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Dr. Mario J. Paniccia elected to the National Academy of Engineering


Writer(s): Cheryl Pierce


Physics and Astronomy alumnus Mario J. Paniccia (PhD Physics '94) has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for “his contributions to integrated silicon photonic devices and their commercialization."  Paniccia spent 22 years at Intel Corporation where he achieved the title of Intel Fellow and CTO of the Silicon Photonics Division, which he created. Paniccia is currently the CEO and co-founder of a new startup named Anello Photonics of Santa Clara, CA. Anello Photonics focuses on developing a new type of sensor for the autonomous market based on  Silicon Photonics.

The NAE has recently elected 106 new members and 23 international members. According to the NAE, Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

“It was very humbling to learn that I have been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE),” says Paniccia. “To see your name alongside many other pioneers in Silicon Valley such as Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Andy Bechtolsheim, and others is surreal. While induction to the Academy is considered a career life accomplishment, I view this as the cumulative work of so many extremely talented people I have had the pleasure to work with over the years.  Understand that this is over 25 years of effort developing a technology that most thought would never ever work.  And to see it today impacting some many different fields and applications is really gratifying.  In some sense this is an example of perseverance and not letting others tell you what is possible or not. So, to the readers, follow your dreams in life and never give up!”

According to Paniccia, silicon photonics is the technology by which data is transmitted between two silicon chips using lasers instead of electrical signals or copper wires. It combines two of the most important inventions of the 20th century:  the integrated circuit and the semiconductor laser.

Internet traffic is currently growing at exponential rates  driven by video conferencing, live-streaming,  movies on demand, social media, and big data. This traffic is typically transmitted over copper wires.  However with this continued growth, the copper wire networks cannot keep pace with this increased traffic.  The use of lasers and fiber optic technology instead of copper wires could provide unlimited bandwidth, but this fiber optic technology is very expensive.

“If one can instead perform this transmission using the same technology that is used to produce integrated circuits and chips found in your PC or cell phone, then one could deliver this data at significantly lower cost than current laser-based technology,” says Paniccia. “What we have developed is all the pieces, components and building blocks needed to do all this in silicon (i.e. silicon photonics).” This silicon photonics technology is already being deployed and used today in all the major data centers around the world ”

Paniccia credits the Physics and Astronomy Department and his advisor, Professor Ronald Reifenberger, for helping him reach his goals.  

“I would like to give a special thanks to Professor Reifenberger who, a long time ago, took a chance on a young kid from New York and gave me an opportunity to work in his group and lab,” says Paniccia.  “Without his guidance and support I would not be where I am today. I would not have my Phd and my career as a whole.  So, I would like to give my special thanks to Ron and the entire Physics Department for all their support during my time at Purdue!  Boiler Up!”

The feelings of admiration between Paniccia and Reifenberger are mutual.  Reifenberger fondly recalls Paniccia as a student with the right attitude for success.  

"When I recruit students for my research group, I judge them on three criteria: ability, motivation, and attitude," says Reifenberger.  "While a student at Purdue, there was no question that what set Mario apart was his attitude. Mario had an exceptional attitude as a graduate student at Purdue and in my opinion, his innate attitude coupled with his abilities and motivation are what has defined his success long after graduation."


Last Updated: Nov 3, 2021 1:35 PM

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