Interview with Solomon Assefa: One of the World’s 35 Top Young Innovators

Solomon Assefa has been named to a prestigious list of 35 of the world’s top young innovators by Technology Review magazine. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian-American Solomon Assefa was recently chosen by Technology Review as one of 35 innovators under 35. His research focuses on developing more power-efficient and faster supercomputers by using chips that communicate via pulses of light rather than electrical signals. We interviewed Solomon briefly and asked him to share a bit more about himself and his insights on technological innovation.

Tadias: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you grew up, went to school, what were your early passions?

Solomon: I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I completed elementary and high school in Addis Ababa (Del Betegel then later ICS). I then moved to the U.S. where I obtained a B.S., M.Eng, and PhD from MIT. Prior to attending MIT, I often thought about practicing law similar to my eldest brother. But I later realized that I enjoyed math, science and engineering.

Tadias: Who are your role models in the science world? and beyond?

Solomon: In the field of science, my professors and research colleagues continue to inspire me daily. In addition, my role model is my eldest brother, Bekure Assefa, who has been very instrumental throughout my life. He taught me to work hard, confront challenges with determination, and pursue my passion to the fullest. These guiding principles continue to be a source of motivation in my life.

Tadias: Can you tell us a bit more about your current research endeavors and your role in the research highlighted in the Technology Review article?

Solomon: My research focuses on replacing some of the copper wires inside computer chips with tiny silicon circuits that can communicate via pulses of light rather than electrical signals. For example, I am working on a cheap method for integration of photodetectors (which are devices that convert light pulses into electrical signals) with minimal changes to the standard process used for making transistors. We hope that optical communications based on silicon nanophotonics will enable very fast and power-efficient supercomputers.

Tadias: What are your thoughts on the growth of science and development in Ethiopia?

Solomon: A significant amount of investment in science and technology is critical for Ethiopia’s development. It is important to nurture innovators who will transform existing industries and identify new areas of growth. It is also critical to have domestic policies that encourage home-grown technological innovation.

Tadias: Best book you ever read?

Solomon: My most recent favorite book is The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. The book shows how breakthroughs happen at the intersection of various ideas, disciplines, and cultures.

Tadias: Thank you for sharing your time with us and wishing you continued success!

Solomon: Many thanks for following up with the interview questions.
Click here to read Technology Review’s highlight of Solomon Assefa’s work.

14 Responses to “Interview with Solomon Assefa: One of the World’s 35 Top Young Innovators”

  1. 1 Bef Aug 24th, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Way to go Sele…you do us proud!

  2. 2 Hanna Aug 24th, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Congratulations Solomon! good job and good luck in your future research. Happy that you’re Ethiopian American and trail blazer. way to go!

  3. 3 Abay Movies Aug 24th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Great Story! Keep up the good work.

  4. 4 Dan Aug 24th, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Job well done! Your research brings the vision of on-chip optical interconnections much closer to reality and the days of faster supercomputers operated by chips that communicate using pulses of light may not be in the very distant future. Congratulations and best of luck!

  5. 5 Teddy Aug 25th, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Great job!

  6. 6 Fitsum Tigu Aug 25th, 2011 at 1:59 am

    I also wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

    Fitsm Tigu, AAU

  7. 7 E.D. Aug 25th, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Proud of you as always Solomon!

    Wish you all the best,

    E D

  8. 8 Tebarek Tirusew Aug 25th, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Dr Solomon:

    Thank you for your effort in pushing the frontiers of technology. Your professional contribution to the prospect of building power-efficient computer systems with high-performance is much appreciated by many around the world as it is evident by the honor bestowed upon you by MIT’s Technology magazines. Not only do you inspire younger generation of Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans, but also fill-with-humble-pride your parents, family, friends, and above all, your alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You deserve the recognition. Bravo!

    T. Tirusew

  9. 9 JQ Brooklyn Aug 25th, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I went school in Ethiopia with Sele I always knew this day would come! You rock man!


  10. 10 Tokichaw Aug 28th, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Congrats are in order. My best wishes to you and your family.



  11. 11 thomas ayalew Sep 6th, 2011 at 4:00 am

    genius…my kind of hero.

  12. 12 taye Nov 26th, 2011 at 9:11 am

    i am proud of you solomon!

  13. 13 Joseph V.M.S Nov 28th, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Halo young Solomon, I highly appreciate your scholarly work! Keep it up.

    J.M.V. Sekulu
    One of the oldest Computer network technicians in the world of data and communication engineering.

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