NORMAN, OKLA. – Thirumalai “Venky” Venkatesan, an internationally renowned leader in advanced technology innovation, will lead the University of Oklahoma Center for Quantum Research and Technology as director designate before becoming the center’s inaugural director July 1. The center was enabled by a generous gift from the Avenir Foundation and brings together faculty and students with interest in quantum materials, sensors and the scientific study of measurement, as well as quantum communications and computing.
Venkatesan will also hold positions as a professor of physics and astronomy in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy and as a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering.
OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships, Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, said, “Under Venky’s leadership, the Center for Quantum Research and Technology at the University of Oklahoma will push the frontiers of research in this field, train the future workforce and establish meaningful partnerships with industry.”
Venkatesan joins OU from the National University of Singapore, where he served as the director of the Nano Institute and was a Provost Chair Professor of electrical and computer engineering, physics and material science. He previously was a professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at the University of Maryland. Prior to this, he held multiple roles at Bell Labs, Bellcore and Rutgers University.
“We are thrilled that Venky is joining us as director for the Center for Quantum Research and Technology,” said John Klier, dean and AT&T Chair of the Gallogly College of Engineering and professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering. “We are looking forward to his contributions in advancing cross-college collaborations, research activities, student mentoring and technology translation.”
“Venky brings the perfect mix of research innovation, scholarly stature and accomplishment, wide-ranging administrative experience, and visionary leadership qualities, including a deep commitment to the innovative multi-college, multi-field convergence-driven research that advances OU’s ambitions,” said David Wrobel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The college is thrilled to welcome Venky, and is also deeply appreciative of the outstanding efforts of professor Alberto Marino, whose service as interim director of CQRT began at its founding in July 2019 and will conclude in July 2021.”
Venkatesan is the chairman and CEO of Neocera Magma, a company specializing in magnetic microscopy applications in the semiconductor industry. He is also the president of Neocera, a company specializing in pulsed laser deposition tools. As the inventor of the pulsed laser deposition process, he has published more than 800 papers, holds 35 patents, and was ranked 66 in terms of his citations among the top 100 physicists globally in 2000. Currently he has over 48,000 citations and a hirsh index of 111. He has graduated over 56 doctoral students, 35 post-doctoral and over 35 undergraduate researchers. Fourteen of his doctoral and post-doctoral students have become entrepreneurs starting 25 different commercial enterprises. Venkatesan received a doctorate in philosophy and quantum electronics from Bell Laboratories and the City University of New York, a master’s of science in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur and a bachelor’s in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur.
Among the center’s goals, Venkatesan said he is focused on increasing entrepreneurship at OU, collaborations with other laboratories and student success.
“We are trying to create an ecosystem, one of global excellence in research, and at the same time a very active entrepreneurial environment,” he said. “Academic excellence and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. I would also like to form partnerships both with national labs and other universities across the country where similar work is being done to create a dynamic, interactive research community.”
Regarding student success, Venkatesan wants to increase retention of undergraduate students for graduate programs, while also implementing measures to increase representation of underserved communities.
“The University of Oklahoma gets really outstanding undergraduate students, so we should come up with creative, innovative programs to retain as many of them as possible for our graduate programs,” Venkatesan said. “Coming up with ideas to enhance retention of these bright undergraduate students for our graduate programs would be a very high priority.”
“The other thing I would like to do, at the appropriate time, is to increase outreach and work toward innovative programs to the high school and undergraduate communities to enhance enrollment of underserved populations into these high-tech areas,” he added.
Additionally, Venkatesan said one of the center’s goals will be to help graduate students develop a clear understanding of how to strive for excellence and succeed in their careers.
“They are our ambassadors,” he said. “One of the best ways to become known globally is through the external interactions and academic success of our graduate students.”
Venkatesan said he plans to work toward making OU among the top ranked universities in the country within the next 10 years. He believes OU is poised for success because of its strong base of faculty experts, a culture that aims for improvement and excellence, and the resources and administrative support to make it possible.
He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a recipient of the Bellcore Award of Excellence and the winner of the George E. Pake Prize awarded by American Physical Society in 2012. He has received the President’s gold medal of the Institute of Physics Singapore, Academician of the Asia Pacific Academy of Materials, Fellow of the World Innovation Forum, was a member of the Physics Policy Committee in Washington, D.C., served on the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland, and has been the chairman of the Forum of Industry and Applications of Physics at APS. He was awarded the outstanding alumnus award from two Indian Institute of Technologies: Kanpur (2015) and Kharagpur (2016), India. He received the 2020 APS Distinguished Lectureship Award on the Applications of Physics. Venkatesan is also an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Photonics and Optomechanics Group with the U.S. Department of Commerce.