Kuang-Chien Hsieh and Dilip Sarwate retire

ECE News

Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

Story Highlights

  • Professors Kuang-Chien Hsieh and Dilip Sarwate retired.
  • Hsieh had been with ECE for 23 years, and Sarwate for nearly 38 years.
  • They both plan to remain in their fields following retirement.

This summer, two long-time ECE faculty members retired.

Kuang-Chien  Hsieh
Kuang-Chien Hsieh

Professor Kuang-Chien Hsieh retired after 23 years with ECE. He joined the department in 1987.

“30 years ago, and even still today, there was a high percentage of BS or MS students from Taiwan who wanted to come to the U.S. to pursue advanced degrees, particularly in the science and engineering area. At that time, the U.S. was definitely the best choice,” said Hsieh.

During his time at Illinois, Hsieh researched semiconductor materials and devices, mostly on compound semiconductors. His research goals have largely focused in correlating the microstructures of materials to their electrical and optical properties and their ultimate optoelectronic device performance. Hsieh counts his work relating to impurity-induced disordering and wet-oxidation of aluminum-bearing compounds and self-assembled quantum wire heterostructures as some of his best. And he attributes much of his research success to collaboration with other ECE researchers.

“These accomplishments resulted from collaborations from Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr and Professor Keh-Yung Cheng, respectively, and I have great respect for both of them,” said Hsieh. “In particular, I have learned so much from Nick. Any greatness in the above-mentioned accomplishments manifested the excellent research abilities and gifted talents of both Nick and Norman.”

Beyond his research, Hsieh taught ECE 440: Solid State Electronic Devices to undergraduates and has worked with hundreds of graduate students over several decades. He has always encouraged his students, graduate and undergraduate alike, to be methodical and hard-working and to never cut corners. And for Hsieh, that’s been the best part of the job.

“Seeing graduate students who proceed to become CEOs, professors, entrepreneurs, or just solid engineers is my reward,” said Hsieh. “My satisfaction as a professor and educator often comes years afterward.”

With his retirement, Hsieh plans to remain in Champaign-Urbana and continue to do research. With any luck, he will be able to see a few more generations of students move through the hallways of Everitt Lab. “It’s very satisfactory to see that your students are doing better and accomplishing more than you. It’s the best part of the job.”

Dilip  Sarwate
Dilip Sarwate

When Professor Dilip Sarwate joined the ECE Department—then called the EE Department—in January 1973, the Computer Engineering degree program had just been established. Still, many in the Department regarded computers as “newfangled” innovations of dubious utility in engineering. Of course, computers in those days were quite different, mostly large mainframes with lots of teletype machines and “dumb terminals.” The Department’s entire stash of computers were placed in one room—the computing lab—where everyone went to “use the computer." 

Much has changed since then.

“Some of my colleagues thought I was weird because I wanted a VT-100 in my office,” said Sarwate. “Now I am considered weird for having only a basic cell phone and not an iPhone or Blackberry like everyone else.” Indeed, today’s basic cell phones have computational capabilities vastly exceeding Sarwate’s VT-100 “dumb terminal” of yore.

As a junior faculty member, Sarwate taught ECE 290 for many years and helped in its development. Sarwate was one of the developers of a course in computer communication networks that eventually became ECE/CS 438. He also taught probability theory and helped develop ECE 313, now a required course for both EE and CompE students, as well as ECE 361, a course in digital communications, serving as course director of both courses for many years. Sarwate also taught ECE 556 Coding Theory for many years.
Reflecting on his teaching over the years, Sarwate said, “When I started at Illinois, computer engineering was a new discipline that needed a separate curriculum of study. But now computers have become so thoroughly integrated into the Department and everyday life that a good case can be made for a single undergraduate degree program in Electrical and Computer Engineering within which students could choose different specializations.”

While Sarwate has retired, he is not leaving the academic community. His research will continue, and he will teach Digital Communications again in Spring 2011. He also hopes to spend some time writing a textbook for ECE 313. “This is something that I’ve been threatening to do for many years. I have pieces of various chapters written, but I never found the time to get it all put together,” he said.
Sarwate said that despite his nearly 40 years with ECE, he does not feel older. “I think people become professors so that they can pursue their own research interests without interference from higher-ups. More important, we can stay young intellectually because there are always new students with their young minds and new ideas to stimulate us. There are always new things to learn and discover, and you learn as much—and more—from your students as you teach them” said Sarwate.

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