UCSB computer science graduate student Deblina Sarkar is one of only three researchers worldwide to receive the Electron Devices Society’s Ph.D. Fellowship Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for her work on improving the energy efficiency of nanoscale devices.

The honor comes with a $5,000 endowment and is presented by the IEEE, the world’s largest professional association for technological innovation, to recognize notable independent research in the field of electronic devices by students with upstanding academic records. Sarkar was the only recipient from the Americas this year and is the first UCSB student to ever receive the award.

Sarkar’s mentor, electrical and computer engineering professor Kaustav Banerjee, said the tunnel field-effect transistor that Sarkar aims to construct can control the flow of electrons in microchips, allowing them to conserve more energy.

Her goal is to minimize the supply voltage of the device while also reducing its leakage, a significant improvement over the current standard in microchips that rely on inefficient metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistors, according to Banerjee.

“Tunneling is one of the most fundamental examples of quantum mechanics,” Banerjee said. “This is really a quantum device in that sense. If she can build one, it will be nothing short of a revolution.”

The director of UCSB’s computer engineering program, Fred Chong, said the project raises pressing questions about the continuation of Moore’s Law, which states that computers’ processing speed doubles every one and a half years as computer components become denser with technological improvements.

According to Chong, Sarkar’s honor also brings a new level of prestige to the department as a whole.

“IEEE represents the entire field of electronics engineering,” Chong said. “It certainly raises the visibility of [UCSB’s] program.”

Sarkar will receive the award on Dec. 7 at the International Electronic Devices Meeting in Washington, D.C., which is considered the most esteemed electronics conference in the world.

Sarkar said she is continuing her research, which she hopes will ultimately serve humanitarian purposes.

“I want to be in academia and serve science,” Sarkar said in an e-mail. “But a greater goal is, through the use of my scientific knowledge and other ways, to do something for the needy and unprivileged children around the world.”

Banerjee said the award marks the first major recognition in what is sure to be an illustrious career for Sarkar.

“For any Ph.D. student involved in electronics and quantum devices, this is a very big achievement — something they should always be proud of in their career,” Banerjee said.

Sarkar said the most engaging aspect of her work is the challenge of approaching existing issues with novel perspectives and ideas.

“I love to ponder over problems,” Sarkar said. “The sheer joy as new concepts unravel themselves slowly is my greatest inspiration.”