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Tony Nowatzki, an assistant professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the agency’s highest honor for faculty members at the start of their research and teaching careers.

The five-year grant will support his research looking to balance trends toward more specialized computer processor designs for specific tasks.

Custom processors have been instrumental in enabling major breakthroughs in important fields, such as deep neural networks for image and speech recognition, and in DNA sequencing for genomic research. While specialization has continued to lead to big improvements in processing speed, power and energy efficiency, programmability and generality are still critical for making progress possible in emerging applications, as well as enabling economies of scale.

Nowatzki is looking to develop “specialization fabrics” – where software and hardware components are designed together with processing and energy efficiency in mind. This could enable the development of computer systems with broad capabilities that can be used across many different types of applications, yet attain the performance of their customized counterparts. Specifically, he’ll look to address two challenges in developing specialization fabrics. First, scaling up and implementing these concepts without impeding the performance of specialized processors. The second is enabling modularity, where simple modifications to computer hardware can be altered to fit a wide variety of applications, from gigantic data centers down to personal wearable devices.

Nowatzki joined UCLA in January 2017. His research interests include computer architecture and mathematical modeling and optimization of computer systems. He teaches an undergraduate course on computer architecture, organization and operating systems, and graduate courses on hardware/software designs for machine learning, and the specializations of computer architectures. Honors for his research include twice being named as one of IEEE Micro’s Top Picks in Computer Architecture (2016 and 2017) and receiving a distinguished paper award at the PLDI (Programming Language Design and Implementation) conference.

Nowatzki received his doctorate and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Read the original story on the UCLA Engineering site here.