Featured Engineer

Interview with Gerhard Klimeck

Gerhard Klimeck

Gerhard Klimeck - Professor of ECE at Purdue; Director, Network for Computational Nanotechnology

How did you first become involved with nanotechnology?

I came to the US as an exchange student from Germany in 1988 to Purdue. In the spring of 1989 I took a class with Prof. Supriyo Datta about electron flow in ultra-small structures where quantum mechanics are important. I realized that at some point in my career the down-scaling of devices will ultimately stop when the number of atoms in material layers becomes finite. It was an exciting and challenging field – called quantum electronics or quantum transport. I finished my PhD in Jan 1994 and joined the first industrial research group with the label “Nanoelectronics” at Texas Instruments. There we built the first industrial nanoelectronic modeling tool called NEMO.

What are your favorite hardware tools that you use?
  • MacBook Pro – 15inch
  • Purdue Community Clusters, over 20,000 cores in total available
  • Oak Ridge Supercomputer, Jaguar, over 225,000 cores
What are your favorite software tools that you use?
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • nanoHUB / HUBzero software stack
  • NEMO – Nanoelectronic Modeling Toolkit
  • Purify – discontinued tool for memory allocation and referencing, similar to valgrind, but much better
What is the hardest/trickiest bug you have ever fixed?

It’s been too long that I did real coding with really tricky bugs to fix.

What is on your bookshelf?

Semiconductor Physics Books, Quantum Mechanics Books, Nanoelectronics, Software development, languages – C, C++, python, tcl, Matlab

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve?

Structure of public presentations:

  • 1/3 of time, motivating the problem, everyone in the audience should think that this is a critical problem to solve.
  • 1/3 of time, showing beautiful intuitive solutions which show insights and knowledge, There should be no technical details, but top-level insights. Everyone in the audience should feel embarrassed for not already working on the problem, since the solution is sooo easy.
  • 1/6 of the time, show technical details and why you are the expert in the room. Show that these problems in reality are very hard to solve, and you have the technical expertise to solve them. Do not show ALL the details for all the problems you solved. Just pick one of the many. Leave all other details for backup slides that you can pull up in case you do get questions at the end of your presentaion. your response to a question: “Great question! Let me go to my backup slides and give you some detail”
  • 1/6 of the time, summarize the high level of your work and show your plans for the future
    audience should feel that “we should give him the money”, “or the job”, etc…

Remark: the piece of the presentation that in my opinion should be about 1/6 of the time takes on 95% of presentations and derails your true intent of the presentation: engagement of the audience. Most audiences are neither interested nor qualified to understand the technical details. Audiences want to hear about relevance and impact.

The following nanoHUB presentation overviews these concepts can be found here.

What has been your favorite project?

The creation of nanoHUB.org as a global nanotechnology user facility. Transforming nanoHUB from web-from based portal to a fully interactive simulation facility that serves over 10,000 users annually with over 350,000 simulations. Seventeen times more people come to nanoHUB to view lectures and courses on nanotechnology.

How did the nanoHub project come about?

About 1995 Prof. Mark Lundstrom wanted to share a Unix-based simulation tool he built in his theory group with an experimentalist without rewriting it for a PC. The idea to share this tool via web pages came about and the Purdue University Networking Computing Hub (PUNCH) was created, even before standard web servers were available. The technical development was performed by Nirav Karpedia under the supervision of Prof. Jose Fortes and Prof. Mark Lundstrom. In 1998 the PUNCH system was serving about 1,000 users with about 30 simulation tools for research and education. In 1998 the name nanoHUB was coined. In 2002 the Network for Computational Nanotechnology was created and Gerhard Klimeck joined as a technical director. In 2005 the web forms based simulation tools were replaced by fully interactive simulation engines with friendly user interfaces. Michael McLennan was the core nanoHUB architect that created Rappture for the rapid development of user interfaces and datamanagement. A completely new delivery system for fully interactive simulations was deployed built by Rick Kennell.

Do you have any note-worthy engineering experiences?

Development of the first industrial nanoelectronic modeling tool (NEMO) that enabled quantum device simulation. This was done 1994-98 at the Central Research Laboratory of Texas Instruments in Dallas

What are you currently working on?

Within my research group at Purdue: Developing NEMO5 – a generalized 3D, 2D, and 1D quantum transport simulation engine. Within nanoHUB.org: studying the behavior of users to help support them better.

What direction do you see your business heading in the next few years?

My research will continue to support the downscaling and optimization of nanoelectronic transistors plus the coupling of electronic devices to photons (optoelectronics, phototvoltaics) and phonons (thermoelectrics).
nanoHUB.org will hopefully grow further and manage data of simulation usage and also experimental data.
We are now creating manufacturingHUB.org to support small manufacturing companies with modeling and simulation support. I see that as a critical support for the regrowth of the US manufacturing base

What challenges do you foresee in our industry?

A deepening of a substantial lack of US citizens going to graduate school to study fundamental engineering. Even in other developed countries one can see the same trend such as Germany, Japan, Korea, and even India. It will be a challenge to attract the brightest minds to this.

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