Rutenbar wins ‘Nobel Prize’ of Electronic Design Automation

11/15/2017 ESDA & IEEE CEDA News Release

Rob A. Rutenbar is being honored for his pioneering contributions to algorithms and tools for analog and mixed-signal designs.

Written by ESDA & IEEE CEDA News Release

Rob A. Rutenbar, former department head of CS @ ILLINOIS and a current adjunct professor, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Phil Kaufman Award for Distinguished Contributions to Electronic System Design.

Adjunct Professor Rob A. Rutenbar
Adjunct Professor Rob A. Rutenbar
Rutenbar, who left the University of Illinois in July to join the University of Pittsburgh as its senior vice chancellor for research, is being honored for his pioneering contributions to algorithms and tools for analog and mixed-signal designs.

As an academic researcher at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), Rutenbar pioneered a range of models, algorithms, and tools for analog IC designs. During his tenure at Illinois, he reworked his long-running CMU course, “VLSI CAD: Logic to Layout,” into the first massive, open, online course (MOOC) on Electronic Design Automation (EDA), providing training to thousands of engineers. As an entrepreneur, he founded multiple companies to bring his research efforts to the larger design community, including Neolinear, one of the most successful analog tool companies.

While at CMU from 1984 through 2010, Rutenbar was founder and director of the Center for Circuit and System Solutions (C2S2), chartered by major U.S. semiconductor companies and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA). “For most of the early 21st century, C2S2 was an essential part of the U.S. funding ecosystem for analog and mixed-signal research,” says Martin Wong, executive associate dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. “C2S2 faculty pioneered a range of important technologies, notably in statistical circuit design and lithography-aware chip design.”

Rutenbar moved to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to head the Department of Computer Science in 2010, a time when many universities were reducing EDA courses. In response, he reworked his CMU course into a MOOC, providing EDA training to thousands of engineers; since 2013, his course has connected with over 50,000 registered learners from more than 150 countries.

Success in both industry and academia comes as no surprise to those who know Rutenbar. Tom Beckley, Cadence Design Systems’ senior vice president of Custom IC & PCB, observes, “Rob is first and foremost an outstanding teacher, who always puts his students first. His students are not only skilled in EDA, but also in communications, innovation, working as team players, and share Rob’s passion and strong work ethic.”

According to Patrick Groeneveld, past chair of the Design Automation Conference, sponsored by the ESD Alliance and CEDA: “Rob combines several qualities that make him uniquely qualified as a Phil Kaufman Award recipient: thorough academic research, educational excellence, and a successful business enterprise that commercialized the research. Such a combination is rare in EDA, and has been a key ingredient for the vibrancy of our field.”

John Cohn, chief scientist at IBM Watson’s Internet of Things division and an IBM and IEEE Fellow concludes: “The Phil Kaufman Award is the closest thing there is to a Nobel Prize for EDA. As such, I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Rob Rutenbar.”

The Phil Kaufman Award is presented yearly by the Electronic System Design Alliance (ESD Alliance) and the IEEE Council on Electronic Design Automation (CEDA). The award ceremony and dinner will be held in Silicon Valley, Calif., Thursday, February 8.

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This story was published November 15, 2017.