Fuller '70, '73: Father of RIT microelectronics engineering

Lynn Fuller was born around the time of the invention of the transistor in December 1947. Both have proven staying power.

For Fuller—the Motorola Professor of Microelectronic Engineering in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering—his longevity translates into a more than four-decade affiliation with RIT, starting as an undergraduate in 1965 at the institute’s former downtown campus. The RIT Athletics Hall of Fame member has worked or studied under four university presidents.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from RIT, Fuller joined the RIT faculty in 1970 as an assistant professor and department chair of electromechanical technology. He later earned a master’s degree from RIT and a Ph.D. from SUNY at Buffalo, both in electrical engineering. His teaching began even earlier, though, as a co-op student in RIT engineering labs.

Fuller rose to assistant professor of electrical engineering and, following a one-year stint as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, he helped launch RIT’s first-in-the nation program in microelectronics engineering in 1982. He served as director and department head until 2000.

Over the years, he has taught—and created—dozens of courses at all levels, from freshman through Ph.D. He takes special pride in continuing to instruct lab courses rather than delegating them to teaching assistants (a practice common at other universities).

Fuller says high-tech industries currently employ about a thousand former RIT micro-e students. He’s especially gratified by the success of three of them: current RIT engineering faculty members Karl Hirschman and Rob Pearson, associate professors of microelectronic engineering, and David Borkholder, assistant professor of electrical engineering.

“They’re the best. RIT is fortunate to have them,” Fuller says of his former star pupils.

Doing what he always wanted to do inside the classroom...

Fuller considers himself fortunate to be in a career doing what he long desired to do.

“I’ve always wanted to teach in the area of microelectronics and microchips,” he says. “In order to do what I wanted to do, from a teaching point of view, I had to create the microelectronic engineering program, the lab, the building, the connections with industry, the graduate programs. All of that was part of my lifelong plan to teach in this area.”

And teaching comes naturally.

“I knew it was the right career for me,” says Fuller, whose research focuses on biomedical microelectromechanical systems. “I like students who are interested and want to learn. I still make my students work hard, and they can still get a ‘C’ and like me. It’s not a popularity contest ever—it’s how much they learn that’s what counts.

“The students are why I’m here. Everything I do is for them. There are some really good students, and that’s what keeps me going.”

...and outside the classroom

A four-sport athlete as an undergraduate (in track and field, ice hockey, football and wrestling), Fuller was RIT’s first All-American in track and field in 1970. He captained his track and field and football teams and, in 1981, was inducted into the RIT Athletics Hall of Fame. He was named an RIT Distinguished Alumnus in 1990.

Today, Fuller regularly participates in triathlons and, as coach of the Canandaigua Master’s Swim Club, he and a group of about 40 regulars annually complete the 1 1/2-mile, 45-minute swim across Canandaigua Lake.

Staying active helps him look forward to adding more years to his 40-plus year affiliation with RIT (he plans to keep teaching for at least another decade). And the first-ever Eisenhart Award recipient from microelectronics engineering predicts there will be additional winners from micro-e in coming years.

“I hired them—so I know they’re all good,” he says. “More to come.”

RIT News & Events, May 18, 2006