November 9, 2023 Kevin Lepak: 2023 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient Written By: Staff Departments: Electrical & Computer Engineering Categories: Alumni Kevin LepakBSEE ’99, MSEE ’00, PhDEE ’03Corporate fellow, AMD EPYC CPU SOC and system architecture, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Kevin is a visionary electrical engineer and exemplary technical leader who has positively impacted the trajectory of next-generation semiconductor chip design and processor development. How did your engineering education enable your success? Along with my graduate research in high-performance computer architecture—critically thinking about what questions to answer, how to answer them well, and present those conclusions in various ways. I’ve used that latter part extensively as I’ve become more senior in my career. My basic technical education, skills and understanding opened the door—learning how to make that accessible to many different people was fundamental to increased impact. Which engineering professor made the greatest impact on you? My thesis advisor Mikko Lipasti clearly made the greatest impact. I was his first student and first doctorate graduate. During my broader graduate school experience, there were many other leading faculty across ECE and CS, and many students from whom I benefitted greatly working in similar areas. As an undergrad, the senior design class, and the faculty who supervised it, stand out. It was a lot of work, but it showed there was so much more depth to the field to motivate graduate study and how much fun it could be. Describe the impacts you’ve had on society as a result of your contributions. Computing is part of everybody’s life, every day—smartphones, laptops, PCs, etc. In my career, I’ve mostly focused on data center processors that drive computing for business, industrial product design, cloud services; recent highlights from the product portfolio include leadership in AMD EPYC server CPUs, workstation products that enable movie studios to create advanced special effects, the Exascale (1018 operations/second) supercomputers Frontier and El Capitan that combine both CPUs and graphics-based heterogenous computing—just to name a few. Improving performance per watt and per dollar of computing—the impact of that globally is significant. Of what professional accomplishments are you most proud? I have spent most of my career at one company: AMD. AMD has a long history, and our competitiveness in the market is better now than it’s been for a long time. In my overall technical lead role for a product family at the company, I’m helping determine at the highest level what we are doing, why and how we are doing it. In addition, I’m also helping people solve day-to-day technical problems that it takes to bring a complex product to fruition. No single person brings a company to an enhanced competitive position—it’s always a team effort. I’m both grateful and proud for the opportunity and capability to contribute. A key place I’ve contributed to recently is how we build more capable processors as semiconductor manufacturing process technology scaling has slowed. We’ve had to change from single-chip-focused designs to multi-chip-focused designs. AMD is a leader across the industry in technologies in this area. I’m proud that we’ve found ways to do it that are new and unique, and now, many other folks are trying to do it the same way. What do you like best? Winter or summer in Madison?If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, I would have said summer. Having lived in Texas for the last 20 years, I’ll say winter. Fun on the Terrace or fun on Lake Mendota?Definitely the Terrace. Camp Randall Stadium or the Kohl Center or the UW Field House?For me, it’s Camp Randall. I like football, and I used to live right next to it. Bascom Hill or Observatory Hill?I used to play ultimate frisbee by Observatory Hill so I have fond memories of that. Thankfully, I didn’t have too many L&S classes, so I didn’t have to walk Bascom Hill much.