‘Thinking out of the box became natural to me’
Dr Rajiv Joshi didn’t know that he would end up staying in the US when he came over
in 1977 to do his masters at MIT and
his PhD at Columbia. He thought he
would return to India after his education.
But the specific types of engineering he was doing at IBM – chip
technology, high performance memory designs, Silicon on Insulator
designs and predictive techniques
for failure analysis – were so exciting and provided unheard of opportunities for him that 36 years later,
he is still here. And he’s winning
awards for his contributions to these
Specifically, The IEEE Circuit and
Systems Society just awarded Joshi
the Industrial Pioneer Award for the
work he has done to translate academic and industrial research
results into improved industrial applications and commercial products.
Essentially what that means is that he has worked to
improve success times and make things in the technology
we use smaller, which is part of why we have been able to
go from large, clunky desktop monitors to flat tablets – and
actually rely on these sleek devices to work quickly for our
Joshi is a research staff member at The T J Watson
Research Center at IBM. He has received three
Outstanding Technical Achievement and three Corporate
Patent Portfolio awards for licensing contributions, holds
54 invention plateaus, and has over 185 US patents and
over 350 international patents. He is an IEEE and ISQED
Dr Rajiv Joshi
fellow and distinguished alumnus
of IIT Bombay.
“It was exciting times with new
companies like Bill Gates’ Microsoft
and Steve Jobs’ Apple,” Joshi said of
joining IBM over 25 years
ago. “Gordon Moore’s great obser-
vation of doubling the transistor
count every 18 months turned into
a law. Innovations became part of
life to push scaling to improve tran-
sistor density and performance.
With a great pool of intelligence at
IBM I was really motivated to con-
tribute to Very Large Scale
Integrated Circuit Chips. IBM’s
motto is ‘Think,’ and thinking of the
box became natural to me.”
Joshi explained what he does with
the circuit chips and simplified it in
layman’s terms as “miniaturization.”
The research he was doing was inte-
gral to pushing through barriers in
the field of chip technology and
making things smaller and smaller
Additionally he was involved in IBM’s work that led to
the breakthroughs in metallurgy and copper in 1997. The
company’s pioneering effort in new materials such as
refractory metal contacts — tungsten, liners and deposition
techniques — helped separate the copper from silicon
devices and prevent adverse effects related to copper con-
Joshi’s creativity and innovation were paramount in this
area. Tungsten is now used universally across chip making
In early 2000, server technology pushed for high performance and lower power. IBMs choice was to adopt SOI
(silicon on insulator) technology, but then it was necessary
to come up with ways to counter the adverse effects of SOI.
Several inventions related to circuit techniques were
developed, and IBM became the leader in high performance reliable processors. Joshi contributed to designing
and developing high performance robust memories.
As these technologies continue to miniaturize and make
chips ever smaller, Joshi said, there’s always a problem of
variations, meaning process variation or geometric variation. Due to this, the chips can fail, and any failure is naturally a loss of money.
He worked to overcome this by using predictive techniques to try to tell what and where these failures might be
beforehand. He led this project successfully and drove the
applications of those techniques internally and externally,
and IBM was able to commercialize them recently.
“This efficiency and accuracy has orders of magnitude
because it improves run-time over conventional techniques, meaning technology needs to be easy to use, and
that’s what we did,” he said.
“And all these contributions are globally used across
many corporations and industries, and that’s why the
Industrial Pioneer Award was given. Getting recognition
like this is very thrilling and satisfying, but this is not the
end. I should be able to further this work beyond these
Moving forward, Joshi hopes to continue to make these
technologies faster and more accurately predict the failure
and success rates. And it’s possible his work may move past
just silicon technologies, perhaps to health sciences.
His wife works at IBM as well, his son just became a doctor from Johns Hopkins University, and his daughter is in
her third year at the University of Michigan. This is the life
he never imagined when he came here to do this very niche
work so many years ago.
“It’s intriguing,” he said. “A lot of my IIT friends who are
here in this country, we all thought about going back one
day, but as we started working and getting opportunities
here, we decided this is our place. And then we became the
contributors, and that’s how this field opened doors for us.”
IndianRaga’s Drive East
to spread Indian classical
music and dance
“We are one-sixth of the world’s population, but our arts have not been one-sixth of the
world’s cultural consumption. Is there is a
reason for that?” asks Sriram Emani,
founder, IndianRaga, a digital media start-up venture devoted to democratizing
Indian music through technology.
“Is there a way we haven’t communicated
well, or a way that as a culture we haven’t
engaged with a global audience?”
Emani is talking about one part of
IndianRaga’s objective in hosting its first
Drive East arts festival, which it is hosting
with Navatman this summer.
Navatman, a Manhattan-based organiza-
tion, aims to create a sustainable home for
South Asian arts in New York City and sur-
rounding areas, emphasizing Indian classi-
cal music and dance.
Members of Navatman perform at Symphony Space in New York. Over 100 students — both Indian
Americans and non Indians — came together during the event to give recitals of sitar, veena, mridangam,
tabla, Carnatic and Hindustani vocals, as well as Bharata Natyam and Kathak dances.
awarded to some of the most talented in the
space of Indian classical music and dance
from the US and Canada. Many are professional artists or are on the path to get there.
Through team sessions with creative
advisors like G S Rajan, Anindo Chatterjee,
Shankar Tucker, the fellows will participate
in an artistically rigorous process that will
offer them lessons in both the creative
process and its supporting activities.