B. Jayant Baliga ’74, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State University and a 2013 inductee into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame, was chosen as a 2015 Global Energy Prize Laureate. The awards ceremony took place in June in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.
The Global Energy Prize was established in Russia to recognize outstanding scientific research and technological development in energy, which contributes to efficiency and environmentally friendly energy sources for the benefit of humanity. Since 2003 the prize has been awarded to 33 laureates from 10 countries. The award includes a monetary prize, which Baliga has used to create an endowed fund for graduate study at Rensselaer.
Baliga was selected for “the invention, development, and commercialization of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor, which is one of the most important innovations for the control and distribution of energy.”
“The Global Energy Prize…is awarded for exceptional scientific achievement in the field of energy, for scientific ideas that are not just theory, but have practical implementation and serve people,” said Igor Sechin, president of the oil company OJSC Rosneft and head of the Presidential Commission for the Strategic Development of the Energy Sector, who presented the award on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Baliga earned his master’s in 1971 and doctorate in 1974 in electrical engineering at Rensselaer. In recognition of the value of the education he received and to enable deserving graduate students to pursue their studies at Rensselaer, he has established the B. Jayant Baliga ’74 Graduate Student Award, which will be given annually to a student in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE).
My graduate school education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been the foundation for my successful career as a scientist and engineer,” said Baliga.
However, finding graduate financial assistance had been difficult. Even though he graduated first in his undergraduate class, he said, “the reputation of the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras had not yet been established in 1969, resulting in no financial offers with the exception of RPI.”
Upon his arrival at Rensselaer, he discovered that he was the first student from India admitted into the department responsible for the electrical engineering curriculum, and that, “prior to my admission, the departmental faculty had strong reservations regarding admitting students from India due to their perceived inability to handle the tough graduate curriculum.”
Baliga dispelled this concern by maintaining a 4.0 GPA for both his master’s and doctoral degrees and he was awarded the Allen B. Dumont Prize in 1974, given to a graduate student “who demonstrates high scholastic ability and makes substantial contributions to his/her field.”
Baliga created the B. Jayant Baliga ’74 Award “as an enrollment incentive for incoming graduate students to supplement any stipend offered by RPI.” First preference will be given to entering graduate students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in the area of solid state technology in the ECSE Department, with primary consideration given to a citizen of India who has obtained a bachelor’s degree in technology from an Indian Institute of Technology.
“I am privileged to have this opportunity to support my alma mater in attracting the best students,” said Baliga.
Baliga is an internationally renowned scientist, author of 19 books and over 550 publications, and educator in the field of power semiconductor devices with 120 U.S. patents to his name. He is also a serial entrepreneur having founded four successful companies in North Carolina with venture capital financing. Of his inventions, the most widely commercialized device is the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor or IGBT, a power semiconductor device used extensively in compact fluorescent lamps, air conditioners, home appliance controls, robotics, electric cars and bullet trains, and compact defibrillators.
Among his many honors, Baliga was presented the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama in 2011. He will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the IGBT in May 2016.