In many ways, Westview High School student Ayush Nayak is a lot like other 17-year-olds – he enjoys being outdoors on his bike or looking at the night sky with his telescope and camera, and says his ideal job would be Lego Master Builder, “because it’s literally the closest to being paid to play with toys.”
But unlike other students his age, Nayak has already made a name for himself in the world of computer engineering after designing a new type of CPU transistor capable of utilizing a third value in addition to existing binary code’s use of one and zero, allowing significantly faster computing.
Nayak’s design recently won him a $25,000 scholarship from The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program. He is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2022 scholarship winner.
“To me, being named a Davidson Fellow is an incredible recognition of my work and effort in pursuing new science,” said Nayak. “I feel extremely honored to have my project recognized among groundbreaking research projects from other young scientists and being elevated to this level is truly a dream come true. I’m excited to meet many other passionate scientists and can’t wait to keep pushing forward.”
The scholarship is a program of the Davidson Institute, which recognizes, nurtures and supports intelligent young people, and provides opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference.
“This year’s class of Davidson Fellows Scholarship recipients continue to find new and innovative ways to pursue their educational and research journeys while striving to solve some of the world’s most vexing problems,” said Bob Davidson, founder of the Davidson Institute.
Nayak’s project, titled “Utilization of InSb/Si Quantum Dots for Next-generation Multivalued High-transport Transistor Technology,” optimized a QDFET (Quantum Dot Field Effect Transistors) transistor with machine learning and other mathematical techniques to create a viable way to expand beyond the current silicon transistor designs that have been in use for more than 50 years.
“We have come to the point where our processors are becoming so good that soon we may not have faster computers each year, as we’ve hit the limit of binary,” Nayak wrote in a description of the project. “My project designs a transistor which actually expands beyond just 1’s and 0’s, to 3 values in each calculation, allowing significantly faster computers than we currently have.”
Nayak designed this new type of CPU transistor to have ternary operation and enough speed to be commercially competitive. He started with a QDFET transistor and optimized it using machine learning and other mathematical techniques, “until I found the best material possible,” he said. “With this material it’s possible to drastically improve computing power and introduce even better four-valued or five-valued transistors down the line, meaning it is both revolutionary and has high expandability.”
Beyond designing the next generation of semiconductors, Nayak also programs computers on projects with a research group, including exoplanet software with the Jet Propulsion Lab, and designing programs to run on a CubeSat satellite.
“I’ve also been accepted to a program that allows me to design, build and launch a small satellite on an upcoming NASA moon mission,” he said.
Director: Bob Davidson
Headquarters: Reno, Nevada
Business: Nonprofit supporting gifted and talented students.
Notable: In addition to the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, the Davidson Institute also operates the Davidson Academy of Nevada out of the University of Reno campus.