College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Gift establishes the Vikram L. Dalal Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Vik Dalal and Liang Dong stand together in a skywalk on campus.
Vik Dalal and Liang Dong shake hands standing in a skywalk on campus.
Distinguished Professor Vikram Dalal (left) and Professor Liang Dong (right). Dalal and others have provided a gift to establish the Vikram L. Dalal Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dong is the first recipient of the professorship. Photo by Collin Maguire

Iowa State University Anson Marston Distinguished Professor Vikram Dalal, along with his former students and several corporations, have provided a gift to establish the Vikram L. Dalal Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State. The professorship honors Dalal, who has been with the ISU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) since 1988. 

Dalal has had an impactful and distinguished career in the field of microelectronics and photonics. He received his B.E. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Bombay, India, in 1964 and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1969. He has an extensive research record in both industry and academia and has graduated 39 Ph.D. students and 47 M.S. students. His primary research interests are in photovoltaic energy conversion materials and devices and semiconductor processing. Dalal has published over 200 papers, holds 12 U.S. patents and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has been director of the Iowa State University Microelectronics Research Center since 1999.

“I am happy to help in setting up a Vikram L. Dalal Professorship in the ECpE department, so as to allow for a continuation of the excellent research path that the department is on,” Dalal said. “The culture I come from, India, values scholarship and scholars more than material wealth or power, with the guru, or teacher, being respected far more than a king or wealthy person; this professorship is a small effort on our part to continue to respect and reward scholarship. I want to thank the university for its support of my students and my work over the past 34 years, as we have explored new research avenues in solar energy conversion.”

Along with several corporate contributions — from Intel Foundation, Micron Technology Foundation, Inc., and ON Semiconductor — many Iowa State alumni, who had Dalal as a mentor and professor, donated to create this professorship. These former students are grateful for the education and guidance he provided during their time at Iowa State and throughout their careers.

“Professor Vikram Dalal was one of the most influential people in my life, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have studied under him at Iowa State University,” said Scott DeBoer, executive vice president of technology and products at Micron Technology, Inc. “His support and guidance, and the trust he had in me during my time as his student, profoundly shaped the confidence and capability I had early in my career. Dr. Dalal is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher and leader. I was profoundly grateful to be able to contribute to the professorship in his honor, as I know many others were as well. I am honored to have him as a mentor and friend to this day.”

Another former student of Dalal’s, Atul Madhavan, who is a process integration engineer at Intel, shared these comments:

“I completed my Ph.D. dissertation under the guidance of Dr. Dalal at Iowa State from 2005-09. Coming to the USA after finishing my undergraduate in India was a big step for me, and I definitely had an inner fear of if I could make the jump. Dr. Dalal, my major professor, helped me settle down and provided valuable assistance and insight to help me quickly transition from an undergrad into a grad student. Dr. Dalal is a hands-on person who meets his students every day and tries to understand what each student is going through, both technically and otherwise. He went out of his way to help us with our job hunt as we neared the end of our degrees; his prior experience in the industry helped us understand what to expect once we graduated. It’s been more than 12 years since I graduated, but Dr. Dalal and I have still been in regular touch. He was nice enough to pay me a visit during one of his personal trips to the Northwest. To me, this professorship is a true reflection and embodiment of Dr. Vikram Dalal’s passion for not just his research but also his dedication to the wellbeing of his students. He truly cares about both, and it was my honor to work with him.”

Two more former students shared comments: 

“After four years of Ph.D. work in Professor Dalal’s group at the Microelectronics Research Center, I made a very clear career choice to devote myself to the semiconductor industry, which was a direct manifest of Professor Dalal’s mentorship by being an authority in silicon material and its processing, semiconductor device physics, and world-leading experts in photovoltaic clean energy,” said Er-Xuan Ping, who is managing director at Applied Materials. “The benefits of such mentorship lasted for more than a quarter century and continues. Even today, the deep understanding of semiconductor physics from Professor Dalal motivates and helps me to make more contributions for this exciting field. These significances led me to contribute to the professorship as an alumnus and as Professor Dalal’s student.”

“I came from India to ISU in 2000 to pursue a M.S degree in chemical engineering. During my second year in the master’s program, I took two courses in electrical engineering related to semiconductor device physics and fabrication, and I was very fortunate to have Dr. Dalal as the instructor for both those courses,” said Kamal Muthukrishnan, who is a senior manager of process technology development at Micron Technology, Inc. “The way he taught both those courses, delving into the fundamentals, making connections between the basic concepts and their industrial applications, had a significant influence on me. That’s when I decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in semiconductor devices under Dr. Dalal’s guidance. During our Ph.D. program, Dr. Dalal always used to stress the importance of remembering data, understanding their trends and making correlations to fundamental mechanisms. Those practices that he cultivated have been effective tools for me to be successful in my current role at Micron Technology, Inc., a major semiconductor memory company across the globe.”

Donors provided more than $500,000 to endow this professorship, with gifts from the following: Nayan Chakravarty, Vikram L. Dalal, Scott Jeffrey DeBoer, Justin Bradley Dorhout, Mehran Samiee Esfahani, Harshavardhan A. Gaonkar, Pranav Hemanta Joshi, Shantan Kajjam, Yifen Liu, Atul Madhavan, Behnam Moradi, Kamal Kumar Muthukrishnan, Durga Prasanna Panda, Daniel Pates, Akshit Peer, Er-Xuan Ping, Marsela Pontoh, Satvik Bhupendrabhai Shah, Puneet Sharma, Jianhua Zhu, and the following organizations: Intel Foundation, Micron Technology Foundation, Inc., and ON Semiconductor.

“I particularly want to thank the many former students of mine who have decided to contribute to this professorship,” Dalal said. “It is truly a high honor for me that they have done so.” 

Vik Dalal and Liang Dong stand together in a skywalk on campus.
Distinguished Professor Vikram Dalal (left) and Professor Liang Dong (right). Photo by Collin Maguire

The first recipient of the professorship is ECpE Professor Liang Dong. Dong’s core research areas are agricultural, biomedical and physical sensors, microelectromechanical systems, and biochips. He is a faculty scholar with the ISU Plant Sciences Institute and associate director of the ISU Microelectronics Research Center.

“Liang is an exceptional scholar and a wonderful colleague, and he is an excellent choice as the first recipient of this professorship,” Dalal said.

Dong has received many research awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and has been a plenary or keynote speaker at major conferences in the fields of agriculture, biochips, and sensors. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Sensors and Actuators A: Physical. Dong has been at Iowa State since 2007 and is co-founder of EnGeniousAg, based in Ames.

“Dr. Dalal’s passion for research and love for the students is inspirational. I am so amazed and honored to be named the inaugural Vikram L. Dalal Professor. I thank Dr. Dalal for generously creating this award,” Dong said. “Over the next several years, I will continue to put my energy into the fields of micro/nano technologies and sensors for social good. I also look forward to welcoming new students into our program and working with them.”

A formal medallion ceremony to recognize Dalal and Dong is being planned for February 2022, with more information to come.

The endowed position will provide an important source of funding for a professorship in the ECpE department, with preference given to faculty members with expertise in microelectronics and/or photonics. This strengthens the overall excellence of the department and will provide a foundation for the named faculty members to use strategically in meeting annual and long-term objectives, ultimately increasing the department’s effectiveness and competitiveness. 

“There is no future without smaller and smaller circuits,” said Ashfaq Khokhar, Professor and Palmer Department Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State. “This is what compelled Vik’s students, along with Vik himself, to create this endowment. Vik’s legacy will live on, but so will the value and importance of microelectronics and photonics.”

This gift was made through the Iowa State University Foundation. The foundation is a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State University. The Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, with a historic goal to raise $1.5 billion, will help support Iowa State in becoming the premier land-grant university for the 21st century and beyond.