The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science


Longtime University Collaborator Receives Award

Longtime University Collaborator Receives Award

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) recently named Mark Saffian from AWR Group of National Instruments, an electronic design automation software company, as its ECE Industrial Partner Award recipient.

The award recognizes Saffian’s exemplary collegiality in working with Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science faculty and his outstanding contributions to the education of students.

“Mark has been very giving with both gifts of software licenses to students and gifts of time and expertise in training, which have benefited our students tremendously,” said Dr. Larry Overzet, department head of ECE. “It gives me enormous pleasure to be able to give Mark the ECE Industrial Partner Award. His help to us and our students will have long lasting impact.”

Saffian received his undergraduate engineering degree from UT Austin and began his career at Texas Instruments as a microwave design engineer in 1983.  At about the same time, personal computers (PCs) began popping up and Mark joined a small group of coworkers who purchased a PC for home and, through collaborative hacking, began figuring out how PCs worked and what he could do with them. 

“We would play with our new machines at night and discuss our findings at work the following day – when one person figured something out, we all gained that knowledge,” Saffian said.  

When the world of microwave design intersected with the rising world of PCs in the early ’90s, Saffian’s career path was set. In 1991, he joined Compact Software as a field applications engineer and spent the next eight years crisscrossing the Asia-Pacific regions promoting tools and software. 

In 1999, Saffian returned to the design world for a brief time at Anritsu and TriQuint Semiconductor (now Qorvo Inc.). In 2002, he joined AWR Corporation, which was acquired by National Instruments in 2011, to work with a new software tool in microwave design Microwave Office.

“About 10 years ago, Mark was contacted by a personal friend and former colleague who had become a UTD faculty member, Dr. Randy Lehmann. Randy inquired about the possibilities of getting AWR involved in starting an RF/microwave program at UT Dallas,” Overzet added.  “The first-time Mark visited, there were only about eight students. Now, we’re filling a tremendous demand for RF/microwave education in North Texas.”

Students who have worked with Saffian said he was instrumental in shaping their ability to learn the finer details in Microwave Office.

“His onsite sessions and training videos guided us along and made it so simple for us to connect theoretical concepts with the simulation results,” said alumnus Atul Batra, a design engineer at Qorvo Inc. who earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 2013. “I want to thank Mark for his time and efforts in connecting with our University and its students directly.”

While Saffian will officially retire from AWR at the end of this year, he will continue to manage the AWR university program as a way to stay involved in the industry where he has spent nearly 35 years.

“I will get to stay involved with an industry that I helped develop over my career and we will maintain continuity with the schools where I have been most heavily involved,” Saffian said. “I look forward to continuing this work.”

Mark Saffian and Staff

Mark Saffian from AWR (center) alongside faculty and staff from the Jonsson School.