Longtime electrical engineering professor Lester Eastman honored at symposium

Admiration for Lester Eastman swelled in every word and accolade at a symposium held June 13 to honor the long-serving researcher, teacher and mentor.

Eastman, the John L. Given Foundation Professor of Engineering, was the subject of acclaim at the event, "Tubes to Transistors: Megahertz to Terahertz," which celebrated Eastman's 60th year at Cornell. Eastman also holds three degrees from Cornell: Bachelor of Science, 1953; Master of Science, 1955; and Ph.D., 1957.

The symposium featured a bevy of speakers, including President Emeritus Dale Corson. Introducing Corson, symposium chairman W. Keith Kennedy, Ph.D. '68, jokingly reminisced how Eastman had once said Corson, himself a physicist, was "the only president of Cornell University who could understand my research."

Other speakers included John Copeland, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology; Brian Ridley, a research professor at the University of Essex, U.K.; and Jerry Woodall, Ph.D. '82, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.

An oft-invoked theme was Eastman's dedication to his Ph.D. students, many of whom went on to success in academia and industry. Several attended the event and offered remembrances and gratitude to their former mentor. Among them was Don Kerr, Ph.D. '66, who was Eastman's first graduate student and now serves as principal deputy director of national intelligence.

Eastman's research has focused since 1965 on compound semiconductor materials and their use in high-speed and optical devices and circuits. His contributions are recognized by countless awards, including the 1991 Heinrich Welker Medal, the 1995 Aldert Van der Ziel Award, the 1999 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Graduate Teaching Award, the 2002 IEEE Electron Device Society J.J. Ebbers Award, and the 2003 IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Distinguished Educator Award.

Eastman, a Cornell faculty member since 1957, is a fellow of IEEE, the American Physical Society and the Alexander van Humboldt Society, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2002, the biennial Cornell Conference on High-Performance Devices was renamed the IEEE Lester Eastman Conference in honor of his lifetime of contributions to the field.

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Blaine Friedlander