October 23, 2006
Dr. Robert Dutton - The Father of TCAD
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by EDACafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

** Let's start with the EDAC announcement **

"A pioneering scholar and researcher, Dr. Robert Dutton is being honored for his numerous and significant contributions to the EDA industry in the area of computer simulation of IC technology. Dr. Dutton's pioneering work in both IC fabrication process modeling and electrical behavior modeling of devices and circuits resulted in the SUPREM (Stanford University Process Engineering Models) and PISCES (Poisson and Continuity Equation Solver) simulation tools and software, which have been broadly adopted by the industry and used widely in support of technology development. Dr. Dutton's work continues to be a key factor in the development of new technologies, including those in the emerging field of nano-electronics."

"The SUPREM process simulation program pioneered by Dr. Dutton's group made it practical to successfully simulate the IC fabrication process using physical models for each step in the process. During his distinguished career, Dr. Dutton co-founded the first TCAD company, Technology Modeling Associates (TMA). Serving as a director of TMA, Dr. Dutton promoted the growth of the TCAD industry and played an instrumental role in TMA becoming a public company. With TMA's subsequent merger with Avanti, TCAD was integrated into the broader EDA industry."

"Dr. Dutton has published more than 200 journal articles and graduated more than four dozen doctorate students. He was Editor of the IEEE CAD Journal (1984-1986), winner of the 1987 IEEE J. J. Ebers Award, 1988 Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Japan and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1991. In December 1996, Dr. Dutton received the Jack A. Morton Award and received the C & C Prize (Japan) in 2000 'For Pioneering Contributions to the Introduction of Practical Computer Simulation into the Manufacturing Process for Semiconductor Devices.' His research interests focus on Integrated Circuit process, device, and circuit technologies--especially the use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and parallel computational methods."


** A conversation **

On one of the loveliest autumn days in recent memory, I had a chance to chat with Stanford professor, Dr. Robert Dutton. He has been chosen by the EDA Consortium to receive the 2006 Phil Kaufman Award, and will be celebrated for his contributions to the industry at the annual EDAC dinner on November 2nd at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara. In giving Dr. Dutton the Kaufman Award, EDAC will have come full circle, back to its roots in the profound science and engineering that serves as the basis for the entire electronic design automation industry.

Bob Dutton has been a professor at Stanford since 1971. Currently, he is the Robert and Barbara Kleist Professor of Engineering, and Director of the Integrated Circuits Laboratory. I had a wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Dutton on October 17th, and felt lucky to have had the chance to speak with him. He was leaving for Japan the next day, and wouldn't be returning to California until just before the event being held in his honor on November 2nd.

Dutton grew up in Los Angeles, and came to U.C. Berkeley in 1962. He spent the next 9 years at Cal, earning a BS, MS, and PhD. Towards the end of his time at Cal, he also did a bit of teaching as an acting assistant professor. Dutton describes that appointment as one that says, "You're ready to start becoming a teacher." From Cal, Dutton went on to his distinguished career at Stanford.

Dutton told me, "I was an electrical engineering undergrad at Cal studying solid-state devices, and was basically building thin-film transistors as a graduate student. I was lucky to be a student there in those early days. Cal was one of the leaders in the field, with labs where integrated circuits actually were being built. By the time I was in graduate school, SPICE was just starting to be used to teach in the classes. This was really the very beginning of electronic circuit design in education."

Bob noted that, not only were those exciting years in EE, they were absolutely tumultuous years on the Berkeley campus - years that spanned the Free Speech Movement and the debate over the Vietnam War. Although the Engineering School was somewhat removed from that campus-wide conversation, Dutton told me he was not. He wrote an article for the local press expressing his opinions about the war, and was subsequently interviewed by the Chancellor of the University and the Dean of Engineering. He was also quoted in an article for the Alumni News Bulletin for the College of Engineering in the fall of 1970.

Before we went any deeper into politics, however, Bob reminded me that our conversation was only about physics and engineering, so we continued with his professional story: "My PhD advisor was Richard Muller. Richard Muller was one of the founders of an area called MEMS, micro electro-mechanical systems. Today, he is an emeritus teaching professor and, although he turned 70 a year ago, he's still going strong. The title of my thesis was Tellurium Thin-Film Transistors. The technology was not commercialized, but at the time RCA was using the technology for solid-state cameras, cameras that were the precursors to the digital cameras we think about today."

I asked Bob if he enjoyed his years at Cal. He was unequivocal in his answer: "Oh, yeah! As we say, it was a very exciting place in those days and our department, Electrical Engineering, was just fabulous. I ended up doing as much in the area of circuit design as I did in device technology. And, that's what ended up bringing me to Stanford."

** Stanford **

"For my PhD thesis, I was spending 60 hours a week building stuff at Cal. I spent a lot of time in the lab making thin-film devices. When I came to Stanford, I became involved in the integrated circuit process. At Cal, I hadn't done silicon integrated circuits, but at Stanford, I became involved with projects where we were actually building integrated circuit devices, and looking a the process sensitivity."

"The year I graduated from Cal was one of the hardest years for getting jobs in engineering. Truth be said, I had actually hoped to go to work at Bell Labs after I finished my PhD, but I was not able to land an offer. Although my offer was approved all the way up to the office of a Vice President, Bell Labs had a hiring freeze in place and it didn't go through. I had always figured that I wanted to go teach, but I originally had intended to spend some time in industry first. Since I couldn't land the Bell Labs job, I went to a position in academia at the place I thought I wanted to be in the long term and that was Stanford."

"Actually Stanford wasn't necessarily my first choice - I would have been happy to have stayed at Berkeley - but Stanford had one of the strongest integrated circuit programs, comparable to what was going on at Berkeley. So I said, 'Hey, they've got good technology and this is an interesting opportunity.' [Meanwhile], along the way, I did do a number of summer internships in industry, plus a sabbatical that took me into industry, so I did get to spend some time outside of academia."

[Editor's Note: Dr. Dutton held summer staff positions at Fairchild, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Research, and Matsushita during 1967, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1988 respectively.]

"When I first arrived at Stanford in 1971, I started out teaching the introductory device physics classes. At the time, they only had one integrated circuit class, so I was also teaching that. It's hard to believe today - but at the, time analog, digital, bipolar, and MOS design were all being taught in one class. These days that just couldn't be done. So over the next few years, I developed separate analog and digital classes, and then we continued to break the subjects up even further. I was part of the team in the department that eventually generated four different classes out of the original one."

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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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