Courtesy of Steve Geringer
Tso-Ping Ma, the Raymond J. Wean Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, died on April 6, 2021, at the age of 75. According to the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s website, his death occurred after a brief illness.
Ma — often known as T.P. — completed his Ph.D. at Yale in 1974 and returned three years later to Yale as a faculty member. Most recently, he taught a fall 2020 course in electrical engineering and engineering and applied science entitled “Emerging CMOS Technology and Beyond.” Ma’s research on semiconductors, according to Tamar Gendler, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, “transformed microelectronics.” He was a life Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering, amongst other accolades.
“TP was a unique figure in Yale’s SEAS — he was a giant in his field, and yet he was a kind and friendly person to everyone around him,” Jeffrey Brock, dean of the school of engineering and applied science, wrote in an email to the News. “His warm welcome extended to me as the new Dean of SEAS is one I will not forget. He loved to talk about SEAS ‘old glories’, and he embodied its current glory. Not many know that he was an avid figure skater, even unto the last, and he loved to share photos on his iPhone of his skating exploits. His list of accolades and accomplishments is of course lengthy and impressive, but I think he will be remembered as a kind of ‘soul of SEAS’. I was privileged to have known him.”
Professor of electrical engineering, applied physics and physics Hong Tang wrote to the News in an email that Ma was the reason that he had come to Yale as a faculty member, calling Tang personally to ask if he would be interested in an offer from Yale — a call that, Tang wrote to the News, “changed my life trajectory.” Ma had patiently answered all of his questions about life at Yale and drove him to the airport at the end of his visit, he added.
Tang called Ma a “supporting pillar” in the department, especially for junior faculty members. But he noted that this support also extended beyond just those at Yale.
“In conferences, T.P. was like a magnet and often an attraction center with many young researchers spinning around him and seeking advice,” Tang wrote. “His passing left behind a spiritual void for many and he will be dearly missed.”
According to a memorial commemorating him on the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s website, Ma was a husband to Pin-Fang Ma, father to two, and grandfather to four.
A separate tribute wall posted by the school is filled with colleagues, former students and other admirers commemorating Ma’s smile, generosity and towering wisdom.
Richard Lethin ’85, senior lecturer of electrical engineering, took one of Ma’s courses when he was a Yale undergraduate in 1983. He wrote that Ma was a “thorough, knowledgeable, and clear teacher,” and was especially enthusiastic when students figured something out or had a good idea.
“And such a hearty and sincere laugh,” Lethin added. “What a fine teacher and a privilege to have been able then call him a colleague.”
A visiting fellow from 2004 to 2007 in Ma’s lab, Jun-Fei Zheng, wrote that Ma is a “scholar full of wisdom,” both open-minded and grounded in his beliefs.
Zheng recalled Ma’s 70-year-old surprise party, in which many of his former students and colleagues came, many of whom joined remotely from around the world.
“People love him,” Zheng added.
Xiao Sun, a former postdoctoral associate at Yale from 2013 to 2015, wrote on the tribute wall that, as an international student, he was “spoiled” by Ma.
In one email, he recalled, Ma told him that his writing was so bad his paper could not be revised — he then bought his students writing books. The last time they talked, he added, Ma was in the hospital. Even so, he helped Sun when he asked for a reference.
“It was really my honor and luck to be your student, Prof. Ma,” Sun wrote. “Thanks for everything.”
Ma’s friends and colleagues have requested that people donate in his name to the American Cancer Society here.
Correction, May 7: Richard Lethin graduated in 1985, not 1995. The story has been updated.