Dr. Matthew Gardner and Dr. Qing Gu, both assistant professors in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, are the inaugural recipients of the Texas Instruments Early Career Award in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Texas Instruments (TI) made the $5 million gift to create the endowment in late 2019 on the occasion of The University of Texas at Dallas’ 50th anniversary. The award provides $50,000 a year for up to six years to support independent research activities of early career faculty members in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in the Jonsson School.
Dr. Peter Balyta MBA’03, TI’s vice president of academic engagement and president of its education technology business, said, “Retaining talented early-career engineering faculty continues to shape UTD as a sought-after institution for engineering teaching and learning. The recipients of the Early Career award demonstrate UTD’s commitment to developing the strongest contributors to the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.”
Gu joined the Jonsson School in 2016 and is an expert in nanophotonic materials and devices. The award helped recruit Gardner, who joined the Jonsson School last fall where he researches electric powertrains and magnetic gears for electrified transportation and renewable energy applications.
University of California, San Diego, PhD
Nanophotonic Materials and Devices
Gu currently has nearly $1.4 million in external funding, due to the receipt of early career awards from the prestigious National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development CAREER program and the Young Investigator program from the Department of Defense’s Army Research Office. Her work seeking to use light instead of electricity to transport data on photonic integrated circuits (ICs) is at the cutting edge of photonics. Innovations in this area could improve the speed and efficiency of data transfer in data centers to address the exponential increase in network traffic demands, among other applications. She is also investigating a new class of solution-processed material called perovskite for use in microchips, which has applications for bio- and chemical sensing.
“I am honored to receive this award from Jonsson School and UT Dallas leadership that is endowed by Texas Instruments,” Gu said. “This award will enable me to investigate on-chip nanophotonic devices, in particular light sources, to construct silicon-compatible photonic ICs that can support high-speed and high-efficiency chip-scale data communication. My eventual goal is to integrate these photonic ICs with industry-leading circuits from TI, so that fast and efficient computation and data communication can be realized on the same chip.”
In addition to being an assistant professor in ECE, Gu is an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and directs the Nanophotonics Lab at UT Dallas. She cowrote Semiconductor Nanolasers published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.
Gardner participates in a $1.3 million project convened to design, fabricate and test a lightweight and efficient electric powertrain for aircraft propulsion to reduce the energy consumption and emissions from aviation. The project with Texas A&M University is sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Specifically, Gardner researches reducing the size, cost and weight of electric powertrains and improving their efficiency and reliability. His work is critical for demanding applications, such as electric aircraft, but also has the possibility to affect aspects of everyday life, such as reducing the amount of power washing machines use.
Gardner has also developed high-efficiency designs for magnetic gears which ultimately could replace mechanical gears for a wide range of applications, including wind turbines. He holds a patent for a novel compact design of a magnetic gear with an electric motor; such a design could be used for in-wheel drive for electric vehicles. Gardner also cowrote a chapter in the Compendium on Electromagnetic Analysis, a book World Scientific Publishing published in 2020.
“I am grateful for TI’s support, which will allow me to set up the infrastructure in my lab for building a successful electric powertrains research program,” said Gardner, director of the Electric Powertrains Laboratory at UT Dallas.
While Gu and Gardner are the inaugural TI Early Career Fellows, Dr. Lawrence Overzet, department head of ECE, noted that the award and initial recipients are also investments in the department’s future.
“The TI Early Career Award is truly a game changer for our department and faculty,” he said. “Our whole ECE community is extraordinarily appreciative to Texas Instruments for endowing these positions. The two recipients are extraordinarily strong candidates with great connections to Texas Instruments’ fields of interest, as well as posses high potential to become leaders in new and emerging research fields. It brings me great pleasure on behalf of ECE to have them receive this award.”