Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Mark Hoffmeyer is among the engineers we will honor in 2019 at an Oct. 11 banquet.
The numbers compute: In a career spanning nearly 30 years with IBM Systems, Mark has earned the company’s Invention Achievement Plateau Award 18 times.
Those 18 honors—just a handful of the many more to his credit—take into account Mark’s impressive record of innovation, which includes more than 55 U.S. patents, 12 international patents, and 10 pending patents, all related to microelectronic device materials design, assembly and manufacture.
In his current role, Mark serves as a corporate technical and engineering consultant for IBM’s high-performance computer development. He is an IBM master inventor, and his developments in advanced interconnect technologies and thermal interfaces have been implemented in some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. These high-performance computers are at the root of applications ranging from national security to secure data processing to artificial intelligence.
We are honoring Mark for his expertise and leadership in physical metallurgy, which have led to significant innovations in microelectronic devices in areas that include materials design, assembly, packaging and manufacturing.
Recently, we chatted with him about everything from his memories as a student at UW-Madison to his career and hobbies. Here are his responses to some of our questions.
How did you decide on your major?
After high school, I wanted to be a chemical engineer, but after getting a taste, I needed more diversity and changed paths. As a kid, I always liked geology, so I pursued a slant on that inorganic materials interest and switched majors to metallurgical engineering.
Which classes made the biggest impact on you?
There were classes in solidification and physical metallurgy taught by Professors Carl Loper and John Perepezko, both of whom had a knack for explaining things very clearly. Those classes became extremely useful for understanding how reactions take place in liquids and solids, and were really important for the job I took. Classes I took in analytical statistics and statistical process control became super important as well, because I could use them every day within the career path I chose—in particular, for assessing the reliability of electronics. And the crystal chemistry class I took in graduate school was also very helpful in terms of providing a really good scope of materials understanding.
How did your experience in the college shape your career path?
I think it shaped my research and development role—just because of the way we did our research under Professor John Perepezko. We would have group meetings where we would all talk through suggestions, ideas, and theories. The goal was to truly learn what everyone was doing and drive a spirit of innovation and discovery. That shaped my approach and became really helpful once I took a job with IBM, because it allowed me to open-mindedly look at problems and solve them in creative ways.
Can you share a few of your best memories from your time at UW-Madison?
Some of my graduate school memories: We would go on hikes, bike rides, rock climbing, fishing trips, have lunch at a great Indian restaurant, or play football with a lot of folks from the department, or softball, in tournaments.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love backpacking and fly fishing. From time to time, I teach fly fishing and do some guiding, on foot or by canoe. I’ve developed new flies, fishing techniques, have written articles, and have been referenced by outdoor writers in books and magazines. Over the past decade I’ve also really gotten into bird watching, and native prairie restoration efforts.
I’m from a very small but loving family. My dad, Ken, is still with us at 104. My wife, Mary Luehne. My sister, Nikki, who lives in Australia, and my niece Kali, who lives in Singapore.