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Kuang-Lu Lee: solutions are his domain

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Kuang-Lu Lee: solutions are his domain

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Kuang-Lu Lee (Ph.D. ’85 EECS) swims or runs every morning. "This industry is very tough," he says. "You need to have the energy to work 12 to 15 hours a day."

After two years designing integrated circuits for National Semiconductor, Kuang-Lu Lee decided in 1980 to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley. Instead of entering an ivory tower, however, Lee encountered colleagues who were finding answers to the very same questions asked in industry.

As a research assistant to EECS professors Robert Meyer and Paul Gray, Lee was able to contribute solutions to their textbook on analog integrated circuit design, a classic work now in its fourth printing and used worldwide.

"It was really exciting," recalls Lee, "because the problems they were using for the textbook were completely up-to-date research problems. We were collecting solutions from students’ papers, not even knowing at the start what the answers would be."

Today, as president of Taiwan-based Ambit Microsystems, Lee remains grateful for his experiences at Berkeley. In spring 2002, Lee was invited to join the Berkeley Engineering Fund board, which advises Dean Richard Newton on the College’s fundraising and external affairs. Of the board’s 35 members, Lee travels the farthest — from Hsinchu, Taiwan — to attend the twice-yearly meetings.

"I feel that over the years I have benefited greatly from the training I received at Berkeley," says Lee, who heads a company that posted $730 million in worldwide sales last year. "Now I feel an obligation to pay back. The thing is, I’m 6,500 miles away! But it’s worth it to me. I hope I can make some kind of contribution, and I also would like to see if we can pursue some research topics together."

Ambit Microsystems develops and manufactures intelligent power and connectivity products for the computer and communications industries. Last year, the firm produced one-third of the ADSL modems sold worldwide.

One Berkeley research area that Lee is watching closely is broadband communications. "This is a relatively new field, and there’s still a lot to be explored," he says. "We are doing similar things, so there must be something we can work on together."

Raised in Taipei, Lee earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from National Taiwan University. Berkeley’s dominance in semiconductor technology is common knowledge among the 300 high-tech companies neighboring Ambit Microsystems in the Hsinchu area southwest of Taipei.

"Many of the executives and chief scientists here are Cal graduates," he says. "Berkeley is extremely well known in Taiwan. Its reputation here is similar to its reputation back home — a strong international character and plenty of down-to-earth and hands-on teachers always willing to try something new."

By Karen Rhodes, associate director of development for the College of Engineering.

FOREFRONT takes you into the labs, classrooms, and lives of professors, students, and alumni for an intimate look at the innovative research, teaching, and campus life that defines the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

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