Madhavan Swaminathan named new head of electrical engineering

September 15, 2022

By Ashley J. WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Department of Electrical Engineering, one of the oldest in the United States, has a new leader. Madhavan Swaminathan will join the University as the head of electrical engineering and William E. Leonhard Endowed Chair on Jan. 1, 2023. 

“Though the department was founded in 1893, it’s fairly young with early career faculty and holds great potential to grow and mature,” said Swaminathan, who is currently the John Pippin Chair in Microsystems Packaging and Electromagnetics in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a joint appointment in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. “The opportunity to mentor future leaders as we collectively grow the department is a big reason why I decided to make the move.” 

Swaminathan has served at Georgia Tech for 28 years, leading the 3D Systems Packaging Research Center and the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Electronics through Machine Learning. He leads research and development in semiconductors, the focus of the $52 billion Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America (CHIPS) Act that was signed into law in August.  

“Madhavan is a pioneer in semiconductor packaging who will bring the efforts related to microelectronic devices of both the Department of Electrical Engineering and Penn State at-large to new heights at a time when it is particularly strategic for the United States,” said Justin Schwartz, interim executive vice president and provost who was the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering at the time of Swaminathan’s recruitment. “He is truly a transformational leader who has the skills and passion to thread together expertise from across the University to make the strongest interdisciplinary impact.”

The federal government’s heavy investment in semiconductors provides what Swaminathan called a “fantastic” opportunity for faculty in a variety of specialties. 

“Semiconductors are not restricted to electrical engineering — this space influences advancements in communications, photonics, extraterrestrial exploration, the discovery of new materials and many more,” Swaminathan said.   

Semiconductor chips are integrated circuits that allow cell phones, computers and any “smart” technology to function. According to Swaminathan, the semiconductor industry has grown to half a trillion dollars in the last 55 years and is expected to double in the next decade.  

“The cross- and interdisciplinary efforts are critical for research, workforce development, education and industry engagement, but very few universities in the United States are focused on semiconductor packaging,” Swaminathan said, referring to the system aspects that can affect performance, cost, reliability and integration of the devices. “Penn State is very well positioned to go above and beyond in these areas by training veterans, conducting outreach in K-12 schools, partnering with industry and more to address not only how we advance technology in the lab setting but also how we move that work forward into manufacturing.”  

Swaminathan said he is eager to support faculty and collaboratively advance the department in a variety of realms.  

“The Department of Electrical Engineering is very strong in several areas — especially where the focuses overlap,” Swaminathan said. “The faculty have new ideas and a lot of untapped energy, and I am looking forward to working together to develop a strategic vision to move the department forward.” 

Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Swaminathan worked on packaging for supercomputers at IBM. He earned his master of science and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at Syracuse University. 

“With Professor Swaminathan’s extensive leadership experience, I have every confidence that he will swiftly engage with faculty, staff and students across the department and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) to elevate the department even more,” said Tom La Porta, Evan Pugh Professor, current William E. Leonhard Endowed Chair and director of the School of EECS. “Professor Swaminathan is a fantastic addition to the Penn State College of Engineering, and we’re glad to welcome him.”

Swaminathan has authored more than 550 technical publications and holds 31 patents. He has co-founded two start-up companies: Jacket Micro Devices, which was acquired by AVX Corp., and E-System Design. He also founded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Electrical Design of Advanced Packaging and Systems, which is currently in its 20th year. 

Swaminathan is an IEEE fellow, and he has advised 71 graduate students. His group has been recognized with 28 best paper awards. His recognitions include the Georgia Tech Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, the D. Scott Wills Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Mentor Award, the Georgia Tech Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli in India and the Outstanding Sustained Technical Contribution Award from the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society.


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College of Engineering Media Relations

"The opportunity to mentor future leaders as we collectively grow the department is a big reason why I decided to make the move."

— Madhavan Swaminathan