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Featured Alumnus

Tony Bonaccio '85

Alumnus Tony Bonaccio '85Tony Bonaccio is a chip design engineer and lecturer in the School of Engineering at UVM's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS) and teaches Principles of VLSI Digital Circuit Design (EE222).

Bonaccio holds 54 IBM patents and is one of the creators of the chip used in Microsoft's Xbox produced by IBM. He also designed a component of the chip at the IBM plant in Essex Junction, Vermont. In 2001 he received the designation of IBM Distinguished Engineer, a title held by only 490 IBM engineers out of over 300,000 employees.

Bonaccio received his BS in Electrical Engineering in 1979 from The University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, and subsequently joined IBM in Essex Junction. He received his MS in Electrical Engineering at UVM in 1985, focusing on analog circuit design under Dr. Robert Bowman.

Dawn Densmore, Director of Outreach & Public Relations, caught up with Bonaccio to ask just how he got to where he is today.

DD: Tony, tell me what got you interested in electrical computer engineering?
TB: During my high school years, I was fascinated by computers — just wowed by what they could do and truly interested in understanding how they worked. Back then, computers were enormous! There were no terminals and programming was done through gadgets attached to the front.

DD: What advice would you give to students today regarding your career choice?
TB: First and foremost, find something you love to do and work hard at mastering it. My field, integrated circuit design, is a highly sought-after skill in today's industrial world. Graduates are offered high starting salaries because there are not enough individuals who are trained to accomplish these tasks. Students who get trained and are willing to relocate can usually find work even in these toughest of times. My students who have graduated with this degree are in positions from Massachusetts to California, and many are right here in Vermont with IBM. The program truly offers students a high-quality education with a promise of career success into the future.

DD: What are your thoughts on the CEMS vision of providing students with a well-rounded education along with core critical thinking skills?
TB: I'm very pleased to see CEMS have this vision and set of guiding principles. My experience is that innovation often occurs at the boundaries between disciplines, and exposing students to topics outside their immediate major fosters this creativity. At the same time, it's important to offer courses that focus on the deep technical aspects of a given field of engineering at the graduate level. Because engineering education is so time-intensive, CEMS has challenged itself to strike a balance between well-roundedness and specialty.

Bonaccio resides in Shelburne, VT, with his wife Connie and two sons — Benjamin, a senior at UVM, is a studio art major; Nicholas, a senior at Rice High School, is a member of the UVM Concert Band taught by Dr. Toner in the Music Department.