Alumna Profile: Alexis Black Bjorlin, Ph.D. 2000

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Alexis is Vice President, Data Center Group and General Manager, Connectivity Group at Intel

Alexis runs the Connectivity Group at Intel where they develop the silicon and photonic solutions that enable hyperscale data connectivity. The overarching objective of the group is to provide world-class end-to-end connectivity to enable distributed systems that enable high performance data processing.

Alexis joined Intel to run the Silicon Photonics group.  This technology was developed jointly with UCSB and there were a number of different collaborations between the Intel lab teams and the Bowers group at UCSB. She had known of the technology for quite some time and what drew her to Intel was the truly disruptive technology it created for the world of optical components and connectivity. Alexis said it was very interesting to join Intel, the largest semiconductor company in the world, where they could actually realize the holy grail of photonics, silicon photonics that aims to eliminate the challenges associated with the requirements of distinct, non-silicon driving optics. This change is transforming the vision of connection from merely electrons to adding the photonic capability to the silicon platform.  The demand for data just keeps going up and up and up, and instead of thinking about individual data centers or enterprise storage closets, people increasingly think about a connected world.

Alexis believes there are two main elements from UCSB that have helped her accomplish her career goals. One is the technology and the other is the collaborative environment. She learned a lot at UCSB, far beyond the Materials that went into her particular Ph.D. program, much of which she did not realize the value of until actually getting a little further up into her career. At UCSB, Alexis recalls that working with Evelyn and John was a thrill. Evelyn was at the forefront of more basic materials research and John was driving high speed communications and full device structure. This gave her a very broad perspective from both of them that enabled her to not limit the scope of what she was working on, and to go from fundamental physics to more electrical engineering or device physics. Because so many of the UCSB professors came from Bell Labs, where they were already very well-established in their careers, they were able to create this environment where people were really encouraged to work together. This is one of the fundamental elements of research and the approach to problems that she took with her, and as she moved out of the pure technical side of things into more management: That is far better to collaborate than to create your silo. Alexis feels that this is something quite special about the UCSB Materials Department.

Alexis graduated with a B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from MIT and received her Ph.D. in Materials at UCSB in 2000, advised by Professors Evelyn Hu and John Bowers.

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