In Memoriam: Tso-Ping Ma, Professor of Electrical Engineering & Applied Physics

Updated 03/21/2022: Click here to view an obituary published in Nature Electronics.

Tso-Ping (T.P.) Ma, the Raymond J. Wean Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics and pillar of the SEAS community for nearly 50 years, passed away peacefully on April 6, 2021, at the age of 75, after a brief illness.

Ma was an internationally recognized pioneer for his contributions to semiconductor science and technology - in particular, breakthroughs in advanced gate dielectrics, which paved the path for high-k dielectrics and extended the scaling of CMOS technology. His research also generated fundamental and lasting impacts on many other applied physics fields, notably ferroelectrics and ionizing radiation sciences. Ma was also an inspiring mentor, nurturing countless students, many of whom went on to become some of the most prominent and groundbreaking leaders in the semiconductor industry.

"T.P. was both a towering figure in his field of research and a kind and generous soul in his interactions with our community,” said Jeffrey Brock, Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “He was a spiritual standard-bearer for SEAS, and we will miss him dearly.”

Ma was born on November 13, 1945, in Lanzhou, China and graduated from National Taiwan University in 1968 and completed his Ph.D. degree at Yale University in 1974. Ma then joined IBM for a few years before returning to Yale as a faculty member in 1977, focusing his research and teaching on semiconductors, CMOS technology, and nanoelectronics. Over the years he received numerous awards and honorary degrees for his achievements, including election to the US National Academy of Engineering, a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, an Academician of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, and a life Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE).

Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said Ma “brought wisdom and insight and honor to Yale – first as a graduate student in the early 1970s, then as a faculty member for more than four decades.”

“T.P. was a brilliant scientist, an inspiring teacher, a legendary mentor, and a beloved colleague.” Gendler said. “He exemplified the university’s values and ambitions. He will be deeply missed.”

Hong Tang, the Llewellyn West Jones, Jr. Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics & Physics, said that despite his notability, he took great interest in helping others around him.

“T.P. not only supported young faculty members within the department, his care and love for young researchers extended to the greater research community,” Tang said. “His passing left behind a spiritual void for many and he will be dearly missed.”

Those closest to Ma said that family was of utmost importance to him. He was a loving husband to Dr. Pin-Fang Ma in their 49 years of marriage, and a devoted father to Mahau Ma and Jasmine Ma. He shared his love of music and sports with his family, and held a particular passion for ice skating, which he continued to practice regularly throughout his active life. He was a mischievous and playful grandfather to Samantha, Maxfield, Ethan, and Jordan. Ma was exuberant about life and an avid traveler. Convinced that the most wonderful things are often catalyzed by happenstance, he was open to seeing the world anew and following where it might take him. He was also a consummate storyteller, sharing his curiosity and love by recounting narratives of his past, his family, and his students, infused with humor and, usually, a good twist. He was happiest when surrounded by those he cared for and took care of, eating, drinking, and laughing.

Ma’s family and colleagues intend on hosting a memorial service and celebration of his life once COVID-19 restrictions permit (this page will be updated when a date is announced). In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the American Cancer Society in his name here.

Friends and colleagues are invited to share memories on T.P.’s memorial website.