Stanford engineering team wins $100,000 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship

June 20, 2012

A team of two Stanford University electrical engineering doctoral candidates, Alexander Neckar and Sam Fok, will share a 2012 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship, the company announced today. The fellowship provides the team with $100,000 to pursue future research interests and pairs them with research mentors at Qualcomm.

Neckar and Fok were recognized for their proposal on "Neuromorphics: Programmable Analog Computation Through Reconfigurable Digital Communication." The work focuses on developing computer architectures that compute in a fashion inspired by how the brain computes--a field known as neuromorphics.

"The brain handles certain real-world tasks extremely well compared to traditional computer architectures," said Neckar. "Understanding how the brain does this and leveraging this knowledge paves the way for a new class of computational devices."

Analog silicon neurons that mimic the way biological neurons work are very energy efficient and the two fellowship winners have exploited this efficiency in a device that digitally networks such neurons to perform programmable computations. This device, developed at Stanford, is called Neurogrid.

The team was advised by Kwabena Boahen, an associate professor of bioengineering and of electrical engineering (by courtesy), who is a pioneer in neuromorphic devices.

"Alex and Sam have come up with extremely clever digital schemes for routing signals among silicon neurons that make it possible to perform computation in a new, robust and efficient fashion even in relatively noisy and slow analog devices," said Boahen. "I'm grateful to Qualcomm for recognizing the promise of this work with an Innovation Fellowship, which gives Alex and Sam the opportunity to pursue their path-breaking ideas."

Qualcomm established the Innovation Fellowship to spur research and development in new technologies. The highly competitive fellowship recognizes and rewards innovative PhD students at 12 top U.S. universities across a broad range of technical research areas.

Qualcomm received 109 submissions in 2012. Each submission was rigorously reviewed by three to six Qualcomm CRD engineers. From those submissions, finalists were invited to present research proposals before a panel of executive judges. Just eight fellowships were granted this year.

"We are very excited by the outcome of the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship. Congratulations to Professor Boahen and his students for receiving a fellowship this year," said Dr. Michael Weber, research and development engineer at Qualcomm. "Through the submitted proposals, we obtained an early glimpse into future challenges of mobile computing platforms. We are now looking forward to collaborate with all winning student teams to address these challenges."
This article was written by Andrew Myers, associate director of communications for the Stanford University School of Engineering.

Stanford School of Engineering

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