IEEE Award Recipients Donate Their Cash Prizes to Charity

The money is going toward IEEE programs and Unite to Light, an organization that gives LED lamps to people in developing countries

2 January 2017

Two members who will receive IEEE Technical Field Awards this year have opted to donate their cash prizes to charitable organizations. The annual awards are presented for contributions or leadership in IEEE fields of interest.

IEEE Fellow John E. Bowers will receive the 2017 IEEE Photonics Award “for pioneering research in silicon photonics, including hybrid silicon lasers, photonic integrated circuits, and ultra-low-loss waveguides.” The award comes with a US $10,000 cash prize.

He is donating to Unite to Light, a nonprofit that has distributed more than 70,000 LED lamps to people in developing countries. The organization was founded in 2010 by the Institute for Energy Efficiency at the University of California, Santa Barbara, when a visiting professor from Ghana told the faculty that many of his students did not have access to safe, affordable, and reliable light. If they did, he said, they could spend more time studying. The LED lamps are meant to replace kerosene models, which are relatively inefficient, more expensive, and dangerous.

Bowers’s pioneering work in advancing hybrid silicon photonics has transformed the way computers interact and data is transmitted, via thin strands of fiber. He developed a bonding process that overcomes the challenges of getting light out of silicon and into a fiber, and he demonstrated high-quality photonic devices that can be manufactured at high volume and low cost. His work on the hybrid silicon laser made photonic silicon ICs a reality. Such high-speed, low-cost devices are critical to meeting the bandwidth needs of Internet service providers and their data centers of the future.


Life Member John S. Thompson and IEEE Life Fellow Takao Nishitani are corecipients of the 2017 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits “for pioneering real-time programmable digital signal processor architectures.” They will share the award’s $10,000 cash prize.

Thompson is donating his portion among the IEEE Life Members Fund, EPICS in IEEE, and the Wikimedia Foundation. The Life Members Fund helps support the IEEE Foundation’s grants program, which funds innovative projects addressing challenges around the world, as well as the IEEE Fellowship in the History of Electrical and Computing Technology, which supports one year of full-time graduate work. EPICS in IEEE organizes university and high school students to work on engineering-related projects for local humanitarian organizations. The Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to the development and distribution of free, multilingual, educational content to the public, notably through its Wikipedia website.

Thompson and Nishitani jointly published two pioneering papers at the 1980 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference—which led to the development of the first commercial digital signal processors. DSPs are applied to measure, filter, or compress continuous real-world analog signals that have first been digitized.

Thompson is now retired and living in Tucson, Ariz.; Nishitani is principal scientist at Laisip, in Sagamihara, Japan.

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