Photo of Jerry M. Woodall

Jerry M. Woodall

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Manufacturing

For his pioneeriong role in the research and development of compound semiconductor materials and devices; for the invention and development of technologically and commercially important compound semiconductor heterojunction materials, processes, and related devices, such as light-emitting diodes, lasers, ultra-fast transistors, and solar cells.

Jerry Woodall on the importance of getting students involved in engineering

If you’ve ever waited at a stoplight, or used a television remote to surf channels, you’ve seen scientist Jerry Woodall’s inventions at work.

Woodall—a pioneer in the research and development of compound semiconductor materials—created many of the electronic and optoelectronic devices we encounter in everyday life, such as the high-efficiency red light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, used in remote control and data-link applications such as TV sets, CD players and short link fiber communications. His other key projects include the transistors used in cell phones and the solar cells used to power satellites.

Woodall’s career was divided between industry and academia. After earning his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he worked as a junior staff member at IBM’s Watson Research Center, where he invented the world’s most important compound semiconductors heterojunction, to date, and climbed the ranks to become an IBM Fellow and earn 30 consecutive Invention Achievement Awards. At the same time, he managed to earn his doctorate at Cornell University.

In 1993, he shifted to academia full time, and has since served as a professor at Purdue University, Yale University and the University of California at Davis. To date, he has published or been cited in more than 350 scientific articles, and he has more than 85 patents to his name.

By Sydni Dunn