UC CEAS Professor Marc Cahay Named AAAS Fellow

By: Ashley Duvelius
December 16, 2015

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Professor Marc Cahay was recently elected to Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Marc cahay

Marc Cahay, PhD and professor in the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Electrical Engineering and Computing Systems, is receiving the ultimate recognition from his peers for his “seminal contributions to the study of the transport properties of mesoscopic systems and pioneering investigations of spintronics devices.”  Cahay has been recently promoted to the status of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Cahay’s numerous scientific contributions include but are not limited to: authoring a landmark paper titled “Importance of Space-Charge Effects in Resonant Tunneling Devices,” which has been cited 120 times, and laid the foundation for a well-known software package SEQUAL (Semiconductor Electrostatics by QUantum-mechanical AnaLysis) used by universities and industries worldwide; developing the  scattering matrix approach to model diffusive charge transport in semiconductor  nanostructures, a technique that is now used by researchers worldwide; pioneering a hybrid theoretical and experimental program for the use of rare-earth monosulfides to realize cold cathodes (electrodes) with low and even negative electron affinity; and co-authoring the only textbook in spintronics, titled “Introduction on Spintronics,” that has sold over 1,100 copies worldwide and is now in its second edition.

“When I think about this nomination, I remember the days where I was first introduced to the topic of spin physics, as the last two lectures in a second class on quantum mechanics. At the time, I found the topic quite abstract and difficult. After a 35 year leap, I have now co-authored over 50 papers in that area as well as the only textbook in the field of spintronics,” says Cahay.

Cahay, a native of Liege, Belgium, earned his bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Liege in his hometown (’81), and worked in the university’s Nuclear Physics Department after graduation. It was during this time that he met Professor Sergio Rodriguez, who was on sabbatical from Purdue University, and their happenstance encounter altered the course of Cahay’s career—he decided to travel to the United States to attend Purdue for graduate studies.  Four years after arriving in Chicago, he achieved his master’s degree in physics (’86) and his PhD in electrical engineering (’87), then spent some time in industry. Cahay later joined UC’s CEAS School of Electronics and Computing Systems faculty as an Assistant Professor in September 1989. Additionally, he has held a joint position in the physics department.

Cahay’s early research was on the modeling of mesoscopic systems and nanoscale devices, a continuation of his PhD work with his Purdue advisor, Professor Supriyo Datta. He has worked in various other research areas, including: the modeling of heterojunction bipolar transistors; superconducting field effect transistors; cold cathodes; organic-light emitting diodes; and spintronics. In more recent years, Cahay’s research has been mostly supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force, and various US companies. Over the last 20 years, he has also spent time working as a consultant at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH.

Cahay has also made quite an impact at UC, earning awards such as the Sigma Xi Young Investigator Research Award (’95;, Etta Kappa Nu Outstanding Professor of the Year (’02-‘03); College of Engineering Distinguished Researcher Award (‘08);  Department of Electrical and Computer Enginnering W.H. Middendorf Research Excellence Award (‘91, ‘05, ‘11);  Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering W.E. Restemeyer Teaching Excellence Award (‘04); COE Master Engineering Educator Award (‘12);  COE Neil Wandmacher Teaching Award (‘12), the Distinguished Teaching Professor Award (’12);  and the Fellow of the Academy of Teaching and Learning (‘14). Cahay has also been elected Fellow of the Electrochemical Society (2007), Fellow of IEEE (2007), and Fellow of the American Physical Society (2012).

Looking to the future, Cahay plans to continue his work in the field of spintronics, reorienting his research to the applications of spin-based devices for the development of neuromorphic networks. He also wishes to keep working on the modeling of heat dissipation in carbon nanotube fibers and to study the impact of secondary electron emission in the operation of various cold cathodes. He also has started a research program on photovoltaic cells based on graphene electronics. Cahay is currently in the process of publishing a book on “Practical Problems in Quantum Mechanics” with his colleague, Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, which is set to be released next year.

Cahay reflects, “At this point of my career, it is nice to reflect on the path which led to the various accomplishments and honors I received along the way. I would like to thank my high school math and physics teachers (Professors Pierre Nowak and Jean-Marie Reymen, respectively) who raised my strong interest in science. I would like to thank Professors Edouard Kartheuser and Sergio Rodriguez for introducing me to the fascinating field of Solid State Physics and helped me pursue my graduate studies at Purdue University. I would also like to thank Professor Joseph Cugnon for teaching me the fundamentals of Monte Carlo simulations. I would not be at this stage of my career if I had not opted to switch to the study of Electrical Engineering and work for my Ph.D advisor at Purdue University, Professor Supriyo Datta, with whom I have had many discussions on various topics which have helped me at various stages of my career as I was changing my field of interest.”

Cahay also credits Professor Punit Boolchand for initiating him to the field of experimental physics. Together, they have done extensive work in the growth, characterization, and device applications of rare-earth monosulfides for cold cathodes applications. Cahay explains, “With this experience, I was able to start experimental programs on the investigations of organic light emitting diodes and spintronic spin valves.  My most cited paper is an experimental one, ‘Spin relaxation in organic spin valves,’ published in Nature-Nanotechnology (Vol. 1, pp.216-219 (2007).”

And last but not least, Cahay feels a deep appreciation for his students as he says, “I would like to thank many of my excellent PhD students, some of which had a very high throughput during their studies at UC and are now working for various high profile industries (Intel, Qualcomm, and others) and at some universities. My goal is to help generations of undergraduate and graduate students as well as researchers in nanophysics and nanoelectronics master the fundamentals of quantum mechanics to understand practical aspects of the field.”

About the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an American international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity. It is the world's largest general scientific society, with 126,995 individual and institutional members at the end of 2008. (Source: http://www.aaas.org/)