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bradp@illinois.edu

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ECE alumni honored by College of Engineering

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By Tom Moone, ECE ILLINOIS
June 30, 2010

  • ECE alumni John Cioffi and Leopoldo Yau received the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service from the College of Engineering at the 2010 Student and Alumni Honor Awards Convocation.
  • Cioffi was recognized for "contributions to multicarrier communications and high-speed digital subscriber line technology."
  • Yau was recognized for "outstanding technical innovations in manufacturing processes for the production of DRAMs and microprocessors."

On April 30 two ECE alumni—John Cioffi and Leopoldo Yau—were among those honored by the College of Engineering at the Student and Alumni Honor Awards Convocation. Both received the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.

John Cioffi
John Cioffi

John Cioffi (BSEE ’78) was recognized for “contributions to multicarrier communications and high-speed digital subscriber line technology.” Much of Cioffi’s career has been associated with DSL technology.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Cioffi started work at Bell Labs near Chicago. Bell Labs sponsored Cioffi to get a graduate degree at Stanford, and in 1979, he competed that master’s degree and returned to Bell Labs, this time to the facility in Holmdel, New Jersey. There he worked on modem technology. He later returned to Stanford, again under the sponsorship of Bell Labs, to complete a PhD, which he did in 1984. As he was finishing his degree, Bell Labs was in the process of being divested, so Cioffi then joined IBM Research in San Jose, California.

In 1986, Cioffi moved from industry back to academia when he joined Stanford’s faculty. During his time at Stanford, he was involved in a number of startups. In 1991 he founded Amati Communications Corporation and served as its chief technology officer until the company was acquired by Texas Instruments in 1997.

In 2003, he founded ASSIA Inc., which provides software and services for dynamic spectrum management of DSL networks. As ASSIA became more successful, Cioffi found the balance of overseeing that company while fulfilling his obligations at Stanford to be more and more difficult to manage. He retired from Stanford in 2009 to professor emeritus and assumed fulltime chief executive officer and chairman of the board responsibilities of ASSIA, a rapidly growing company now with over 100 employees.

Cioffi finds his work at ASSIA rewarding. “I’m pretty excited about that, about as excited as I’ve been about anything I’ve done in my life,” he said. “It’s a lot of effort. It’s keeping me busy.”

Cioffi received the ECE Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999. In 2006 he was named a Marconi Fellow. He was named a recipient of the 2010 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Award.

Leopoldo Yau
Leopoldo Yau

Leopoldo Yau (PhD ’69) was recognized for “outstanding technical innovations in manufacturing processes for the production of DRAMs and microprocessors.”  During a lengthy career with Intel, he made innovations that were critical to the success of the Intel DRAMs, the  386 microprocessor, and the first Pentium  microprocessor that revolutionized  computer systems.

While at Illinois, Yau worked in a group under C. T. Sah.  That  experience “was the best semiconductor education I could get,” he said.  After completing his doctoral degree, Yau had a postdoctoral position at Illinois for two years before joining Bell Labs.

“Bell Labs at that time was a play land paradise,” said Yau. “We didn’t have to make money. We just had to do transistor technology development works and publish our findings. ”

That is not to say that Yau was not making technological advances. Work that Yau published in a Bell Labs journal got him noticed by Intel, particularly his work on what is known as the “Yau model,” a theory that predicts the threshold voltage of short-channel MOS transistors with remarkable accuracy.  “When they [Intel] read that publication, they wanted me to join their staff,” he said. “That was probably my key to being recruited by Intel.”

Yau joined Intel in 1978. There, he worked in lithography and dielectrics for transistors. His innovations were critical to the success of Intel’s DRAM products and were subsequently extended to Intel’s logic chips. In addition, Yau was the first to introduce the dual-frequency, plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition to the deposition of intermetal dielectrics for which he received an award from ASM America.  He was named an Intel Fellow in 1986, the highest technical honor Intel bestows on its employees. At the time of his retirement from Intel in 2000,  Yau was the Director of Innovative Technology Modules.

Yau credits his training at Illinois for his career success: “The PhD program  discipline that I acquired in those days would become very useful at Bell Labs and Intel. I was very lucky that I got that background.”

Yau received the ECE Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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