Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Umesh K. Mishra ’81 named to National Academy of Engineering

Umesh K. Mishra

Umesh K. Mishra, who earned an M.S. in electrical engineering from Lehigh in 1981, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest honors awarded to engineers in the United States.

Mishra, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB), said he was “surprised and delighted” with the recognition.

He was cited by the NAE for his contributions to the “development of gallium-nitride electronics and other high-speed, high-power semiconductor electronic devices.”

In his research, Mishra studies high-speed transistors, semiconductor device physics, quantum electronics, design and fabrication of millimeter-wave devices, in-situation processing and integration techniques, and optoelectronics.

He is co-author of a textbook titled Semiconductor Device Physics and Design, which was published last year by Springer.

Mishra received his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur in 1979 and enrolled later that year in Lehigh’s electrical engineering graduate program.

He was drawn to Lehigh because of its expertise in silicon, the world’s most common semiconducting material. Also, his thesis adviser at IIT, Samares Kar, had earned his M.S. from Lehigh in 1968.

"A fabulous place"

“I had heard a lot about Lehigh,” says Mishra. “I was interested in working on silicon-silicon dioxide systems at the Sherman Fairchild Center for Solid-State Studies, which had recently opened. Everyone at my university in India said Lehigh at that time was the best school in that field of study.

“They were right. Lehigh was a fabulous place. It had the most intense silicon-silicon dioxide effort in the country, with the largest critical mass of great people. I had the chance to take classes from these people, and they really taught me a lot.”

These experts included W. Beall Fowler and George D. Watkins, now professors emeriti of physics; John Simmons, then the Sherman Fairchild Professor at Lehigh; Walter E. Dahlke, then professor of electrical engineering; and Frank Feigl, then professor of physics.

While Mishra was a student at Lehigh, he also met Marvin H. White, now the director of the Sherman Fairchild Center and, like Mishra, also a member of the NAE.

In 1985, Mishra would meet James Hwang, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Lehigh’s Compound Semiconductor Technology Laboratory.

“Jim hired me at General Electric in Syracuse, N.Y.,” says Mishra. “It was my first job. I have great respect for Jim. He is doing really good work at Lehigh.”

After earning his M.S. in 1981, Mishra enrolled at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. while doing research in compound semiconductors.

Mishra has served for the past two years on the advisory board to Lehigh’s department of electrical and computer engineering. He says he is impressed with Lehigh’s continued support for research in both silicon and compound semiconductors and with the university’s overall support for optical technologies.

“Lehigh has done very well by hiring Tom Koch [director of the university’s Center for Optical Technologies and also a member of the NAE]. Tom is a household name in his field of expertise,” says Mishra. “He is widely regarded for his professional work and widely liked for his demeanor.”

Lehigh has the potential to expand its influence in optical technologies, says Mishra.

“I want to see Lehigh grow. There is no magic in this. It’s a matter of vision and resources and, most importantly, identifying and hiring the right people. If you’re a small university like Lehigh, or a relatively small school like UCSB, you have to choose the right fields and concentrate your resources there.

“I think Lehigh has done very well in this regard. But growth takes time.”

Mishra was one of 65 new members elected this year to the NAE. The Academy, which now has 2,246 members, advises the federal government on issues pertaining to engineering education and research.

Mishra has served 19 years on the UCSB faculty and with UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Monday, March 09, 2009

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