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When John Nestor, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, talks about things that are “very large” and “little,” he’s speaking a bit differently than the average lay person.

Nestor, who came to Lafayette in 2000 after 12 years on the faculty at the Chicago Institute of Technology, conducts much of his research on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) systems.

“It’s really about making integrated circuit chips that consist of little things called transistors, says Nestor.

In the 57 years since they were invented, transistors, the key ingredient of all digital circuits, have gone well beyond the definition of “little.” Nestor’s VLSI circuits, or chips, can contain more than a million of them, and they’re getting smaller all the time.

“Literally, there’s something new every day in terms of how the technology changes,” he says.

For Nestor, helping students understand VLSI circuit design and related areas is more than a little important.

“You have to keep up with the literature, go to conferences, and try to make sure you keep up with the changes,” he says.

To help students better understand the design process, Nestor participates in a national program that enables them to send their designs to a manufacturer.

“It’s a really exciting time for the students,” he says. “They send their designs off and the chips come back. They can look at them and test them and see if what they designed is doing what it’s supposed to do.”

In addition to teaching classes, Nestor regularly mentors students in EXCEL and senior honors thesis research.

“It’s really important to treat students as individuals,” he says.

During the spring semester, Nestor also taught Computers and Society, a Values and Science/Technology (VAST) course that examines the managerial, political, legal, ethical, psychological, and philosophical implications of computing.

“I’ve always liked computers,” he says. “I started programming back in the days when we had punch cards.”

Nestor, who holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, says that teaching the VAST course allowed him to look back on all those years of technological change from “the other end of the telescope.”

Matt Johnston ’03, now an electrical engineering graduate student at the University of Washington, says Nestor helped him learn a great deal as both a teacher and EXCEL and honors thesis mentor. He also credits Nestor with helping him find the best graduate program for his interests and abilities.

“I found his teaching style was interesting and easy to follow,” Johnston says. “As a mentor, he was always there to get me going in the right direction, but he always wanted me to find the solutions myself. He is a great engineer, and is always ready with a possible solution.”


Publications: “Web-Based Visualization Tools for Teaching VLSI CAD Algorithms,” International Conference on Microelectronic Systems Education, June 2001; “SALSA: A New Approach to Scheduling with Timing Constraints,” (with G. Krishnamoorthy) IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems, August 1993; “SALSA II: Improved Transformational Scheduling for High-Level Synthesis,” (with M. Rhinehart) IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems, pp. 1678-1681, May 1993.

Honors: American Society for Engineering Education John A. Curtis Award for best paper presented at the Computers in Education Division session of its annual conference, 2000.

Achievements: Secured total of $188,000 in National Science Foundation grants; adviser to student chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, the electrical engineering honor society, 2002-03.

Contact: (610) 330-5411;

Categorized in: Academic News