MEMS pioneer Kaigham ("Ken") Gabriel has been appointed deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa). Gabriel was founder and previously served as chairman and chief technology officer of MEMS microphone pioneer Akustica Inc. (Pittsburgh), Gabriel's duties at Darpa will include overseeing research, development and demonstration of concepts, devices, and systems for the military. Gabriel will serve under new Darpa Director Regina Dugan, who was appointed in July.
Gabriel earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1983, after which he joined AT&T's legendary Bell Labs where he pioneered micro-electro-mechanical systems before they had acquired the MEMS moniker. At Bell Labs he developed the concept of using semiconductor fabrication equipment to craft tiny mechanical devices for photonic and networking applications. While on sabbatical, he became a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo, where he led a joint MEMS project at IBM Japan Research, Toyota Central Research Laboratories and Ricoh Research Park. Before leaving Bell Labs in 1991, he spent a year as a visiting scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, transferring MEMS to its Nanoelectronics Processing Facility, after which he joined DARPA to start the agency’s MEMS Program. There he managed over 70 projects in the $80 million a year program and eventually became DARPA's Director of the Electronics Technology Office in 1996 where managed its $450 million budget for advanced lithography, electronics packaging, optoelectronics, millimeter and microwave integrated circuits, and high-definition displays. Gabriel left DARPA to joint the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University in 1998, where he developed the concept of making CMOS microphones using MEMS technologies, which was eventually spun off from CMU in 2001 into the commercial venture, Akustica Inc. (Pittsburgh). In 2003, Gabriel was awarded the Technology Pioneer title at the World Economic Forum, and in 2005 he co-founded the MEMS Industry Group (MIG, Pittsburgh). He is widely regarded at one of the father of the MEMS industry worldwide.