Broadcom’s Cathy Liu Wins DesignCon 2021’s Engineer of the Year Award

August 19, 2021 by Jake Hertz

With over 20 patents and leading roles in the EE community, Cathy Liu is voted DesignCon 2021's Engineer of the Year.

Every year DesignCon, a major conference for chip, board, and systems design engineers in the high-speed communications and semiconductor communities, anoints one individual as the "Engineer of the Year.


DesignCon is an important conference for EEs with the "Engineer of the Year" award being one of the main events. Image used courtesy of DesignCon


Amongst a field of talented, experienced, and well-respected EEs, this year, Cathy Liu, a director and engineer from Broadcom, rose above the pack to claim the title


Cathy Liu is DesignCon’s 2021 engineer of the year.

Cathy Liu is DesignCon’s 2021 engineer of the year. Image used courtesy of DesignCon 


This article will take a look at the career of Cathy Liu to see what warrants such an evocative and well-earned title. 


Career Path: From One Acquisition to Another 

Despite being a highly decorated engineer today, Cathy's career began as humbly as anyone else's by aiming to receive a bachelor's degree, which she did in Electronics Engineering from the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 1995. 

Upon graduation, Cathy decided to continue her education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she received her MS and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. 

Upon finishing her education, Cathy started at a company called DataPath Systems as a Principal System Engineer. This initial move would prove to set the entirety of her career trajectory, as, within a year, DataPath would get acquired by LSI Logic Corp. Years later, LSI Logic Corp would get snapped up by Avago, and finally, ending with one final acquisition from Broadcom, where Cathy still works 20 years later. 

Today, Cathy is a Distinguished Engineer and Director of Broadcom's SerDes team, where she serves as a principal architect and manager to the design team.

Now that a very brief overview of Cathy's career is established let's dive into some technical interests that have influence her career and overall accomplishments as an EE. 


Zeroing In On Signal Communications

Throughout her entire career, Cathy's focus and contributions have come from the field of signal communications. According to her bio on the DesignCon website, Cathy has been working on high-speed transceiver solutions since 2002.

Throughout her career, her focuses have included:

Through these pursuits, Cathy has been awarded over 20 US patents and has published numerous papers in select journals and conferences. 


A block diagram of a link model for Salz SNR calculation.

A block diagram of a link model for Salz SNR calculation. Image used courtesy of Cathy Liu


However, to be Engineer of the Year, you need to be more than just an intellectual; you must also be a figure in the community. 

Cathy goes above and beyond to meet this standard as an active member of the DesignCon Technical Program Committee, a member of the board director of Optical Internetworking Forum, and a member of the board of advisors for the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering of the University of California at Davis. 

With how involved she is within the engineering community, it's no wonder she won. Despite this award bringing its own prestige with its title alone, it also comes with prize money.


Competition and Moving Forward 

Keeping up with the upstanding standards she has established throughout her career and EE community work, Cathy chose to take her prize money, a $1000 lump sum, and donate it to the UC Davis ECE department. Actions such as this further cement her investment into the EE community and for future engineers. 

While an impressive engineer from a technical perspective, it's clear that Cathy's contributions far exceed the technical realm. Cathy embodies an essential combination of technical prowess and community dedication, making her a clear choice for Engineer of the Year.