Professor of electrical engineering and computer science, or EECS, Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli was awarded the Frontiers of Knowledge award for transformative scientific contributions in chip designs, according to a BBVA Foundation press release Feb. 8.
The Frontiers of Knowledge Award, which recognizes world-class research and cultural creations, was awarded to Sangiovanni-Vincentelli for paving the way to a “worldwide explosion of integrated circuit design” in research, industry and academia, according to the press release. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli made possible a new method of creating chips through automation, revolutionizing how computer systems are built away from a handcrafted process.
Professor Edward Lee was among 28 nominators of Sangiovanni-Vincentelli. Lee’s nomination letter on Sangiovanni-Vincentelli emphasized his impact on circuit design and design methodologies for complex electronic systems. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, according to Lee, enabled the digital revolution in circuit and system designs.
Sangiovanni-Vincentelli graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy in 1971. A more “theoretically inclined” person with a taste for physics and philosophy, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli went into engineering as a professor at Politecnico di Milano. He visited the UC Berkeley campus in 1974, and has been teaching since 1976.
After starting his work in large scale numeral systems, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli oriented his studies toward automation. Alongside Richard Newton, a close colleague interested in design automation, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli decided with his academic background to venture into auto design. Together, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli and Newton co-founded companies Cadence and Synopsys.
Rather than staying with the auto industry in the later stages of their companies, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli and Newton continued their research as professors.
“What motivates me is curiosity,” Sangiovanni-Vincentelli said.
Ultimately, his curiosity in the field of electrical engineering spurred his desire to bring automation to construction, chips and quantum computing.
Professor of architecture and civil environmental engineering Stefano Schiavon emphasized not only Sangiovanni-Vincentelli’s large impact on the field of electrical engineering, but also described him as a “tremendously generous” person.
Schiavon and Sangiovanni-Vincentelli collaborated in research on whether systemic automated design can be implemented in the construction of buildings. Schiavon noted being “shocked” with how kind Sangiovanni-Vincentelli was with his designs and how they could be applied to other fields.
Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, Schiavon remarked, has maintained the same energy and joy throughout his career and remained a mentor and guide to students. His designs could benefit other sectors, he added.
As someone who specialized in engineering and design in an abstract field like computer science, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli said he was “really surprised” to have won.
“I cannot be happy enough,” Sangiovanni-Vincentelli said.
However, Sangiovanni-Vincentelli noted that this achievement would not have been possible without his friends and colleagues at UC Berkeley.
“The collaboration among EECS is incredible,” Sangiovanni-Vincentelli said. “This award would not have been possible without Don Pederson and Richard Newton — my best friends that came to Berkeley the same year as I.”