A Nobel Prize For Modeling And Simulation

It’s time for awards committees to take a look at sectors where the real innovation is happening.

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This year, a Nobel Prize has been awarded for devising a computer model and simulation process. Bloomberg, which interviewed Marinda Wu by phone, said: “The models let us slow down…and let us look at them one piece at a time.” This enables them to optimize things. At this point you may be thinking one of three things. Either 1) I don’t remember that prize being awarded or, 2) at last EDA has been recognized or, 3) that sounds kind of awkward. Unfortunately, only the last one is true because the award was in chemistry and applies to a chemical reaction. Wu is from the American Chemical Society.

I have to ask myself, why is a model and simulation for a chemical reaction worthy of a Nobel Prize when what happens in the semiconductor industry goes unnoticed except for those directly involved in the creation of an electronic system. Of course, they did not have semiconductors or EDA when the Nobel Prizes were put in place and so they continue to award old-guard subjects rather than the exciting technologies of the day. While we may still need advances in physics and chemistry, I cannot see the value in awards for physiology and literature or even economic sciences. Since this last one was added in 1968, they have proven that the awards can be changed—and perhaps it is time they did.
I do not want to diminish the work of Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California who won the award for Chemistry. They have been working on this for a long time and I am sure it was not an easy problem to solve.

My point is that for an industry that has driven such incredible advances over the past few decades and transformed the lives of many, it would appear that our advances are just as important and worthy of recognition. Sure, Apple or Samsung get recognized for bringing a new device to market, but what of all the people that made those products possible? What about the semiconductor processes necessary to create the chips that power these devices, or what about the tools that enable devices of such great complexity to be designed and verified. In verification we deal with state spaces that exceed the vastness of anything in physics and we go down to the atomic level with devices.

We do have awards in the industry but those are only recognized within our community. So, how do we get the first ever award for semiconductors? Any ideas?