President Bush Bestows National Medal of Technology on First Yale Professor to Receive the Honor

President George W. Bush has awarded the National Medal of Technology to Jerry M. Woodall, the C. Baldwin Sawyer Professor of Electrical Engineering, the first Yale professor to ever receive the prestigious award.

Woodall has done pioneering research on compound semiconductor materials and devices over a career spanning four decades. Fully half of the entire world’s annual sales of compound semiconductor components are made possible by his research legacy. He invented many electronic and optoelectronic devices commonly seen in modern life, including the red light emitting diodes (LEDs) used in indicators and stoplights, the infrared LEDs used in CD players, TV remote controls and computer networks, the high speed transistors used in cell phones and satellites, and high efficiency solar cells used to power satellites.

Woodall was cited for the invention and development of technologically and commercially important compound semiconductor heterojunction materials, processes, and related devices, such as LEDs, lasers, ultra-fast transistors and solar cells.

“I am delighted and honored at becoming a National Medal of Technology laureate,” said Woodall. “It is truly a seminal marker for my career at this point. Now that my work has been honored in this way, I look forward to being a role model and mentor to other aspiring National Medal of Technology laureates.”

Woodall added, “I am happy that my work has had a profound positive impact on both the quality of life on the planet and that it has recently enabled broad band communication technology to move forward.”

Yale President Richard C. Levin said, “This award is a true reflection of the important work Professor Woodall has done. It is also a reflection of the high caliber of faculty Yale Engineering is attracting.”

Woodall spent most of the early and mid parts of his career at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he rose to the rank of IBM fellow. He built the first high purity single crystals of gallium arsenide, enabling the first definitive measurements of carrier velocity versus electric field relationships, as well as gallium arsenide crystals used for the first non-supercooled injection laser. He and Hans Rupprecht pioneered the liquid-phase epitaxial growth of high efficiency infrared LEDs, and gallium aluminum arsenide (GaAlAs), which led to his most important research contribution so far: the first working gallium aluminum arsenide/gallium arsenide heterojunction, the interface between two different semiconductor materials. This remains the world’s most important compound semiconductor heterojunction.

Woodall then invented and patented many important commercial high-speed electronic and photonic devices, which depend on the heterojunction, including bright red LEDs and the two classes of ultra-fast transistors, called the heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) and pseudomorphic high-electron-mobility transistor (pHEMT). Many new areas of solid-state physics have evolved and been realized as a result of his work, including the semiconductor superlattice, low-dimensional systems, mesoscopics, and resonant tunneling.

“This National Medal of Technology is richly deserved by one of our most innovative engineers whose work has had worldwide impact,” said Dean of Engineering at Yale, Paul Fleury. “We’re doubly delighted that this award comes during Yale engineering’s sesquicentennial celebration and that the winner of this medal is in engineering.”

Woodall co-founded LightSpin Technologies, Inc., a high technology startup company, and serves as its chief science officer. From 1993 through 1999, he held the Charles William Harrison Distinguished Professorship of Microelectronics at Purdue University. He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Cornell University and a B.S. in metallurgy from MIT.

Woodall was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1989 and is a fellow of the APS, IEEE, ECS, and AVS. He has published over 300 articles in the open literature and been issued 67 U.S. patents. He received five major IBM Research Division Awards, 30 IBM Invention Achievement Awards, and an IBM Corporate Award in 1992 for the invention of the GaAlAs/GaAs heterojunction. Other recognition includes a 1975 Industrial Research 100 Award; the 1984 IEEE Jack A. Morton Award; the 1985 ECS Solid State Science and Technology Award; the 1988 Heinrich Welker Gold Medal and International GaAs Symposium Award; the 1990 AVS Medard Welch Award, its highest honor; the 1997 Eta Kappa Nu Vladimir Karapetoff Eminent Members’ Award; the 1998 ASEE’s General Electric Senior Research Award; and the 1998 ECS Edward Goodrich Acheson Award, its highest honor, and an IEEE Third Millennium Award..

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326