IEEE Magazine Pays Special Tribute to Professor Yannis Tsividis

Dec 15 2014 | By Jesse Adams | Image courtesy of IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine

To Electrical Engineering Professor Yannis Tsividis’ long roster of distinguished achievements, add one more: the latest issue of IEEE Solid-State Circuits Magazine is devoted to his remarkable career and strong influence in advancing analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits.

Yannis Tsividis

Tsividis, recently named the Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia, created the first fully integrated mixed-signal metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) operational amplifier, which became key to pulse-code modulation (PCM) voice codecs for telephony and helped spur the industry toward mixed analog-digital MOS integrated circuits for communications. The work of Tsividis and his students has resulted in multiple patents around the world and extensive applications at the device, circuit, and system levels as well as in enhanced computer simulation.

Of the honor, Tsividis said, “I was moved by the kind words of my colleagues and former students, and delighted at the opportunity to tell my story.”

The new magazine, guest edited by Columbia Electrical Engineering Professor Peter Kinget, delves into the life and career of the “path-breaking researcher and educator” that peers declare “a mind for all seasons.” Essays from colleagues, former students, and admirers discuss not only Tsividis’ expansive contributions to a broad range of circuits and systems engineering challenges, but also his passion for teaching that has inspired generations of students to start “tinkering.”

Garnering numerous professional and teaching awards since arriving at Columbia in 1976, Tsividis—along with his students—has developed new techniques for analog and mixed-signal processing, innovated novel circuit building blocks, self-correcting chips, mixed analog-digital single-chip computers, circuit theory, and semiconductor device modeling. His book, Operation and Modeling of the MOS Transistor, now in its third edition and co-authored with Colin McAndrew, has become a standard reference worldwide.

“It is our opinion that Yannis gets a kick out of doing exactly those things that others believe cannot be done,” write his former students Nagendra Krishnapura PhD’96 and Shanthi Pavan PhD’95, now faculty members at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, highlighting his “dogged determination to get to the bottom of things, and pursue something to its logical conclusion.”

The magazine also includes colorful remembrances from Tsividis, from growing up in Greece cobbling together improvised radio equipment to spearheading one of Columbia’s pilot Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and to his multifaceted research interests at UC Berkeley, Columbia, and Bell Labs.

“Much in engineering, as in society, is based on unjustified assumptions and pre-conceived notions, which sometimes come down to prejudices,” writes Tsividis. “I like to re-consider such assumptions, and see if they hold; if they do not, I try to see if this realization allows me to invent something new.”

Others paying tribute to Tsividis in the special issue include Paul R. Gray, former dean of Berkeley’s College of Engineering; John M. Khoury MS’79, EngScD’88 of Silicon Labs; Mihai Banu PhD’84 of Blue Danube Labs; Colin McAndrew of Freescale Semiconductor; Gabor Temes of Oregon State University; and David Vallancourt BS’81, MS’83, PhD’87 of Columbia’s Department of Electrical Engineering.

Tsividis, a Life Fellow of the IEEE, is a recipient of the IEEE’s Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Award and Columbia University’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching.