Two Penn State engineering faculty receive top IEEE awards

September 1, 2023

By Tessa M. Pick 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two faculty members from the Penn State School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) — William E. Leonhard Chair Professor Madhavan Swaminathan and Emerita Evan Pugh Professor Mary Jane Irwin — received Technical Field Awards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

“It is a tremendous honor for the College of Engineering to have two members of our faculty receive these recognitions from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers,” said Tonya L. Peeples, interim Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. “These Technical Field Awards represent the critical and timely impacts Dr. Swaminathan and Dr. Irwin have made in the fields of semiconductors and integrated circuits, respectively.”

Mary Jane Irwin 

Irwin received the IEEE 2024 Gustav Robert Kirchoff Award, sponsored by the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society (CAS), for her “contributions to electronic design automation and power-aware computer architecture.” 

Irwin joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of computer science in 1977 and retired as an Emerita Evan Pugh Professor in 2017. Her research focused on the design and efficiency of custom “very large-scale integration” (VLSI) chips for the manufacturing of integrated circuits. Her work contributed to the advancement of high-performance and energy-efficient circuits and systems, as well as the software simulation and hardware design tools used for their development.

Irwin authored hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, which appeared in selective conferences and journals, obtained significant funding, especially from the National Science Foundation, and advised many graduate students.

“I think of this award as one not only to me but also to the group of Penn State faculty and students who were involved in my research efforts over the years,” she said.

Irwin, who is both an IEEE fellow and an Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) fellow, was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2003 and the American Society of Arts and Scientists in 2009. She has served as editor-in-chief of ACM’s Transactions on the Design Automation of Electronic Systems and as an elected member of the Computing Research Association (CRA) Board of Directors, as well as vice president of ACM. She received an honorary doctorate from Chalmers University, Sweden in 1997, the 2003 IEEE CAS VLSI Transactions Best Paper of the Year Award, the 2010 ACM Athena Lecturer Award, the 2017 ACM Special Interest Group on Design Automation Pioneering Achievement Award, the 2018 European Design and Automation Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 Kaufman Award and the 2020 CRA Habermann Award.

Among her many professional service activities, Irwin said she is proudest of her contributions to the Computer Research Association Committee on Women (CRA-WP). She co-chaired the committee from 1993 to 1996 and has since led or co-led many CRA-WP workshops and outreach efforts designed to help with the recruitment, retention and advancement of women and underrepresented minorities in computer science and engineering.

Madhavan Swaminathan 

Swaminathan, the department head of electrical engineering in EECS, was recognized with the 2024 Rao R. Tummala Electronics Packaging Technology Award. The award is one of IEEE’s Technical Field Awards bestowed for contributions or leadership in specific fields of interest.

This award, sponsored by the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society and Friends of Rao R. Tummala, acknowledges Swaminathan’s “pioneering contributions to semiconductor packaging and system integration technologies, which have significantly improved electronic system performance, efficiency and capabilities of electronic systems,” according to the IEEE website.

“This is the highest award honoring technical achievement in the Electronics Packaging Society’s fields of interest,” Swaminathan said. “Each year, the IEEE awards board recommends a select group of recipients to receive IEEE’s most prestigious honors. These are individuals whose exceptional achievements and outstanding contributions have made a lasting impact on technology, society and the engineering profession. So, this is a very big honor — not just for me. It is a testament to the many years of hard work from my students and faculty that I have collaborated with over the years.”

Swaminathan, an IEEE fellow who is also affiliated with the Penn State Materials Research Institute, is the director of the Center for Heterogeneous Integration of Micro Electronic Systems, one of seven centers funded through the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Joint University Microelectronics Program 2.0. He was also recently elected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in recognition of his 31 issued patents and their impact on technology and job creation. Prior to joining Penn State, Swaminathan spent 28 years at Georgia Tech, where he became a chaired professor and the director of the 3D Systems Packaging Research Center. 

Swaminathan and his students have been awarded 32 best paper awards, all of which relate to research on semiconductor packaging. He has authored more than 550 technical publications, is the primary author and co-editor of three books and five book chapters, is the founder and co-founder of two start-up companies and is the founder of the IEEE International Conference on Electrical Design of Advanced Packaging and Systems. 

Recipients of IEEE’s Technical Field Awards receive a monetary prize, a plaque and a medal. They will be presented their awards at IEEE-sponsored conferences in 2024.  


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