$30 million research center will be based at UI

$30 million research center will be based at UI

URBANA — A proposal for a research center based at the University of Illinois has been awarded $30 million over the next five years, with $12.5 million of that expected to flow to the local campus.

The new SONIC center — short for Systems on Nanoscale Information fabriCs — will be directed by Naresh Shanbhag, a UI professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The multidisciplinary center will draw expertise from eight universities — Illinois, Stanford, Michigan, Princeton, Carnegie-Mellon and the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Diego and Santa Barbara.

Nearly two dozen faculty members will be involved across the campuses.

SONIC will concentrate on building complicated systems out of next-generation circuit technology, said Andrew Singer, a colleague of Shanbhag who will be a team leader within the center.

The center is one of six new centers that will be part of the Semiconductor Research Corp.'s Focus Center Research Program, beginning Jan. 1.

Six other centers that have been part of the program are due to expire that month.

The centers will be managed by Microelectronics Advanced Research Corp. and will receive support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and companies in the semiconductor industry.

Shanbhag has previous experience with focus centers, having been involved in one of the existing centers, the Gigascale Systems Research Center.

Shanbhag learned of the award for the SONIC center on the same day as his investiture as the UI's Jack S. Kilby Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Kilby, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for the invention of the integrated circuit, received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the UI in 1947.

He conceived the integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1982 and died in 2005.

Shanbhag, who joined the UI faculty in 1996, said he was awed by the dual honor of the grant and investiture. He called it "too exciting."

During the same investiture ceremony at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Martin D.F. Wong became the Edward C. Jordan Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Wong, who received a master's degree in math and a doctoral degree in computer science from the UI, joined the Illinois faculty in 2002.

His professorship is named for Jordan, who was a UI faculty member from 1945 to 1979. Jordan, who served as head of the department from 1954 to 1979 and was a widely published textbook author, died in 1991.