Indian-origin academic Anantha Chandrakasan named dean of MIT's School of Engineering

Anantha Chandrakasan has been named the dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) School of Engineering. He will take up the post from 1 July when he takes over from Ian Waitz, who will become MIT's vice chancellor.

Chandrakasan is currently the head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), which is the largest department at MIT, comprising a little less than half the School of Engineering and approximately one-quarter of the undergraduate body of MIT.

He spent six years as the head of EECS where he pushed initiatives which allowed students and faculty to conduct research and explore entrepreneurial projects.

 Indian-origin academic Anantha Chandrakasan named dean of MITs School of Engineering

File image of Anantha Chandrakasan. Image courtesy: MIT website

Joined MIT in 1994

Chandrakasan joined the MIT faculty in 1994 and has since produced a significant body of research. He primarily focuses on making electronic circuits more energy efficient. His early work on low-power chips for portable computers helped make possible the development of today’s smartphones and other mobile devices.

More recently, his research has addressed the challenge of powering even more energy-constrained technologies, such as the “internet of things” that would allow many everyday devices to send and receive data via networked servers while being powered from a tiny energy source.

Well-regarded administrator

Apart from being a well-regarded academic, he is also an effective administrator as he helped initiatives like SuperOROP, a year-long independent research program for undergraduates and Rising Stars, an annual where graduate and post-doctoral women get together to share advice from the early stages of an academic year.

"That’s what excites me about an administrative job,” MIT quoted him as saying. “It’s how I can enhance the student and postdoc experience. I want to create exciting opportunities for them, whether that’s in entrepreneurship, research, or maker activities. One of the key things I plan to do as dean is to connect directly with students.”

He further said, “I tend to be a people person. Of course data is always important, but it’s not where I start. I’m like the quarterback who throws it up in the end zone. I try things, and some of them don’t work, which I’m totally fine with; other things we try and then refine. But I do a lot of homework, talking to students and faculty, getting feedback, and incorporating them to improve our efforts.”

This football reference is not accidental as he follows American Football closely. He is a fan of the San Francisco 49ers and has played the game in his younger days as evidenced in his Facebook profile. He is also the faculty adviser of a project which aims to write an algorithm to draft and manage a fantasy football team.

Early life and education

He was born in Chennai and moved to the United States while he was in high school. His mother was a biochemist and a Fulbright scholar. She was his inspiration for turning to an academic career.

He earned his bachelor’s (1989), master’s (1990), and doctoral (1994) degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. Interestingly, he was rejected by MIT when he applied to them for his master's and doctoral degrees.

He joined the MIT faculty after finishing his doctoral degree and was the director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) from 2006 until he became the head of EECS in 2011.

He has a wife and three kids, the oldest of who graduated from MIT in 2017.

He has his own lab at MIT which focuses on energy-efficient circuits. Curiously, most of the members of the lab have Asian heritage.

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Updated Date: Jun 24, 2017 14:32:53 IST