across all fields in all IEEE publications during the year of publication. Willson also received the 2003 IEEE Mac Van Valkenburg Award for outstanding technical contributions and distinguished leadership in his field and the IEEE Technical Achievement Award in 2000.

The Reames Chair was made possible by a gift from UCLA Engineering alumnus Charles P. Reames M.S. ’80, Ph.D. ’85, senior director of broadband systems engineering at Broadcom Corp. The chair holder must be an outstanding scholar and teacher in electrical engineering.

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