First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:Justin Romberg


Full name

Justin Romberg

Birth Date


What Award did you receive from IEEE?

Jack S. Kilby Medal

Place of Birth

Sterling, Virginia, USA

Where did you grow up

McLean, Virginia

Family Background: Parents and their education level & Siblings and their education/profession

Father: PhD in Physics, worked as an engineering in communication and signal processing.

Mother: MS in Education, worked as a elementary school teacher then principal.

Sister: PhD in Psychology, works at NIH

Sister: BS in Biology, works as a program manager at a naval architecture firm

What did you want to do when you grew up?


What was your upbringing like? Did you have a large family?

We had a medium-sized family. It was a very supportive environment for education. My sisters and I were exposed to lots of things outside of the classroom, particularly computers.

Did you have any hobbies (eg. Some people talk about learning trade skills from a family member.)

These isn't a trade skill, but I always loved working on my bicycle, modifying in interesting ways.

Did you partake in after school activities? Did you play sports?

In high school, I lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. When I was a senior, I was co-captain of both the football and basketball teams.

Did you have a part-time job (after school, summer)? What was your most surprising job assignment?

I worked as a life guard at an apartment complex in a not-so-great neighborhood. I don't remember any particular job assignments, but most of my efforts went into managing the social dynamics between the kids to limit the number of fights.

EDUCATION: Favorite subject in school (K-12, university). Why?

In elementary school it was mathematics, in high school it was physics. Of course in college, I settled on electrical engineering.

Why did you select the university (universities) you attended? What was your major and why did you select it?

I went to Rice University as an undergrad. Honestly, it was mainly because it was a good school in a completely different atmosphere than my upbringing ... Texas held a certain romantic allure for me when I was 18.

Has your career turned out as you expected?

Not really. I don't think I ever really considered being a professor until I started to apply for positions at the end of graduate school. I have definitely taken to it, though.

You have been awarded one of IEEE's highest-level awards. What does this award mean to you?

I am honored to be in the same "club" as previous winners of this award. My thinking has been shaped significantly by some of them.

Personal Life: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?

My main hobby is cycling. I like to ride for fun and commute on a bicycle. I also act as the neighborhood bike mechanic.

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

Two children; twins (boy and girl) age 11.

Who was your mentor? (eg. family member or professor)

I have had different mentors at different stages of my life. When I was growing up, I looked to my father for intellectual guidance. At Rice, my thesis advisor Richard Baraniuk played a huge role in how I look at the world.