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Two ECE graduate students receive award, push boundaries in research areas

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Not one, but two Director's Thesis Research Awards were presented to exceptional ECE graduate students this year, with Ruonan Han and Enrique Mallada sharing the honor.

The Graduate Committee decided to present a joint award based on the nomination materials submitted, along with the direct feedback received from the students and faculty who attended presentations by both winners. Prize money will be split between the two and each will receive an engraved plaque.


Breaking limits of devices and circuits

Ruonan Han, a member of the Afshari Research Group is forging new pathways by focusing on the integrated electronics operating in the range of Terahertz (1 THz=1000GHz). According to Han, the radiation in this frequency has enormous applications, such as imaging in biomedicine, spectroscopy in astronomy and ultra-broadband communications. However, among the entire electromagnetic spectrum (from DC to X-ray), terahertz remains the least explored.

"Its high frequency was long believed to be beyond the capability of electronics, especially CMOS integrated circuits," said Han. "To break such limits, I introduce in my thesis new nonlinear theories and design methodologies to engineer and optimize the devices and the EM waves around them inside circuits."

In Han’s research, the implemented silicon chips, such as THz radiators and imagers, have achieved the best output power and sensitivity among all CMOS works. His research not only makes THz systems more approachable, but also deepens our understanding of the device behavior under extreme conditions.

"Winning this award greatly motivates me to continue scientific explorations in my future career," said Han. "And I’d like to share my excitement with my family, my Advisor Ehsan (Afshari), and my colleagues in Cornell ECE."

Han received his Ph.D. in January 2014.


Exploring practical problems across disciplines

Enrique Mallada, a member of the Tang Research Group is bridging disciplines with the study of networked dynamic systems, which are distributed dynamical systems whose interactions are constrained by a network. This exciting area connects to many different fields, including physics, economics, and engineering, and with an unusually wide application spectrum.

"I focus on the study of synchronization on distributed (networked) systems," said Mallada. "Initially, I laid the theoretical foundation that explains how phase synchrony can collectively emerge on a network of oscillators through local interactions. Using the insight gained by this analysis, I explored practical problems in two areas: information networks and power networks."

Within information networks, Mallada examines the synchronization of computer clocks connected via a data network. He was able to derive a novel algorithm that works in broader network settings which can outperform existing solutions including current Internet standards. In power networks, he studies the tradeoff between economic efficiency and stability, proposing a stability measure that can be readily incorporated in the dispatch to provide generator schedules with stability guarantees.

"Receiving this award has been a great honor to me, specifically given the high quality of Cornell's ECE Ph.D. graduates," said Mallada. "I've been very lucky to have an advisor like Kevin (Tang). His valuable support and guidance have been instrumental in my research career since I arrived at Cornell."

Enrique Mallada received his Ph.D. in January 2014.

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