Speed Demon

This member's work landed him among this year’s 14 young engineering stars named “The New Faces of Engineering"

7 July 2008

Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay loves speed. Not the highway kind—the data transfer kind.

“I am a person who thrives on speed and efficiency,” says the IEEE member, a mixed-signal design engineer with Texas Instruments in Dallas. “It is very boring and even annoying to wait and wait to transfer video or music files from laptops to iPods. So I’m interested in any technology that makes the process faster.”

Mukhopadhyay, who turns 27 this month, pioneered the development of ultrahigh-data-rate wireless systems that operate at 60 gigahertz and transfer data at more than five gigabits per second, compared with rates that had been around 100 megabits per second. What used to take minutes to download—say, a 17-gigabyte DVD—now takes a few seconds. He’s currently helping TI develop the industry’s fastest read/write speeds and error-free data transfer while also working to improve the circuits’ efficiency.

His work landed him among this year’s 14 young engineering stars named “The New Faces of Engineering” in February by the National Engineers Week Foundation, a coalition of companies, government agencies, and engineering societies, including IEEE and IEEE-USA. All under age 30, the engineers were cited for their outstanding contributions.

Growing up in Hyderabad, now India’s IT capital, Mukhopadhyay got the engineering bug from his father, a missile scientist working on antenna design. As a child, he used to watch his father solder together circuits with LEDs or wireless FM microphones while regaling him with tales of his days as a young engineer.

“He inspired me, and when I was 12, I decided to follow in his footsteps,” he says. “I worked hard to be ranked 378 out of 200 000 students nationwide to get a chance to study EE at the same institute where my father had studied.”

Mukhopadhyay earned his bachelor of technology degree in 2002 from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, and by 2006, at age 25, he had added a master’s and a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

SPEEDY SPECTRUM While still a grad student, Mukhopadhyay became enamored with the work going on in the unlicensed 60-GHz spectrum, which was promising to achieve wireless data-transfer rates of more than 5 Gb/s. In 2006, he spent three and a half months as a summer intern at the Communication Circuits Lab at Intel Corp. in Hillsboro, Ore., where researchers were working on the same problem.

“It was a very hot topic; the whole world was working on it,” he says. “It was very competitive, so I knew we needed to be very quick and efficient.”

The main obstacle was finding a way to create more closely matched noise-free input and output signals.

“I performed an exhaustive literature survey and simulated all possible implementations to get a feel of their pros and cons and to develop a basis for comparison and choice of architecture,” he says. “There were numerous bottlenecks to achieving such high data rates, but in three months we developed the first fractional-N synthesizer operating at 50 GHz with a 1-V supply and very low power consumption. In the past, the maximum operating frequencies were limited to around 5–10 GHz. We filed two patents on the ideas we generated.”

IEEE CONNECTION He first became aware of IEEE while in college, when he tapped its Web site for publications dealing with circuit fundamentals. But it wasn’t until he presented his work at the IEEE International Microwave Symposium in 2004 and got professional feedback on his research paper that he really became involved.

He’s now a member of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society and the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society and its Dallas chapter. He has published more than 20 technical papers in IEEE journals and conference proceedings and holds eight patents.

“With IEEE, I get opportunities to attend and learn at international conferences, meet experienced people, and get exposed to real-life research challenges,” he says. “It’s also a great forum to publish, get advice, and get recognized for research work.”

In his spare time, Mukhopadhyay paints and plays drums, congas, tablas (Indian drums), and harmonica. His art has garnered awards in TI’s employee art shows.

“Musical instruments provide me with a sense of periodicity and synchronization, which is the most important principle behind communication circuits, especially signal generation,” he says. “Painting and sketching helps tickle my creativity and imagination, which form the foundation for innovation. Someday I hope to invent something that would greatly help mankind.”

You can check out bios of four other IEEE nominees.

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