Chakrabartty named Clifford W. Murphy Professor

Shantanu Chakrabartty pioneered the in-memory analog computing paradigm

Beth Miller 
Shantanu Chakrabartty

Shantanu Chakrabartty, who uses novel techniques to design self-powered computing devices, analog processors and instrumentation with applications in biomedical and structural engineering, has been named the Clifford W. Murphy Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Although he received the professorship title in fall 2019, his installation ceremony was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will take place Sept. 29 in the Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Hall.  

Chakrabartty, a professor of electrical & systems engineering, of computer science & engineering and of biomedical engineering, and his research pushes new engineering frontiers in analog computing and in the design of self-powered systems and instrumentation. He has published more than 180 refereed journal and conference articles in prestigious venues such as Nature, Frontiers, IEEE Transactions and NeurIPS.

He has made several key contributions to the field with high practical impact. He pioneered the in-memory analog computing paradigm which has now emerged as the architecture of choice in the design of modern artificial intelligence and machine learning microchips. His research group was one of the first to report reliable forward-error-correcting biosensing assays combining the physics of protein binding with error-correcting primitives. His group was the first to report a unique kind of battery-free sensor-data-logger device that has been used for condition-based monitoring of structures as large as the 5-mile Mackinac bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the western hemisphere, to structures small enough to be implanted in vivo. New versions of this technology are now commercialized for real-world civil and mechanical infrastructure monitoring by Infratico Inc., a startup entity that Chakrabartty founded with former students.

“We are proud to be the home base for Shantanu Chakrabartty’s groundbreaking sensor technology,” said Andrew D. Martin, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. “His work on the Mackinac Bridge — one of the longest suspension bridges in the world — has huge potential to make the world’s bridges safer. We are grateful for Mr. Murphy’s generosity that can support this research.”

Chakrabartty, who is a fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) also serves as the vice dean for research and graduate education in McKelvey Engineering. His recent work explores the synergy between new generation of self-powered systems and neuromorphic computing, and he serves as the co-director of McKelvey Engineering’s Center for Cyborg and Biorobotics Research. He holds 20 issued and pending U.S. patents, and in 2012 he was awarded the innovator of the year award by Michigan State University. Chakrabartty has been consistently funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. In 2010, Chakrabartty was awarded the NSF’s CAREER award. In 2011 he was awarded the Teacher-Scholar award by Michigan State University, which is the highest award bestowed by the university in recognition of faculty teaching. Chakrabartty is an alumnus of the U.S. National Academy Frontiers of Engineering and serves as the McDonnell International Student Academy’s ambassador to the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bengaluru.

“Professor Chakrabartty’s breadth is remarkable,” said Aaron F. Bobick, dean and the James M. McKelvey Professor of the McKelvey School of Engineering. “Through research in ultra-low-power devices he is developing innovative technology that could have a tremendous impact on the infrastructure in our country; he is working with colleagues to develop biosensors that will have an impact on human health and in security; and he leverages models of the brain to create analog neuromorphic chip designs to support machine learning. He demonstrates the ingenuity and drive for improvement that Clifford Murphy modeled.”

Chakrabartty joined the McKelvey School of Engineering faculty in 2015 from Michigan State University, where he was professor and director of the Adaptive Integrated Microsystems Laboratory. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, India, then earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 2002 and 2004, respectively. He worked as an engineer for Qualcomm Inc. for three years before pursuing graduate degrees.

This professorship, established by Clifford W. Murphy in 1988, reflects the donor’s belief that “education is the bridge that will provide the knowledge, understanding, and confidence necessary to ultimately eliminate prejudice and discrimination from our society forever.”

A highly respected and successful executive in the construction industry for more than 40 years, Mr. Murphy founded Drilling Service Co. and American Drilling Service Co., both pioneers in hard-rock drilling and in the improvement of tolls and equipment for greater efficiency and productivity. He began his career in the service of the U.S. Navy Construction Battalions from 1942 to 1945, spending 31 months of that service in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands building airfields and ship facilities. After the war, he attended Washington University before first working for several construction companies and then establishing American Drilling. He was president of Associated General Contractors in 1977.

A leader in service to his industry and community, Mr. Murphy proposed and sponsored the Hugh B. Williams Memorial Scholarship and the Committee for the Association of Drilled Shaft Contractors in Dallas, also proposing the committee’s “Operation Rescue.” He co-founded the Earl Salveter Memorial Scholarship Committee at Washington University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science, and he and his wife endowed the Clifford W. and Armarie B. Murphy Scholarship in the School of Engineering. 

Mr. Murphy, the 1990 recipient of the Robert S. Brookings Award from Washington University, died in 1992.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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