New Faculty: Kenle Chen

Kenle Chen
Kenle Chen

By Neil Nachbar

Unless a professor is hired straight out of college, they usually join the University of Rhode Island faculty from another university or from a position in industry that is closely related to the subject they’ll be researching and instructing.

In the case of Kenle Chen, one of the newest faculty member of the Electrical, Computer and Biomedical (ECBE) Department in URI’s College of Engineering, he brings a wealth of academic and industry experience to his new position.

For the past four years, Chen has worked as a radio frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) engineer in the semiconductor industry. In the five years prior to that, he was a research assistant in Purdue University’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.

“My major task as an RFIC engineer was to design and develop radio chips for smartphones,” said Chen. “After almost four years of working in industry, I realized that my true passion is still performing cutting-edge research in an academic environment with unparalleled freedom.”

Chen viewed the quality and range of research programs at URI, coupled with the impressive faculty, as a great opportunity to return to an academic setting.

“The ECBE department at URI has very strong research programs in signal processing, machine learning, sensing, networking and circuits, which are all closely related to my area of expertise,” stated Chen. “I look forward to collaborating with other faculty members and research groups. Together we should be able to conduct lots of promising and interdisciplinary research, and most importantly, we can expand the scope (of research) of each other.”

According to ECBE department chair Haibo He, Chen’s knowledge and experience will help URI remain on the cutting edge of electrical engineering research.

“Kenle has several years of experience with Skyworks Solutions, a leader in the semiconductor industry,” said He. “ He comes to URI with expertise on radio-frequency and millimeter-wave integrated circuit design, with broader applications to 5G/future-generation wireless communications and advanced radar and imaging analysis. With the development of Internet of Things (IoT) and related technologies, this has been an area that has grown in interest significantly in academia, industry and government agencies.”

Chen hopes the research he conducts at URI will remove some of the stumbling blocks that have slowed advancements in technology.

“As a seasoned radio frequency engineer, I have witnessed major bottlenecks facing the radio frequency/microwave community,” explained Chen. “These issues lead to fundamental research questions, such as how to quantify the limits of the existing IC (integrated circuit) technologies for high-frequency, high-power operation and how to break these limits; whether it is possible to fundamentally upgrade the efficiency of IC design by using the latest machine learning technology; and how to achieve high efficiency of the wireless hardware when transmitting ultra-high-speed data. I wish to find innovative solutions to all of these questions, in order to significantly push forward the technology advancement.”

According to He, Chen’s research will also help shape the direction of how electrical engineering is taught in the classroom at URI.

“Besides positioning our electrical engineering program at URI to be on the map of this critical research direction world-wide, Kenle will develop core courses in these areas and bring his latest research experiences into the classrooms for our undergraduate and graduate students,” stated He.

As a professor and principal investigator (PI), Chen has several goals he would like to achieve in the next few years, including:

  • Establish a well-rounded radio frequency lab with state-of-the-art design environment, fabrication facility, and testing systems;
  • Build a strong research team;
  • Attack and conquer several technological high grounds in his field and publish the results in flagship journals and at conferences;
  • Build upon URI’s reputation across the research community;
  • Establish abundant and sustainable funding sources; and
  • Of course, be a good instructor.

Chen will surely tap into his experience in industry and academia as he works toward each goal.

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