CREATOR OF FASTPLACE ALGORITHM
Building from ideas: Associate Professor Chris Chu and his doctoral student Natarajan Viswanathan created the FastPlace algorithm in 2004, which sped up the task of optimizing the placement of transistors and other elements on a computer chip by 100 times. Chu says FastPlace was a response to a group of German colleagues’ algorithm, Kraftwerk. “We read the original Kraftwerk paper and noticed potential to speed up the algorithm significantly,” Chu says.
Stunning results: In 2004, Chu and Viswanathan presented their work to the International Symposium on Physical Design. The review committee was very impressed, but highly skeptical. “They felt the submission was very strong, but they didn’t trust the results. They just didn’t believe it was possible,” Chu says. Instead of outright rejecting the paper, the review committee reserved judgment and asked Chu’s team to submit the binary code for the FastPlace algorithm for testing on the committee’s computers. FastPlace proved itself and won Best Paper.
Give and take: Currently, Chu and Viswanathan are working on FastPlace 3.0, which may keep other researchers in the field on their toes. Chu says he is more energized by the “give and take” relationship with his colleagues, than in intellectual property rights. “From the perspective of academic research, if you don’t file a patent you encourage people to try your idea. And this is the goal, isn’t it?”
Recent recognition: Chu was recognized in fall 2008 at the College of Engineering convocation where he received the college’s Young Engineering Faculty Research Award. The award recognizes a faculty member’s ability to conduct original research, contribute to scholarly literature, and introduce new and improved laboratory techniques and instrumentation. The award also recognizes faculty whose research has had an impact outside of the university.