II-VI Foundation’s Support of College of Engineering Nears $700,000

A multiyear series of projects in the College of Engineering has been extended once again for the 2014­–2015 cycle through a grant provided by the II-VI Foundation, which recently signed its third annually reviewable three-year grant to UT.

From left to right, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students Lakshmi Gopi Reddy, Zhiqiang Wang, and Zheyu Zhang, talk to Richard Hopkins and John Spitznagel of the II-VI Foundation.

From left to right, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students Lakshmi Gopi Reddy, Zhiqiang Wang, and Zheyu Zhang, talk to Richard Hopkins and John Spitznagel of the II-VI Foundation.

“We’re very fortunate to be involved with them,” said Blalock, Kennedy & Pierce Analog Electronics Professor Ben Blalock, of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “With their commitment to this latest project, they’ve now funded us at around $700,000 over the last few years.”

The foundation was started in 2007 with the mission of “encouraging and enabling students to pursue a career in engineering, science and/or mathematics while maintaining a standard of excellence in that pursuit.”

“UT is one of our highest-rated partners,” said foundation representative John Spitznagel, following a tour of some of the facilities in the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. “Seeing students getting excited about what they are doing and sticking with it is a really good thing.”

UT is one of nineteen institutions that have had twenty-one block-gift graduate research projects funded. The foundation has offered individual student scholarships under a separate program to UT undergraduate students.

“It’s really an elite group of schools, and for us to be a part of that, and for us to be one of the first places they helped, is really special,” said Blalock. Without question, the foundation’s support has had a really strong impact in the technical growth of the students and on their education overall.”

John Spitznagel, seated left, and Richard Hopkins sign funding for the UT program as Professor Ben Blalock, left, and Assistant Professor Daniel Costinett watch.

John Spitznagel, seated left, and Richard Hopkins sign funding for the UT program as Professor Ben Blalock, left, and Assistant Professor Daniel Costinett watch.

II-VI Foundation representatives said the group likes the partner it has in UT.

“It’s good to see the students enthusiastic about what they are doing, and to see them excel at it as well,” said Block-Gift Project Manager Richard Hopkins.

The support will fund a project focusing on designing a high-temperature power converter that could have applications in hybrid or electric vehicles as well as many other power electronics systems.

Faculty including EECS department head and Min Kao Professor Leon Tolbert, R.M. Condra Chair of Excellence Professor Fei Wang, Assistant Professor Daniel Costinett, and Blalock will lead the team of students.

This work will build on prior projects funded by the II-VI Foundation. The first centered on a gate driver chip for wide-bandgap power devices, while the second project dealt with an integrated power module.

That increasing scope has led to partnerships and sharing of information and data beyond the core team. It also has opened doors between researchers who are working on different goals but share some of the same requirements and needs as the project team.

“There’s no question that it has led to a lot more interconnectivity, a lot more synergy, between research groups,” said Blalock. “The number of people who have either benefited from something we might be doing already, or people that we’ve benefited from by them looking at similar things—when you add all of that up it really is a big impact.”

The spread of teamwork beyond the project it is directly funding is something else that’s pleasing to the foundation.

“This foundation strives to help students leverage the most out of their experiences,” said Hopkins. “Part of that is expanding the opportunity to collaborate with other programs, to work with other teams and to learn how to share ideas and benefit one another.”

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

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