First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:Susumu Kohyama


IEEE Award Recipient Series: Q&As with Icons of Engineering and Technology: 2020 IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal Recipient

Full Name

Susumu Kohyama

What Award did you receive from IEEE?

Robert N. Noyce Medal 2020

Place of Birth

Tokyo, Japan

Where did you grow up

晋 香山

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

Mostly Capital Tokyo Area, Japan

What did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to work as a useful researcher for people, vaguely on some fundamental Science, or Technology.

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

We lived with our parents, and six brothers and sister in a large house all together, even in graduate student days, and happily left one by one to marry. We inspired, helped and advised each other, and made our mother feel happy was always our common concern. All the family was voracious reader with different tastes, thus variety of books were shelved all over the house.

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

I played and sang American folk songs with my younger brother and his friends. I am continuing to play soccer/futsal and tennis, roast and brew specialty coffee, and natural gardening at home. For the interest in Society, regularly search books and internet as a part of my hobbies from the past.

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

Starting from Junior high school, I continued to play Soccer representing schools including first two years at University of Tokyo.

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


Did you take vacations and/or go on day trips?Favorite holiday/family gathering?

I visited all over the world with my wife privately, and/or often combined with international gathering, both industrial and academic. We also took vacations with our daughters when they were young, mostly to the United States. Later, both of them spent sometime in the graduate school of UC Berkeley, USC and UCLA, therefore we combined our vacations to visit them. Today, we all get together regularly to spend few days or more, mostly in Karuizawa, where my elder daughter and her husband own their house within a wide open nature.

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

Mathematics and Japanese Language and Literature throughout K-12, Physics and Electronics in University. I felt Science and Technology were definitely useful for Society. And key elements of the society are Language/Communication and Culture/ History.

Did you have a least favorite subject in school (K-12, university. Why?

I hated Gym class in K-12, since I was not so good at horizontal bar lesson and race running. In University, foreign language classes were waste of time, since language professors loved their favorite authors, but not well at foreign language training to speak

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

The University of Tokyo was the best university in Japan, and my father and brothers also graduated from. My major was Applied Physics focused on Solid-State Physics. Hot subjects at that time were Nonlinear Optics (Laser/ Maser related Research) and Solid-State Physics (Semiconductor related). I studied both, and chosen Solid-State Electronics which I felt “Future”.

Employment and career: First job - Current position - Favorite job

I joined Toshiba R&D Center as a Semiconductor Surface Physics Researcher. Initially I studied Semiconductor Surface Structure in a super clean high-vacuum environment. When I was asked to analyze MOS interface instability, I found it so interesting to explore MOS Device Physics for much higher integration. Starting with fundamental unit structure, I wanted to demonstrate fully integrated device structure using the device I developed, so I designed and prepared Read-only Memory by myself as the prototyping vehicle. This early success gave me a chance to start small device engineering team for MOS integrated circuits. Soon after I established the group, Honeywell Solid-State Engineering Center proposed a joint development project for Toshiba R&D Center, and the Top Management encouraged me to take the project as the co-leader to work in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is the beginning of the journey to the Robert Noyce Medal 2020.

Has your career turned out as you expected?

I didn’t plan, nor wished to be a business executive, but the series of success in technology guided me to more business environment than R&D. My own coverage expanded with business success, but different type of competitions and human nature brought me a lot of stupid and troublesome problems. Those were unexpected but inevitable byproducts in my carrier.

Has IEEE played a role in your career? How? What does IEEE mean to you?

Initially IEEE Journals and Conferences were the Goal to aim for, but soon after working in the U. S., I recognized that I should be with IEEE. The two projects with Honey well were presented at IEDM and ISSCC, and both papers were published in IEEE Transaction of Electron Devices and Journal of Solid-State Circuits. As the leader of Toshiba Semiconductor Engineering Team, IEEE IEDM, ISSCC, CICC and VLSI Symposia with Japan Society of Applied Physics were the places to proudly present our results, and IEEE Journals and Transactions were the clear evidence of our successful efforts. I also grew by services for those Meetings and Conferences as Program Committee Member as well as Invited Speaker and Panel Member. My entire professional carrier was with IEEE, for many different type of opportunities.

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

This award is really the highlight of my professional achievements. My colleague who contributed for this award, and my wife and whole family share the joy of this honor. This award is not only for myself, but also for my colleagues and for my family.

What other associations have helped you in your career?

Japan Society of Applied Physics, and their conferences, especially VLSI Technology Symposium and International Solid-State Conference. I served for VLSI Symposia as General Conference Chairman, and Program Committee Chair.

Career Advice: What advice would you give to young professionals entering your field today?

Give weight on the Basics, and Have a wide field of view and Interest. Physics with Mathematical knowledge helps real Innovative Contribution.

Reflection: What would you have done differently or tell your younger self now?

Possibly spend most of my life within an Academic Environment without knowing Wild Life in the Industry. But now I recognize that something great guided me this way, and I have no regrets, other than rather minor mistake, that is “I could leave the Giant Company, may be 10 years earlier.

Was there a project that you were so passionate about that you continued to pursue it even though there may have been doubts about its success?

"Semiconductorportal, Inc.” in Japan, as an industry community site, in order to make semiconductor industry much open and collaborative like in Silicon Valley. We want to revisit its “raison d'être” after COVID-19, one more time.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

IEEE Robert Noyce Medal 2020, as the excellent my carrier summary.

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

Play tennis and veteran's soccer, Natural Guedening at home.

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal and MBO of Covalent Materials from Toshiba

Do you have a favorite food? Or a family recipe that may have been passed down?

Not specifically.

Do you have a favorite genre of music? or a favorite song? Or do you play an instrument?

I played folk guitar, but not anymore.

Do you have a prize possession? If so, please explain.

I have my "Soccer Museum" at home, where my soccer memorials are displayed.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I brew my beer, roast my coffee, and grow herbs

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

Professor and my Boss

What is one thing you cannot live without in your work space?


Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

I must think of it.