Department confers 21 Ph.D.s, awards integrated systems expert "best dissertation"

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
by Scott Lyon

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering honored its graduate students in a ceremony on Monday, May 24, conferring the Ph.D. to 21 candidates and celebrating the achievements of those completing their second and third years. The gathering took place virtually due to public health concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am very glad that we are all here together today to congratulate our students who have reached major milestones at the end of what has been an exceptionally challenging year," said department chair Sharad Malik, the George Van Ness Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "I wish we were doing this in person with excited handshakes and warm hugs, but our inability to do that does not diminish our pride in the accomplishments of our students."

This year's keynote speaker, John Smee, said that Princeton's emphasis on wide and diverse collaborations has empowered his career in industry and would equip today's graduates with the special tools needed to solve 21st century problems. "It's that perspective to be working with your colleagues and with the broader global community," he said. "You're always leveraging your past but also looking forward into the future, asking what's a new problem that needs to be solved?"

Smee is vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies and a graduate alumnus of the department. He holds more than 150 U.S. patents and leads Qualcomm's 5G wireless research and development.

This year's commencement also recognized two long-term administrators, Roelie Abdi and Colleen Conrad, who served the department's graduate program for a combined 26 years. Abdi has worked since 2004 as an assistant to the graduate program coordinator. Conrad first joined Princeton as the assistant to the department chair, then took over the administration of the graduate program in 2012. Both Abdi and Conrad retire later this year.


The Bede Liu Best Dissertation Award went to Xuyang Lu, whose work on controlling electromagnetic fields in integrated systems has opened new paths in communication, wireless networks and optics.

"Xuyang was one of the most prolific and creative graduate students I've come across anywhere," said Kaushik Sengupta, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and Lu's adviser. "The breadth and the depth of the techniques he exhibited were really remarkable."

The Bede Liu Award is given each year by the department for outstanding work by a graduating Ph.D. candidate. The award is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Bede Liu, a pioneering researcher in digital signal processing and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

In addition to the Bede Liu award, the department honored two current students with an early career award, given each year to a student who has completed the second year of the program with outstanding achievements in coursework, research and the general exam.

Pranav Thekke Madathil won the 2020 Early Career Graduate Award, which was delayed from last year due to the pandemic. He is advised by Mansour Shayegan, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The early career award was renamed this year in honor of Pramod Subramanyan, a graduate alumnus from the class of 2017, who died last year. He was an especially bright talent in the area of computer engineering. Advised by Malik, he won the 2017 Bede Liu Award and the 2018 Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award in Electronic Design Automation from the Association of Computing Machinery, the leading international professional society in that field. Subramanyan later joined the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur as an assistant professor.

Aditi Jha won the 2021 Pramod Subramanyan *17 Early Career Graduate Award.

The 21 newly minted Ph.D.s work across a remarkable range of specialties, including two-dimensional materials, quantum engineering, material growth techniques, battery technology, computing, photonic sensing, wireless architectures, optimization and data science.

Sengupta, the department's director of graduate studies, said that this time last year he had not expected to have a second virtual graduate commencement ceremony. He said that while he couldn't then foresee 170 million people affected by the pandemic, he also couldn't have predicted that within a single year the world would move from the discovery of a deadly virus to the development, approval and distribution of multiple vaccines.

"This is science, technology, human ingenuity, resilience and compassion at its very best. Your work displays the very same spirit," Sengupta said, "and we are here to celebrate that spirit."

The entire class of electrical engineering Ph.D. recipients for the 2020-2021 academic year are listed below, along with their advisers:

Mert Al, advised by S. Y. Kung

Abraham Tibebu Asfaw, advised by Steve Lyon

Arjun Nitin Bhagoji, advised by Prateek Mittal

Changxiao Cai, advised by Vince Poor

Yifeng Chen, advised by Gerard Wysocki

Lingyu Hong, advised by Kaushik Sengupta

Md. Shafayat Hossain, advised by Mansour Shayegan

Weiguang Huo, advised by James Sturm

Akshay Krishna, advised by Ravin Bhatt

Alexey Lavrov, advised by Dave Wentzlaff

Xuyang Lu, advised by Kaushik Sengupta

Meng Ma, advised by Mansour Shayegan

Jonathan Aryeh Mehlman, advised by James Sturm

Pranav Santosh Mundada, advised by Andrew Houck

Mouktik Raha, advised by Jeff Thompson

Abhishek Raj, advised by Dan Steingart

Mohammad Shahrad, advised by Dave Wentzlaff

Chu Cheyenne Teng, advised by Gerard Wysocki

Marius Andrei Vrajitoarea, advised by Andrew Houck

Xue Wu, advised by Kaushik Sengupta

Fengyu Zhang, advised by Antoine Kahn