“People-centered, Innovative’ Indian-American named dean of MIT School of Engineering

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Anantha P. Chandrakasan, new dean of MIT’s School of Engineering. (Photo: Patsy Sampson, MIT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has appointed an Indian-American leader in electrical engineering and computer science to head its School of Engineering.

Anantha P. Chandrakasan, the Vannevar Bush Professor has been the  head of MIT’s largest academic department, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, for the last six years. This July 1, he replaced Ian A. Waitz, the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who takes over as MIT’s vice chancellor.

The Chennai-born Chandrakasan is credited with spearheading a number of initiatives in his previous position, that opened opportunities for students and faculty. “I tend to be a people person,” Chandrakasan says. “Of course data is always important, but it’s not where I start.

“Anantha balances his intellectual creativity and infectious energy with a remarkable ability to deeply listen to, learn from, and integrate other people’s views into a compelling vision,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a press release.

Chandrakasan’s early research, focusing largely on making electronic circuits more energy efficient, helped make possible the development of today’s smartphones and other mobile devices. More recently, his research has addressed the challenge of enabling everyday devices to send and receive vast amounts of data via networked servers while being powered from a tiny energy source.

Which would explain why Provost Martin Schmidt described Chandrakasan as “a people-centered and innovative leader.”

Chandrakasan moved to the United States while in high school. His mother was a biochemist and Fulbright scholar, and he spent time in her lab where she conducted research on collagen.

“I always knew I wanted to be an engineer and a professor,” he says. “My mother really inspired me into an academic career. When I entered graduate school, I knew on day one that I wanted to be academic professor.”

Chandrakasan 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. After joining the MIT faculty, he was the director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) from 2006 until he became the head of EECS in 2011.

He has received several awards during his career, including the 2009 Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) University Researcher Award, the 2013 IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits, an honorary doctorate from KU Leuven in 2016, and the UC Berkeley EE Distinguished Alumni Award.

He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts, with his wife and three children, the oldest of whom graduated from MIT this year.

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