The University of Southampton

New Head of School for Electronics and Computer Science

Published: 1 August 2007

From today (1 August) the School of Electronics and Computer Science has a new Head. Professor Harvey Rutt has taken up office as Head of School for the next five years in succession to Professor Wendy Hall.

Professor Harvey Rutt, a keen mountaineer, pilot and deep sea diver, is used to taking controlled risks in his personal life. He intends to adopt this philosophy in his leadership of ECS as he takes over from Professor Wendy Hall, who has been Head of School for the last five years.

As Deputy Head of ECS since 2002, Professor Rutt was part of the team which put the School back on course after the devastating fire in 2005. He is one of the masterminds behind the new £55 million clean room, currently under construction, which will be the best in Europe. State-of-the-art facilities like this are essential to the School’s continuing success, but Professor Rutt also points to more traditional values:

‘One of our great strengths is the breadth of our activities,’ he stresses. ‘From nano devices to high voltage engineering, and from systems on a chip to the worldwide scale of the Web, the Head of School must utilize the full range of our capability in Electronics, Computer Science and Power Engineering.’

He remains passionate about his own research and is on the brink of developing a terahertz microscope which will be 100 times faster than any existing and will be a very powerful device for studying materials. Looking at the way in which terahertz radiation interacts with biological molecules, and how infrared radiation can be used to assist in the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease or aid neurosurgeons, are also areas which fascinate him.

Professor Rutt is keen for academics to be bolder about research and one of his initial steps into the unknown was the decision to abandon CMOS (Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor), a traditional fabrication process which offers certainty, in favour of a broader range of novel technologies. These, often based on nanotechnology and quantum processes, offer far more potential in the design of smaller, faster, more powerful devices.

‘For over 30 years the advance of electronics has depended on CMOS and "Moore’s law” which says that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years,’ he said. ‘But Gordon Moore himself has said that ”Moore’s law is dead”. Devices are now so small that new physical effects take over, and we can’t just follow the CMOS road; the dead end is in sight. We need whole new technologies and approaches – that’s real research, where we should focus’, says Professor Rutt.

As he takes over leadership of ECS, he also pledges to make prompt, effective decisions.

'Although I have great respect for the academic approach to life and its openness and debate, I find its indecisiveness and its strange ambivalence about taking risks in research frustrating,' he said. 'To use a sporting analogy, if you have problems 40 metres underwater or half-way up a mountain, you don't delay in making a decision. You make your decision, move on and live with the consequences. I would like to see us adopting a similar approach to our academic life.'

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