The University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s (ECE) annual Industrial Affiliates Symposium was a major success, bringing together over 150 undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, and industry partners to network, exhibit research projects, and lay foundations for future collaborative ventures.
The event started with a continental breakfast and registration, then the Chair’s welcome (per Department Chair and Distinguished Professor Saif Islam). Then came the new faculty presentations: Quantum Nanophotonics for Modern-Day Information Processing, which was delivered by Marina Radulaski; Ultra-fast Nonlinear Optics for Next Generation Spectroscopy, by William Putnam; and Adversarial Machine Learning, by Lifeng Lai.
Marina Radulaski is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering leading the Quantum Nanophotonics Laboratory. Her presentation concerned quantum technologies, the forerunning solution to impending information challenges, offering the exponential reduction in data storage using quantum bits (qubits), the exponential speedup in algorithmic processing time and the cryptographic schemes protected from eavesdropping. The elements of the proposed Quantum Internet consisting of the local quantum memory-based nodes, the lightweight satellites for long distance quantum communication and optical fibers for the metropolitan (~100 km) connections are already being developed internationally across academia and industry. To implement these systems, long-lived quantum bits with efficient optical interface are needed. Color centers are exceptionally well-positioned spin-photon interfaces and solid-state qubits for integration in quantum computing and communication. What sets them apart are the long spin-coherence times, optical spin-readout and proposed entangling schemes.
William Putnam, an Assistant Professor, focuses on a range of studies regarding the application of interaction-free quantum measurements for non-invasive microscopy, to developing few-cycle laser technologies for extreme nonlinear optics, to strong-field optical physics with plasmonic nanoparticles. His presentation explained that in the mid-infrared (MIR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum virtually all molecules exhibit rotational or vibrational absorption resonances. These resonances constitute molecular fingerprints, and accordingly, over the past several hundred years, MIR spectroscopy has served as an invaluable tool for sensing and monitoring, with modern industrial and scientific applications ranging from breath analysis for early disease detection to environmental monitoring for climate science. Putnam discussed the twenty-first century, ultrafast revolution in MIR spectroscopy. He described how ultrafast frequency combs can enable unparalleled precision and extreme bandwidth in a single spectroscopic instrument, and he showed how novel solid-state detectors, leveraging physical effects first developed for large-scale, high-intensity nonlinear optics in gases, might enable compact frequency combs and spectroscopic tools operating in the mid-infrared.
Lifeng Lai, an Associate Professor, researches topics that include information theory, stochastic signal processing, machine learning and their applications. Lai explained that as machine learning and statistical inference algorithms are being increasingly used in safety critical applications and security related applications, studying the robustness of machine learning and statistical inference algorithms in adversarial environments is a pressing need. Most of the existing work on robust statistical inference mainly address distributional robustness issues such as outliers or model uncertainties. However, in many recent data analytical applications including safety critical applications mentioned above, we are facing more severe situations than those addressed in the classic robust statistical inference problems. First, he highlighted various security risks in various stages of machine learning pipeline. He then introduced some of his recent work on mitigating those risks. The rapt audience met all three presentations with enthusiasm, and these set the tone for what would be an electrifying event.
Next on the agenda, Babak Taheri, ECE Board of Advisors Chair presented Professor Constance Chang-Hasnain the Distinguished Alumni Award. Professor Chang-Hasnain received her B.S. (Electrical and Computer Engineering) from the University of California, Davis (1982) and her Ph.D. (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) from the University of California, Berkeley (1987). Since graduating from UC Davis, Chang-Hasnain has become an optics and photonics world leader, specifically semiconductor optoelectronic materials and devices, with extraordinary contributions à la vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL). Her inventions have helped establish VCSELs as the dominant technology for data center optical fiber communications, optical coherence tomography and 3D sensing. VCSELs are now widely used laser printers, cell phone cameras, computer mice and many other modern technical devices. Learn more about Prof. Chang-Hasnain and the award she received here: https://www.ece.ucdavis.edu/blog/prof-constance-chang-hasnain-wins-distinguished-alumni-award/
After Professor Chang-Hasnain’s riveting keynote speech, attendees took a brief recess for lunch before returning for Fast Forward Presentations and a new addition this year: Speed Networking, a dedicated mingling time for students and affiliates, discuss collaborations and learn more about different industry opportunities. Attendees regarded the speed networking segment as being a great addition, and they eagerly anticipate seeing this segment again going forward.
Later, students and postdocs showcased their research via a poster display session wherein attendees could circulate through the Kemper Hall Lobby, examine the research being conducted and speak with presenters in what was another terrific networking opportunity for all involved. The posters were appraised and voted on, and the winner of the Best Poster Award was announced by Prof. Chang-Hasnain as one of the closing events of the symposium. When asked their thoughts on the event, students, industry affiliates, staff members and faculty had little other than praise for this year’s installment. ECE Board of Advisors Chair Babak Taheri lauded the event’s “fantastic, productive industry connections and collaboration,” and Jane Gu was pleased with all the “great new friends and old friends and . . . industrial affiliate relationships.” The symposium was also praised for the good discussion it fostered and for the opportunities it offered, and everyone expressed excitement for the 2020 Industrial Affiliates Symposium.
Adil Abbuthalha & Rebecca Snawder