Asbeck was one of the early developers of HBTs, semiconductor structures based on multiple advanced materials that permit faster operation than pure silicon-based chips. HBTs are one of the enabling technologies for modern communications, and are incorporated into most cell phones produced today. "Peter is 'Mr. HBT' and this award brings great prestige to him, the department and the School," said Charles Tu, chair of the Jacobs School's ECE department. "He was the first to demonstrate high-performance transistors in 1980 using the emerging epitaxial growth techniques of molecular beam epitaxy and metallorganic vapor phase epitaxy. His work covered the design and physics of the devices, the development of new fabrication processes, techniques for their numerical simulation, and finally, design and testing of benchmark circuits that illustrated the advantages of the technology."
Before receiving his Ph.D. from MIT in 1975, Asbeck worked briefly at the Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, NJ. Later, he worked at Rockwell International Science Center from 1978 until joining the UCSD faculty in 1991. He heads the university's High-Speed Device Group, which works on HBT and other advanced devices, as well as power amplifier architectures for wireless communications and opto-electronic interface circuits. At UCSD, Asbeck is actively involved in the Center for Wireless Communications, and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.
Asbeck is only the third California-based researcher to win the prestigious award since its inception in 1959 (Stanford's Stephen Harris won in 1978, USC's Daniel Dapkus in 2001). The IEEE David Sarnoff Award was established in 1959 by the RCA Corporation and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and was continued by the Board of Directors of the IEEE. In 1989, sponsorship of the award was assumed by the Sarnoff Corporation. Jack Kilby and Charles Townes are two recipients who later became Nobel Laureates. Asbeck will accept his award during the 2003 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting.