Alumnus, NVIDIA founder pledges $30 million for campus engineering center
BY DAVID ORENSTEIN
The Stanford School of Engineering today announced that Jen-Hsun Huang, the founder and chief executive officer of leading visual computing company NVIDIA and a Stanford electrical engineering alumnus, will donate $30 million to help build a modern and sustainable destination for education and research, the Jen-Hsun Huang School of Engineering Center.
The 130,000-square-foot building, already under construction and expected to be completed in the first half of 2010, is designed to encourage a vibrant academic and social atmosphere for people throughout the Stanford community.
"The School of Engineering at Stanford is a major source of intellectual energy for Silicon Valley and beyond," said Huang, who earned his master's degree in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1992. "I am proud to help the school build a headquarters that embodies its plans for the future—a place that encourages people to come together to create the next generation of knowledge and technology."
Jim Plummer, dean of the School of Engineering, said Huang's accomplishment in making NVIDIA a leading technology company is a good example of the kind of engineering entrepreneurship and leadership the school hopes to instill in students.
"As we've strived to build a culture of collaboration and innovation to meet the goals of solving problems through research and educating leaders, we've realized the need for a physical center to focus that aspiration," Plummer said. "We are grateful to Jen-Hsun for making this a reality."
NVIDIA has partnered recently with Stanford as a founding member of the Pervasive Parallelism Lab, whose charter is to develop new techniques, tools and training materials to allow software engineers to take full advantage of multi-processor computer systems. NVIDIA is also collaborating with researchers in Stanford's Folding@home distributed computing project, which utilizes the computing horsepower of graphics processing units and idle computers to simulate protein folding to help find cures for life-threatening diseases.A campus destination
The Huang Center is the second building to take shape in the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ), just west of the university's Main Quad. Ultimately SEQ (formerly known as SEQ2) will also include centers for nanotechnology and bioengineering and chemical engineering.
"This new quad is the enabler of the school's and university's goals to tackle the big problems—energy, environment and human health," Plummer said. "The school's historic strength in information technology will be foundational to our efforts in these areas."
The first completed building is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building (Y2E2) that opened in March. The Huang Center, like all SEQ buildings, will employ the same energy and water-saving features that have made Y2E2 an award-winning flagship of Stanford's commitment to constructing environmentally sustainable buildings.
The Quad arrangement, as well as the architecture of each building, also will embody a spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration and a free flow of ideas. For example, both the Huang Center and Y2E2 feature large internal atria that provide open connections among floors in each building. The first three buildings of the Quad share the same lead architect, Portland, Ore.-based BOORA Architects.
The Huang Center's most prominent architectural feature is in keeping with its mission to be an attractive campus destination: a four-story rotunda housing a completely re-imagined, nearly "bookless" library, a large conference center and a café. Tucked between the rotunda and the main body of the building will be a terraced amphitheater leading to a well-outfitted commons of workshops, meeting rooms and other student workspaces.
The commons area forms a particularly striking example of how the school is rethinking engineering education, Plummer said. By giving students ample facilities to imagine, design, prototype and share their ideas, the commons will encourage the creative, entrepreneurial and team-based aspects of engineering.
The library is another example of the school's new educational direction. Over time the library's collection will become entirely digital and therefore accessible from anywhere. Instead of being a place where students have to go to find a book or journal, the library will become a place they want to go for expert advice on how to conduct their research or to find quiet study space.
In addition, the center will house the Department of Management Science and Engineering, the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering and the dean's office.
Throughout the Huang Center, interactive displays and exhibits will showcase the school's past, present and future. The aim, Plummer said, is to inspire ingenuity and the desire to imagine a brighter future.
"It's going to be a really exciting project," he said.