most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 21, number 2, autumn 2011
university of washington
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 home CSE Home    MSB archive Autumn 2011 MSB    MSB Archive   Contact Info Contact Info 
Shwetak Patel wins MacArthur Chair's message CSE leads new Intel center Alum profile: Wen-Hann Wang News Aram Harrow joins CSE CSE’s newest ACM Fellows iGEM 2011 world champs! Datagrams Awards Refraction wins NHK prize CRA recognizes CSE ugrads 2012 Diamond Award winners Events Susan Eggers retires! Jean-Loup Baer turns 75 2011 Industrial Affiliates meeting CSE @ 2011 Hopper Conference
msb21.2 PDF

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About MSB

MSB is a twice yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton.
Contributors: Dieter Fox, Sally James, Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney, Shwetak Patel. Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Lindsay Michimoto, UW News Team.

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Wen-Hann Wang: Our Man at Intel

Wen-Hann Wang
Wen-Hann Wang

CSE’s collaboration with Intel shoots to new heights with the Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing. An enthusiastic booster for the center is CSE alumnus Wen-Hann Wang (PhD ’89), a vice president of Intel Labs and director of circuits and systems research, based in Hillsboro, Oregon.

“I’m excited about the center, whose executive sponsor is a close colleague, so I’ll be keeping up with its work,” Wang said.

Wang also keeps close tabs on CSE as Intel’s liaison to the University of Washington, a role he had eyed for many years. Recruited to Intel in 1991 as a microprocessor expert and platform architect for the Pentium Pro, his work was instrumental in the P6 family and creation of the Intel Xeon processor product line. His ascending career included two postings to Shanghai, first as director of Intel China Software Lab from 2000 to 2003, and then from 2006 to 2008 as general manager of Software and Solutions and Product Development, China. In 2004 he scouted the Middle East from Beirut to Cairo and Istanbul to locate a new R&D lab, but settled on Argentina as the best fit. In between his two assignments in China, he managed the Core Software, Managed Runtime, and Middleware Products divisions in Oregon and Intel’s R&D in Russia, where he traveled more than two dozen times.

“Finally my turn as liaison at UW came a year and a half after I moved back to the US. Now I officially visit in spring and fall to meet with Dean O’Donnell, Hank Levy and other Engineering chairs, and with faculty, Intel scholarship fellows, and other students.”

“I'm a life-long learner and will continue to visit the UW to learn from Jean-Loup and other faculty. The UW is forever my university.”

Wang's circuitous journey to the UW originated in a small village in Taiwan, beginning with what he calls a “blind date” with electrical engineering. Just the second person in his family and village to attend college (20 years after his uncle), Wang loved Chinese and English literature, but top examination grades earned entry into the number one program at National Taiwan University — electrical engineering. “I knew nothing about the field, but thought it would be an opportunity for a career with a good income,” he recalled.

After two years as a communications intelligence officer in the Taiwan army, he followed several classmates to graduate school at Santa Barbara, where he was a TA for a “hippie” professor with long hair and a big bushy beard.

“My English was poor then. I couldn’t read his lips or understand anything he said. Luckily, Phillips International Institute of Technological Studies offered me a fellowship, so I instantly accepted and went off to earn my MS degree in The Netherlands,” he recalled.

Classmates from 17 countries and travels throughout Europe provided an eye-opening cross-cultural experience. Upon his return to Taiwan, he weighed a teaching position there versus an opportunity to return to Europe with Phillips and also earn a PhD. Instead, he followed his mother's advice to pursue his doctoral studies in the US, where she believed he was more likely to find a Chinese wife than in Europe.

Rainier Effect Plus Baer Effect

Graduate program catalog perusal (before Internet time) convinced Wang that the UW had the most beautiful campus, plus it was the closest university to Asia. While in The Netherlands researching his master's thesis, he also came across Jean-Loup Baer's book on computer architecture.

“I was interested in this topic and was impressed with his book, which further prompted me to apply to the UW computer science program,” Wang said. “Jean-Loup became my advisor, helped me secure RA and TA positions, and let me think and explore. He was an excellent mentor. Everyone on the faculty was so nice, and I was very happy at the UW.”

Baer describes Wang as “a brilliant student, first-rate researcher, and the nicest guy on earth.” Wang and Baer worked on multilevel cache hierarchies and coauthored a ground breaking paper in 1988 that won the inaugural “test of time” paper award from the International Symposium of Computer Architecture in 2003. They have kept in close touch, and he returned to Seattle to celebrate Baer's 75th birthday, as well as Susan Eggers' recent retirement. He also is a generous donor to CSE with a gift to the Allen Center capital campaign.

He dreams of becoming an essayist when he retires, perhaps writing about people he's met all over the world, each with an interesting story to tell. For ten years (before blogs existed), he wrote the “Dawg Food Digest” — a tech watchdog report for Intel — four paragraphs on key items digested from reading 20 articles each weekend.

Wang has passed Dawg blood to his son, who earned a UW degree in anthropology and is now perfecting his Chinese in Taiwan, and computer science talent to his daughter, a grad student at Washington University in St. Louis. No matter where they land, you can’t take the Washington out of this family.

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