TCDA Chair Candidate

Chuck Alpert


Charles (Chuck) Alpert was born in Bethesda, Maryland in 1969. He received a B.S. Degree in Math and Computational Sciences and a B.A. degree in History from Stanford University in 1991. Upon receiving a Department of Defense Fellowship, he enrolled the UCLA Computer Science department and received his doctoral degree in 1996. Upon graduation, Chuck joined IBM’s Austin Research Laboratory (ARL) where he remains still. In 2005 he was made the technical lead of the tools group, and in 2007 he was appointed manager of the Design Productivity Group.  The mission of his team is to develop design automation tools and methodologies to improve designer productivity and reduce design cost.

Chuck was named IEEE Fellow in 2005. He has published over 100 conference and journal publications. He has received three Best Paper Awards from the Design Automation Conference and is a co-author of the Handbook of Physical Design Automation. He has filed for 75 patents and 40 have been issued, and was named an IBM Master Inventor. He has served as the general chair for the Tau Workshop on Timing Issues, the International Symposium on Physical Design, and CANDE. He served as associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design from 2003-2012.  In 2011, he joined the Executive Committee for the Design Automation Conference as Panels Chair, and will serve in 2012-2013 as Co-Technical Program Chair. For his work in mentoring, he received the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Mahboob Khan Mentor Award in 2001 and 2007. Chuck was selected to attend the 2010 National Academy of Engineering’s FOE meeting, which is a forum for top engineers in the country between the ages of 30-45.

Chuck has a strong algorithmic background in combinatorial optimization and graph theory, and his research interests are primarily related to applying these techniques to solve problems in the design closure space, especially related to physical synthesis.

Position Statement

Given the size of the design automation community, there is no shortage of forums for publishing research. Besides DAC, ICCAD, DATE and ASP-DAC, there are numerous smaller conferences and workshops. However, most of this research ultimately has little impact on the semiconductor industry. There is a pretty clear disconnect between the companies that provide production software to the designers and the academics, but more alarmingly, there is a larger disconnect between academia and the designers themselves. The people in the trenches trying to get designs out the door understand the true shortcomings with today’s automation tools and can express their pain points with today’s tools. Further, today’s designers are also CAD developers. To fix shortcomings with the tools, they create customize scripts that automatically do what the tool cannot. Many of these scripts are quite innovative, but they hardly ever get widely used outside of the design team.
As DATC chair, my mission would be to find ways to increase the impact of design automation research on the semiconductor industry. As the cost of design continues to go up, chip design companies are embracing automation like they never have before. Even stalwarts for custom design like IBM, Intel, and AMD are changing their approach to design, and companies want to increase the number of transistors per designer to reduce design costs. This transition is a great opportunity for design automation to have a larger impact on the entire industry, but it will not happen if academic research flounders on problems without real world applications.
I plan to accomplish this mission in several ways. First, new conferences and workshops should be designed to embrace the customer. We need to bring academics, designers, and EDA professionals together to discuss current and future challenges. It is not enough for an academic to present a paper, but we should create forums where these issues are discussed among all attendees. I personally know several designers from companies who very much would enjoy participating with the external community but do not know how to get involved. Since they do not have formal research training, the barriers to participation in these kinds of workshops are high. We need to lower the barriers.
Next, I plan to continue to promote contests and work to unify them under CEDA. Contests enable researchers to compete on problems that are known to be vexing to the design community and guarantee that the researchers are focused on real problems. Further, it enables the rest of the community to better understand which approaches are best because the comparisons between algorithms are apples-apples. CEDA should help support this kind of research and work with the rest of the industry to increase funding beyond nominal awards for winners. I’ve already spoken to Joel Phillips about this and would coordinate with him in pursuit of this initiative. I would like to help organize a workshop to learn best practices and make it easier for someone to run a contest.
Finally, I plan to use the role of DATC chair to influence the DAC technical program. I will be the DAC co-technical program chair for DAC 2013 and likely in 2014 as well. This role will enable me to drive the program to have increasing technical impact and to broaden participation in the design automation community by expanding into new areas and drawing in professionals into our forums. It will also enable me to report back to the rest of CEDA what is going on with DAC.
I have now spent half my life working in Design Automation, but I still think it is an incredibly interesting and vibrant field. The problems are never ending and the need for automation is always increasing. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to serve and promote this field as a member of CEDA board.