TORONTO, ON – University of Toronto Engineering Professor Vaughn Betz of The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering has been named the NSERC/Altera Industrial Research Chair in Programmable Silicon. The five-year renewable chair provides support for Professor Betz’s research on programmable computer chips, known as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).
Professor Betz is one of the world’s leading researchers in the architecture of FPGAs and the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software critical in their use and design. FPGAs are computer chips that have the unique ability for their circuitry to be reprogrammed to serve different needs, in essence ‘becoming’ different chips for different users.
“FPGAs are an integral part of a huge variety of digital systems, from the routers forming the backbone of the Internet, through the cellular data networks that enable smartphones, to cars and appliances. The development cost of a state-of-the-art single-purpose computer chip is $100 million and rising. Therefore, all-purpose FPGAs that can serve many needs with a single chip will be crucial to enabling the next great hardware system innovation,” said Professor Betz.
Professor Betz recently returned to the University of Toronto, where he completed his PhD, following 11 years as the Senior Director of Software Engineering at Altera Corporation, a programmable semiconductor manufacturer. He also co-founded a successful FPGA software start-up, has an extensive publication record and holds 68 U.S. patents. He is an architect of one of the leading industrial FPGA device families, and of one of the leading industrial computer-assisted design (CAD) systems used to map designs into FPGAs.
“Canada is well positioned to be a leader in the field. The new Chair provides additional support to ensure that we enhance FPGA architectures to take advantage of the latest developments in computer architecture and semiconductor manufacturing. The Chair also helps to develop new software tools that make FPGAs easier for engineers to use,” said Professor Betz.
The Chair will further enable collaboration between Professor Betz and Altera, which is one of the two leading FPGA companies and has a major research and development centre located in downtown Toronto. The research results will enable both better FPGA chips and CAD software, benefiting not only FPGA companies but also the extremely wide variety of hardware designers who use FPGAs in their systems.
“On behalf of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, I congratulate Vaughn Betz on receiving the NSERC/Altera Industrial Research Chair in Programmable Silicon. He brings extraordinary expertise, entrepreneurial and industrial experience that will benefit our students and inspire their research,” said Engineering Dean Cristina Amon. “We are also deeply grateful for the support provided by NSERC and Altera Corporation,” she added.
“Vaughn Betz has made exceptional contributions to the development of reprogrammable computer chips,” said Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). “This is expected to become a crucial technology as its capabilities are further enhanced. As an Industrial Research Chairholder, Dr. Betz is addressing significant long-term problems. His research positions Canada on the leading edge of developments in this field, and the students who are trained under this program will be in high demand by many Canadian industries.”
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