Sadasivan Shankar
Associate, Harvard University


In this paper, we connect the grand challenges facing the humanity, the engineering barriers that prevent us from getting there, and scaling paradigms that are currently irreversibly shifting our world. With accelerating utility of digitization and information processing to solve more and more realistic problems, we contend that computing will play a critical role in addressing these humanitarian grand challenges.

We will start off-by examining the changing landscape due to different scaling paradigms to help understand what the scope of what the future holds. Next we will review the key engineering barriers that are preventing us from using computing to solve realistic problems. We will briefly illustrate with some examples from micro-reactors, interfacing with brain, and quantum computing.

It is proposed here that a framework of Co-design (3.0), which suggests adaptable and scalable computing, will be crucial to address these key challenges. Co-design (3.0) refers to the methodology in which architecture of computing, hardware, software, numerical methods, and algorithms are concurrently designed for a global optimum. With this framework, we will be able to accelerate the movement of dispersing the benefits of computing to wider humanity rather than to niche scientific communities. This involves education amongst other factors. In this vein, we will discuss a new hands-on class that we have developed in which students are taught about using extreme high- end computing to address real applications.

For this to happen, we conclude that both research and development in natural, computational, and mathematical sciences along with centers of computational and physical sciences need to be formally engaged. In addition, the co-design should also address manufacturing of complex materials and devices.


Sadasivan Shankar is an Associate in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and was the first Margaret and Will Hearst Visiting Lecturer in Harvard University. In fall 2013, as the first Distinguished Scientist in Residence at the Institute of Applied Computational Sciences in Harvard, he co-instructed a graduate-level class on Computational Materials Design, on fundamental atomic and quantum techniques and practical applications for new materials by design. He has also co-developed and co-instructed classes on Extreme Computing for Real Applications and Mitigating Toxicity by Materials Design. He is involved in research in the areas of materials, chemistry, multi-scale and non-equilibrium methods, and large-scale computational methods.

Dr. Shankar and his team have enabled several critical technology decisions in the semiconductor industrial applications of chemistry, materials, processing, packaging, manufacturing, and design rules for over nine generations of Moore’s law including First advanced process control application in 300 mm wafer technology; introduction of flip-chip packaging, 100% Pb-elimination in microprocessors, analysis of new materials, processing, reactors etc.

Dr. Shankar has been also involved in several collaborative national and international efforts with Semiconductor Research Corporation, SEMATECH, and Semiconductor Industry Association in laying out roadmaps for Process Equipment, Emerging Research on Materials, Devices and initiating research efforts on Nanomaterials. In addition, he has provided inputs to National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Department of Energy, Chemical Industry R&D Roadmap, Integrated Computational Materials and Engineering, President’s Materials Genome Initiative, and NASA Vision 2040 for Computational Design of Materials for highlighting needs in materials research.

Dr. Shankar earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science from University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He is a co-inventor in over twenty patent filings covering areas in new chemical reactor designs, semiconductor processes, bulk and nano materials, device structures, and algorithms. He is also a co-author in over hundred publications and presentations in measurements, multi-scale and multi-physics methods spanning from quantum scale to macroscopic scales, in the areas of chemical synthesis, plasma chemistry and processing, non-equilibrium electronic, ionic, and atomic transport, energy efficiency of information processing, and machine learning methods for bridging across scales, and estimating complex materials properties and in process control.
Dr. Shankar has also been a Senior Fellow in UCLA Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics during a program on Machine Learning and Many-body Physics (2016), Invited to White House event for Materials Genome (2012), Visiting Lecturer in Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics in UC-SB (2010), Intel Distinguished Lecturer in Caltech (1998) and in MIT (1999). He has also given several colloquia and lectures in universities all over the world. His team’s work was also featured in the journal Science (2012) and in TED (2013).

Dr. Shankar is a co-founder of Material Alchemy, a “last mile” translational and independent venture in materials design for accelerating materials discovery to adoption, with environmental sustainability as a key goal.