Engineer's high speed expertise recognized by peers worldwide

November 18, 2004, vol. 31, no. 6
By Christopher Guly

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Computer chips in the not-too-distant future will house hundreds of millions of transistors, be able to operate at speeds 10 times greater than today's fastest pieces of silicon and use less power, thanks in part to the pioneering research of James Kuo.

Recognized by his peers as a world expert in the highly specialized area of modelling CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) VLSI (very large scale integration) devices, the 47-year-old, Taiwanese-born electrical engineer joined SFU's school of engineering science as a professor in the summer.

Having worked at high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley after earning his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1985, and having spent nearly two decades teaching microelectronics at National Taiwan University in Taipei, he considers his new home the world's best place to live and work.

“In the U.S., there is too much stress because of the quick pace, and the Orient is too congested,” says Kuo, who is fluent in English, Japanese, Mandarin and Taiwanese. “There's beautiful scenery here and people are so friendly and mild.

“And there's a good blend of cultures, which is important to me. Because although I'm westernized, my stomach is quite oriental and you can find so many Asian restaurants around here,” he adds, breaking into laughter.

For SFU, Kuo brings considerable prestige. Four years ago, he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world's largest technical professional association with more than 360,000 members in about 150 countries.

In 2000, Kuo was among less than one in 1,000 IEEE members to receive the honour.

He is the author of 270 international technical papers and eight textbooks (three of them as co-author) on CMOS VLSI, and is in great demand as a speaker at international microelectronics conferences.

This year he was elected vice-president of membership of the IEEE's Electron Devices Society.

A member of the University of Waterloo's engineering faculty from 2000 to 2002, during which time he held the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's research chair on low-voltage CMOS VLSI, Kuo enters a SFU classroom in January when he will lead a graduate course on semiconductor devices and circuits.

“Teaching is so exciting because you can visualize your students becoming first-class engineers in the world one day.”

Perhaps they will reach the elite status of their professor, who brings world-class expertise to the engineering science school, according to its director Mehrdad Saif.

Says Saif: “Adding James to our faculty makes us a powerhouse in the area of electronics in Canada.”

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