Rising Stars

Monday, November 2, 2020

Three UC Santa Barbara scientists are among the one hundred fifty women nationwide who have been invited to the 2020 Rising Stars in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Workshop. Esmat Farzana, a postdoctoral researcher in the Materials Department, Yating Wan, a postdoc in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and computer science PhD student Deeksha Dangwal will participate in the prestigious workshop intended to increase the number of women interested in pursuing academic careers in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering. Participants were selected based on their academic excellence, their interest in a faculty career in the EECS discipline, and their commitment to advancing equity and inclusion. UC Berkeley will host the annual event virtually from November 9-10. Attendees will present their research, interact with faculty from top-tier universities, and receive advice for advancing their careers.

“It is very exciting to be invited to the workshop,” said Wan, a postdoctoral fellow in the research group of Professor John Bowers, a world expert in the areas of silicon photonics, optoelectronics, and energy efficiency. “It will be a great opportunity to receive career advice, technical knowledge, mentorship, and most importantly, help finding a faculty position.”

The focus of Wan’s research is the development of high-performance and high-efficiency quantum dot lasers directly integrated on industry-standard silicon substrates for on-chip optical interconnects. Wan, who joined Bowers’s group in 2016, has published more than thirty peer-reviewed journal papers and had her work cited more than one thousand times. Previous honors received by Wan include the Young Scientist Award from the Photonics and Electromagnetics Research Symposium (PIERS) and a PhD Research Excellence Award, while at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“Yating is an excellent scientist with broad scientific interests and a desire to teach. Meeting and interacting with other young scientists will be a great networking opportunity,” said Bowers, director of UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering. “I think she will make a great professor. She is smart, hard- working, and driven to broaden our scientific knowledge.”

A rising fifth-year PhD student of computer science, Dangwal is advised by Professor Timothy Sherwood. Dangwal focuses her research on computer architecture with an interest in the design of private computer systems. Currently, she is exploring privacy in program traces with the intent of minimizing information leakage in program traces when sharing program behavior for co-optimization. She says that the key tradeoff is balancing the number of bits leaked while maintaining utility of the traces shared. Her research uses a technique called trace winging, which is intended to remove as much information from the trace as possible while still maintaining key characteristics of the original computation. Dangwal, who received her bachelor’s degree from Ramaiah Institute of Technology, says she is grateful to participate in the workshop.

“The conference presents a great opportunity to meet and learn from successful female faculty mentors. I also look forward to learning from my peers,” said Dangwal, who has also mentored undergraduate female students pursuing science and engineering degrees through the National Science Foundation’s Early Research Scholars Program. “During my time at UCSB, I have enjoyed conducting independent research and mentoring students. Forming connections with students and watching them grow and succeed has been very rewarding. I hope that a career in academia will help me continue doing this. I hope to open up opportunities for others who may not feel welcomed to this field.”

Dangwal was the lead-author of a paper on trace wringing that was selected this year for IEEE Micro’s Top Picks, an annual special edition of the IEEE Micro magazine that acknowledges the ten most significant research papers from computer architecture conferences in the last year based on novelty and potential for long-term impact.

“I was incredibly excited to recommended Deeksha because she is an amazingly creative and visionary researcher whose work in privacy is having an impact around the globe,” said Sherwood, whose lab, over the years, has had ten papers selected for IEEE Micro’s Top Picks, including the article on trace wringing. “Her award-winning work has established a new way to think about managing data privacy, and she is already seen as a leader in the field. This workshop will be an outstanding opportunity for her to grow her professional network and connect with some of the other brightest stars our field has to offer.”

Farzana joined the research group of materials professor James S. Speck at UCSB in June 2019. Her research focuses on a new generation of energy-efficient devices for a greener and cleaner power system. She works with ultra-wide-bandgap semiconductors that allow for the design of compact and light-weight and high-power devices with low energy loss. She was introduced to these materials while pursuing her PhD at The Ohio State University, where her lead-author publications on these semiconductors were recognized as Editor’s Pick in Applied Physics Letters and listed among the most cited articles in 2019 in the Journal of Applied Physics.

“I am delighted and honored to join my fellow researchers at the forefront of EECS during this flagship conference,” said Farzana, who completed her bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. “I see it as recognition of my work that I am truly passionate about and believe it will boost my confidence and ambitions. This will be a great opportunity to learn from women of academia, who are inspirations not only for their outstanding achievements, but also for the unique challenges they had to overcome along the way.”

Speck says Farzana has expanded her expertise to include high-voltage test structures and devices for power electronics. He says she quickly developed this expertise on her own and has produced impressive results that they recently published in IEEE Electron Device Letters. The article will be featured in the December 2020 issue as an Editors' Pick. 

“Doctor Farzana’s progress as a postdoc is outstanding,” said Speck, an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors, who is known for his pioneering work with gallium nitride (GaN) crystals — a high-performance material that is notoriously difficult to produce and is the foundation for the bright blue LED. “She is a truly exceptional young scientist with amazing technical skill, deep insights, outstanding execution, and remarkable drive. She very much wants a faculty position in the U.S.”

In addition to the three women who are currently at UCSB, computer science alumna Mai ElSherief will also attend the workshop. ElSherief, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, received the UCSB Department of Computer Science’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award of 2019. She was co-advised at UCSB by professors Elizabeth Belding and William Wang. Her PhD thesis focused on developing computational methods for improving the detection and characterization of online hate speech and communities of hate.

(From left to right) Esmat Farzana, Deeksha Dangwal, and Yating Wan