University of Virginia Department of
    Computer Science

Packard Award Given to Gabriel Robins in the School of Engineering and Applied Science

From Opportunities
May-June 1996
G abriel Robins, Associate Professor of Computer Science, barely squeaked by with a $500,000 Packard foundation award. The catch is that these are only given to young investigators within three years of receiving their doctoral degrees, and Robins received his Ph.D. from "Good Quotes by Famous People" list on his personal Web page the self-deprecation words of Thomas Jefferson: "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."

Robins' hard work focuses on making computer chips ever smaller, increasing their operating speed, and reducing their manufacturing costs. This quest fulfills a maxim known as Moore's Law, after Intel's founder Gordon Moore, which states that the speed of microprocessors doubles every eighteen months. This kind of amazing exponential improvement is unique to the of Computer Science. "Just to put it in perspective" says Robins, "if automobiles had advanced at the same rate computers have over the last thirty years, cars would now travel supersonically, yielding over a million miles per gallon of fuel, and would cost less than ten dollars!"

The Packard Fellowship, which was one of the last given in the lifetime of David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, will enable Gabe Robins to take a long term view of his research work. It will allow him to spend the next five years working on fundamental problems in very large integrated (VLSI) circuits, which are now used in most devices and appliances, from watches and calculators to microwave ovens and cars.

The World Wide Web is another one of Robins' enthusiasms. Two years ago he started employing students in the School of Engineering to develop pages for many of the School's offices and departments, using attractive graphic design to inform and educate visitors--primarily prospective graduate students and people from industry looking for technological partnerships with the University. This gave the School of Engineering and Applied Science its head start on the Web, which now doubles in size every 75 days as universities, businesses and individuals scramble to establish a Web presence. The Web has developed into an enormous reference work of information and graphic material accessible to anyone with a computer, a link to the Internet, and a browser program. It is estimated that there are currently over thirty million regular Web users in North America alone.

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