Most faculty members will tell you that interviewing and being hired into an academic faculty position is a challenging experience, even in the best job markets. Since many universities froze hiring in 2020 due to Covid-19, that process became even harder and more competitive. While some universities seemed to be hiring more aggressively in 2021, fewer openings still seemed to be available overall.
In the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, ten recently minted Ph.D. graduates and postdoctoral fellows/associates have been hired into faculty positions, despite these difficult and uncertain circumstances. Six have been hired by universities in the United States, while four have accepted positions in Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
“We are extremely proud of our recent Ph.D. graduates and recently completed postdocs and all of their accomplishments,” said Douglas M. Blough, the Interim Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of ECE. “They have been prepared very well by their advisors and by the experiences that they have had at Georgia Tech. We wish them the very best at their new university homes and in all that they choose to pursue in the future.”
In a world that continues to need the expertise of engineering and science faculty more than ever, here are ten new additions to academia, all hailing from the Georgia Tech School of ECE.
Maad Alowaifeer graduated with his Ph.D. in summer 2021 and worked in the Power Systems Control and Automation Laboratory. He started work this fall as an assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at The King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).
The title of Alowaifeer’s Ph.D. thesis is “Microgrid Energy Management System with Ancillary Services to the Grid.” The research founded methodologies to optimally manage the consumption and production of electric energy in microgrids, which are small electric networks with multiple controllable energy resources.
The management is performed considering the provision of ancillary services to the main grid, which are essential capabilities needed to operate the main grid appropriately. The demand for ancillary services has been increasing due to the installation of renewable resources. By supporting the main grid from microgrids, these increasing needs may be satisfied, and thus pave the way towards more installation of renewable resources.
Alowaifeer was advised by A.P. Sakis Meliopoulos, who holds the Georgia Power Distinguished Professorship in ECE. Meliopoulos said that decarbonization of the electric energy sector has generated new challenges due to the variability of renewable resources.
“Dr. Alowaifeer's research provided new paradigms for optimal electric energy utilization and electric energy system reliability via microgrids, providing reliable solutions to the new challenges,” Meliopoulos said. “The area is of great interest to the continuing decarbonization of the electric energy sector and an area of intense academic and industrial research. Dr. Alowaifeer was offered the academic position to develop this area of research at KFUPM.”
Bahar Asgari graduated with her Ph.D. in spring 2021. Starting in July 2022, she will start working as an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently working at Google on its system infrastructure team.
The title of Asgari’s thesis is “Efficiently Accelerating Sparse Problems by Enabling Stream Accesses to Memory Using Hardware/Software Techniques.” Today, a significant portion of supercomputer workloads are sparse problems. However, as they are not able to use more than a tiny fraction of the peak performance of today's computers, they waste millions of dollars and thousands of Joules of energy, and yet cannot run fast enough.
Asgari’s research proposes low-cost hardware accelerators and hardware/software co-optimization to deal with the unsolved but essential challenges of sparse problems and help them run quickly and efficiently. The results of her research have contributed to widespread application areas of sparse problems, including machine learning, computer vision, self-driving cars, and scientific computing.
Asgari worked in both the High Performance Computer Architecture Lab and the Computer Architecture and System Lab at Georgia Tech. She was advised by Hyesoon Kim, a professor in the School of Computer Science, and the late Sudhakar Yalamanchili, who was a Regents Professor in the School of ECE. “Bahar is intelligent and very focused,” Kim said. “She likes advising and teaching students. Her students will be lucky to have her as an advisor, similar to I was lucky to have an opportunity to work with her.”
Ningyuan Cao graduated with his Ph.D. in summer 2020 and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in ECE for the last year. He began working as an assistant professor this fall in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
The title of Cao’s Ph.D. thesis is “Circuit and Algorithm Design to Enable Edge Intelligence.” As a part of his graduate research, Cao made fundamental contributions to the design of ultralow power mixed-signal circuits that can enable Edge-intelligence. In particular, his work has provided the hardware techniques needed to enable machine learning in sub-10mW systems through innovations in circuit- and hardware-friendly algorithm design.
His research has been published in leading conferences, such as the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference and the VLSI Symposium, and journals like the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits and IEEE Transactions of Circuits and Systems. His work was highlighted in a number of technical media articles, including EE Times and Wired.
While at Tech, Cao worked in the Integrated Circuits and Systems Research Lab, which is led by his advisor, Arijit Raychowdhury. “I am very excited to see Ningyuan join the faculty at the University of Notre Dame. His graduate work and his current post-doctoral research addresses critical circuit design challenges,” said Raychowdhury, who holds the Motorola Solutions Foundation Professorship in ECE. “Having worked with Ningyuan over the years, I am confident that he will not only be a successful, independent researcher, but also a fantastic educator and mentor.”
Zackory Erickson was an ECE student who graduated with his Ph.D. through the interdisciplinary robotics doctoral program during summer 2021. He joined the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University this fall as an assistant professor.
The title of Erickson’s thesis is “Robotic Caregivers — Simulation and Capacitive Servoing for Physical Human-Robot Interaction.” Physical human-robot interaction and robotic assistance presents an opportunity to benefit the lives of many people, including the millions of older adults and people with physical disabilities who have difficulty performing activities of daily living (ADLs) on their own. This research presents new techniques for robotic caregivers, including haptic perspective-taking, capacitive sensing for tracking human pose, and physics simulation for assistive robots.
Erickson was advised by Charles C. Kemp, who is an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Zackory is an emerging leader in robotics who is making intelligent robotic caregivers a reality,” said Kemp, who leads the Healthcare Robotics Lab. “I would not be surprised if I personally benefit from Zackory’s research someday as I become older and require assistance. Paradoxically, that is something I look forward to!”
Yan Fang earned his Ph.D. in ECE from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018, and shortly afterward, he came to Georgia Tech to conduct postdoctoral research in the Integrated Circuits and Systems Research Lab.Starting this fall, Fang began working as an assistant professor in the Department of ECE at the Marietta, Georgia campus of Kennesaw State University.
While at Tech, Fang conducted research on brain-inspired computing based on emerging nano-devices. He has made significant contributions to the design of novel circuits and systems that implement certain computational properties of biological networks. His work has impacted the areas at the intersection of energy-efficient learning and optimization with applications to robotics and other intelligent devices.
Fang worked with ECE Professor Arijit Raychowdhury during his postdoctoral assignment. Raychowdhury called him one of the most dedicated and independent researchers at this early career stage that he has seen.
“Yan is a mentor to many of my undergraduate students and has a very broad perspective of his work. He enjoys teaching and working with others, and academia is the natural choice for him,” Raychowdhury said. “I am very happy to see him start as an assistant professor at Kennesaw State, where he can play an instrumental role in both research, as well as teaching the next generation of ECE students.”
In spring 2019, Min-gu Kim received his Ph.D. in ECE, where he was a member of the Integrated Sensing Systems (iSenSys) Lab. After graduation, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University until last February. Kim started working as an assistant professor this past spring in the Department of Information and Communication Engineering at Inha University, which is located in Incheon, South Korea.
The title of Kim’s thesis is “All-Soft Electronic Devices and Integrated Microsystems Enabled by Liquid Metal.” Kim’s thesis work has been in the area of soft electronics, which are electronics that are bendable and stretchable. In particular, he researched the use of liquid metal conductors embedded into soft polymers for sensing and energy storage applications. Kim then developed new fabrication processes that pushed the ability to pattern liquid metal structures to sub-micrometer dimensions for the first time.
ECE Professor Oliver Brand, who served as Kim’s Ph.D. advisor, said that Kim started a completely new research thrust in the area of soft electronics in the iSenSys Lab. “Min-gu published his research results in high-impact journals, including Nature Communications, ACS Nano, and Advanced Functional Materials, and joined Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow after completing his Ph.D.,” Brand said. “Considering his passion for research, his creativity, and his interest in teaching, it was no surprise to me that he was hired into a faculty position at Inha University.”
Jingfei Liu graduated with his Ph.D. in ECE in fall 2020 after working in the Ultrasound Imaging and Therapeutics Research Laboratory. This past spring, he began working as an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas Tech University.
The title of Liu’s thesis is “Development of Ultrasound Elastography Methods for Biomechanical Assessment of Soft Tissue in Medical Diagnosis.” The objective of Liu’s dissertation research is to develop novel ultrasound elastography, or elasticity imaging, methods for medical diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring, as well as image-guided therapy.
Because many pathological and physiological processes of human beings, including cancer, fibrosis, and aging, can cause tissue elasticity change, tissue elasticity characterization can provide valuable information for medical diagnosis and therapy. Liu’s research is focused on addressing the challenges of the current ultrasound elastography technology by improving elasticity image quality, characterizing non-bulk tissues/organs, and overcoming the effects of physiological motions in degrading imaging quality and measurement accuracy.
Liu was advised by Stanislav Emelianov, who is the Joseph M. Pettit Chair in ECE and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. He said that Liu was a hardworking and independent student from the beginning. “Jingfei was eager to identify his own projects, he conducted the studies, and he trained other students and interns,” said Emelianov. “At the end of his tenure in our lab, he was acting as a junior faculty member – I am not surprised that he became one.”
Oluwaseun (Seun) Sangodoyin graduated with his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California in August 2018. Starting in November 2018, he began work as postdoctoral fellow with Georgia Tech ECE Professor Alenka Zajic in the Electromagnetic Measurements in Communications and Computing Lab.
Sangodoyin recently completed his postdoctoral assignment with Zajic in August 2021. He has been appointed as a Sutterfield Family Postdoctoral Scholar and is now working with ECE and BME Professor Stanislav Emelianov in the Ultrasound Imaging and Therapeutics Research Laboratory. Sangodoyin will begin his career as a Georgia Tech ECE assistant professor in August 2022.
Sangodoyin’s work is at the intersection of bioelectronics and wireless communication and entails leveraging transistor switching in microchips for communication and sensing in brain implants and gastrointestinal devices. One advantage that his work affords is the creation of smaller-sized biomedical implants – or bioimplants – that are especially useful for hard-to-reach areas in the body. Other advantages include the low power consumption in bioimplants and high data rate communication to facilitate real-time transmission of physiological information from bioimplants and ingestible devices.
Zajic said that Sangodoyin was an excellent postdoc in her research group, and they were able to publish several papers in various prestigious journals. He was also able to take advantage of the multi-disciplinary research structure that Georgia Tech affords and carved out a novel research area for himself.
“I am glad that Seun’s exceptional research accomplishments, dedication to any task at hand, and his ability to innovate in various research areas have culminated into him securing a position as an assistant professor in the School of ECE here at Georgia Tech,” said Zajic, who holds a Ken Byers Professorship in ECE. “I have no doubt that he will be a great addition to our faculty.”
Wonbo Shim joined Georgia Tech as a postdoctoral researcher in June 2019. Prior to joining Tech, Shim spent six years as a hardware engineer at Samsung. He graduated with his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Seoul National University in 2013. This fall, Shim joined the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering as an assistant professor at the Seoul National University of Science and Technology in Seoul, South Korea.
During his two-year stay at Tech, Shim worked in the Laboratory for Emerging Devices and Circuits, where he conducted research on nonvolatile memory-based device and circuit design for compute-in-memory architecture. This technology is one of the emerging paradigms for artificial intelligence hardware acceleration.
Shim worked with ECE Associate Professor Shimeng Yu, who said that Shim had a very fruitful tenure as a postdoctoral fellow in his lab. “Wonbo was productive in publications in premier journals and conferences in the field of semiconductor devices, circuits, and systems,” Yu said. “One notable impact that Wonbo brought to the lab is state-of-the-art industrial insight on 3D NAND memory architecture from his past experience as a Samsung engineer.”
Jong-Hyeok Yoon joined Georgia Tech as a post-doctoral researcher in 2018, shortly after graduating from KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea. During his time at Tech, Yoon worked in the Integrated Circuits and Systems Research Lab. This fall, he began working as an assistant professor at the Department of Information and Communication Engineering at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in Daegu, South Korea.
While at Tech, Yoon worked on the design of low-power hardware for autonomous systems. He proposed, designed, and measured a neuromorphic SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) accelerator integrated circuit for edge-robotics. He also made significant contributions to the design of Resistive RAM-based accelerators in a foundry process, one of the first such demonstrations in the country.
Yoon’s work has been published in leading conferences, such as the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference and the IEEE Custom Integrated Circuits Conference (CICC), and journals like the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits. He won the best paper award at IEEE CICC in 2021.
Yoon worked with ECE Professor Arijit Raychowdhury during his tenure as a postdoctoral fellow. Raychowdury described him as an amazing circuit researcher with a deep understanding of both digital as well as mixed-signal designs.
“Jong-Hyeok needed very little guidance from me during his post-doctoral research and has led key research vectors in my group,” Raychowdhury said. “His work has made significant contributions to the design of low-power accelerators for robotics, and I am excited to see him return to his homeland and continue research and teaching at DGIST.”
Photo grid cutline: New Engineering Faculty Members, All Hailing from Georgia Tech ECE. Top row (l-r): Maad Alowaifeer, Bahar Asgari, Ningyuan Cao, Zackory Erickson, and Yan Fang. Bottom row (l-r): Min-gu Kim, Jingfei Liu, Oluwaseun Sangodoyin, Wonbo Shim, and Jong-Hyeok Yoon.