It is ironic that Arun Natarajan had limited access to technology growing up in India — getting his first email account when he was an undergraduate — since he is now working on the cutting edge of integrated circuits and systems for high-speed wireless communications and imaging.
It was his love of math and physics that drew him to attend the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. It was there he discovered an interest in computer design. On the advice of his mentors he applied to the California Institute of Technology for graduate school.
“Fortunately I listened to these people and ended up going to Caltech and I had a great time,” he says of his first adventure out of India.
“It was there I got into circuit design, and I really, really liked it. It's exciting to build something and watch it work. I still get nervous when months of work all comes down to the moment of testing,” he says.
In a world where there is increasing demand on bandwidth for wireless devices, his work takes advantage of relatively untapped high frequency bandwidth, particularly in the millimeter-wave regime.
“It’s a wide open space that people are just beginning to explore. It literally can provide a couple of orders of magnitude faster data rates and faster connections. It can also be used for imaging applications like high-frequency radar,” he says.
In the five years he spent at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center he saw the field grow quickly. And although he really enjoyed his time there, because of the amazing diversity of research and the excellent people he was working with, he always had a desire to return to academia to teach.
“I really liked the model of teaching and research at universities in the U.S. That was something that I really enjoyed participating in as a student and wanted to be a part of again. The energy generated from the students’ enthusiasm is hard to find elsewhere,” he says.
Coming to OSU was the attainment of that dream for him, although living in the U.S. comes at the price of being far from his family in India. Now that he has his own children the connection to family has become even more important, so they travel back to visit whenever they can.
But he has found much to enjoy here too. Both he and his wife took up skiing in the U.S. and have been taking advantage of all the hiking opportunities in the Corvallis area.
What he enjoys the most about work is striving for the best quality in everything he does.
“You know when you've done good work, and that is the most important thing to me. And I hope as I work with students I’m able to demonstrate that to them — that the quality of what one does is what is really satisfying,” he says.
—By Rachel Robertson