Tag Archives: microelectronics

Windmills, Waterways and Bikes

The title just about sums up the Netherlands. But there is so much more to this country that I cannot fit into just a few words. I had a sudden realisation some time back that I am only a few months away from graduating and may no longer see these things that I had taken as part of my normal life. A senior had told me that I would not realise how the time passes in this program. Now as I look back I am surprised at how fast the past one and half years indeed went by!

All in one picture! @Kinderdijk. P.C. Amitabh Yadav

It seems as if only yesterday I and my friends were slumming together over assignments and checking our watches at lectures. We had numerous fun events at /Pub, thanks to MEST. We travelled around Europe and visited over eight countries. I missed quite a few family events back home and many of my friends’ weddings. I had my first experience with snow, sub-zero temperatures and frozen canals. I re-discovered my love for biking and explored many places around Delft (and Amsterdam). I experimented with new cuisines and learned to cook from scratch. There were a few missed deadlines, failed opportunities and resits. But (so far) it has all gone pretty well.

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO world-heritage site known for its 18th-century windmills P.C. Amitabh Yadav

Most importantly however I learned a lot more than I had imagined. I learned about people, cultures, life lessons, integrated circuit design, medical technology, time management and research. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the Bioelectronics research group and found new possibilities I didn’t know existed. Research in itself is boring and if you are limited to a very narrow search space you cannot really do much innovation and won’t find a lot of space to think freely and creatively. But I got the freedom and the encouragement to look for better solutions and challenge the status quo. That is what impressed me the most and that is what I would remember from my time at TU Delft.

Spring colours the landscape quite well

I don’t know what lies next and where my quest will lead. I am just a little bit saddened about the prospect of leaving this quaint little town. At the same time I am looking forward to my next adventure!

Oh, I almost forgot that I still have a thesis project to complete and defend. Let me get back to work. Meanwhile, enjoy some pictures from Kinderdijk where we went on Easter sunday.

Kinderdijk is also a popular tourist spot

Researching for Research!

After the nightmare that was 3rd quarter (that I survived somehow), I have some time finally to unwind and relax. This doesn’t mean that nothing is happening though. Summer is here and the sunny weather reminds me of home!

A sunny day at the beach @Hague

Now that we are in the final quarter of the first year, a big question mark lights up in everyone’s heads. The question preceding it is going to define what we do in the coming year. In the second year of our MSc program we are supposed to work on an MSc thesis project. Now is the time to look for suitable MSc projects according to our interests and the courses we have completed in the first year.

There are several ways to land an MSc thesis project. The best way is to approach professors in the department and discuss with them about it. After a few discussions about courses taken, grades obtained, topics of interests in research and other parameters a project topic might be agreed upon. The project is supervised by a PhD candidate on a daily basis. Hence, they can also help in defining the project. Moreover, many professors put a list and description of possible projects on their page or on the research group webpage. This is the webpage for the Electronic Instrumentation group headed by Prof. Kofi Makinwa – https://ei.tudelft.nl/

EI group website

I am interested in doing a thesis project on a research topic in bioelectronics. Hence, I am currently in discussion with professors and PhD candidates in the bioelectronics group of the Microelectronics department. I have been asked to read some research papers and identify research questions which I can investigate during my MSc project. I do have help from people in the department to help me get there. This process takes some time and hence it is advisable to start a bit early. In some cases people can also get company-sponsored projects which come with a monthly stipend. Applying to or finding about such projects can be done through the same way as for a regular project. In the end, some research needs to be done to decide what to do research on. 🙂

In terms of structure we can have a mini-project for 15 ECs and MSc thesis project for 45 ECs. Hence, both the projects can be defined after discussion with the supervisor. An internship or extra courses can also be undertaken to earn 15 ECs before embarking on the thesis project. So, there are a lot of possibilities to choose from, and a lot to plan ahead!

What’s up? Not much, but I’m always busy…

As the weekend arrives and brings with it some time to relax and unwind, I catch up with friends and family in India. More often than not I get the questions – “What’s up with you?  Where else did you travel recently? How’s the weather? Is it snowing yet?” My reply invariably goes like this – “Nothing much is happening here except for the weird weather but I’m always busy…” That answer is just a short version of “I’ve a lot going on here – but I can’t explain everything to you in less than 15 minutes and I don’t have 2 hours either. So this is it.” Let me expound on my reply- this 3rd quarter will define what I will be doing for the rest of my MSc program. So I have to choose my courses carefully and show my dedication, interest and enthusiasm even though I am completely lost. Moreover, this is also the time that job fairs are organised in campus. So I need to update my CV, get it analyzed by professionals and spam all the companies so that I can get a shot at an internship and/or an awesome thesis project. By the way the temperature decided to go sub-zero, which means all the water bodies in the open are getting frozen. Every time I go outside I feel ‘comfortably’ numb (did you get the connection? :P)

In this quarter we are supposed to work on projects for some courses. I am doing two such courses – Digital IC Design 2 (DIC2) and Analog CMOS Design 2 (ACD2). In DIC2 I (and my partner Amitabh) are creating a clock divider that divides the input clock by 6. We are building it from scratch which means we make all the components – from inverters to flip flops. There are some specifications that our design needs to meet in order to pass the final evaluation. We need to prepare the report and present it to our fellow students and the instructors. Since we are relatively new to the Cadence environment it takes quite some time to get it right. Thankfully we have two TAs to help us out in our design.

What I’m supposed to make

In  ACD2 I am designing a fully differential programmable-gain  amplifier (quite a mouthful, isn’t it?). The specifications are quite heavy, which are draining quite a lot of my time. I have to check out several research papers to find what other people did to achieve similar results. Basically I am trying to get ‘inspired’ (pun intended) from the works of experts in the field. Even for this course I need to write a report and present my design and results. Courses like these are challenging but also enjoyable, as we get a hands-on experience on designing stuff that are similar to what is done in the industry. We also learn to apply the theory we learned in the last quarter.

We recently had the DDB, which is the annual career event organised in campus. Many companies had put up stalls where we could talk about possible opportunities and other details of interest. They were handing out some awesome goodies too! I really like the petrol-carrier USB drive from BP. The companies also have in-house days in which we can visit the company-offices and workplaces and interact with the employees. This way we can get a feel of working there. This is an interesting and novel concept for me, as in India we generally don’t have visits to the workplace prior to the recruitment (at least not for freshers). In the event there are professionals who can analyse your CV and suggest improvements to make it more attractive and relevant to the recruiters. There is also a photographer who can snap your picture if you don’t have a good one to put on your CV.

Goodies from DDB

We also have the EEMCS Recruitment Days, similar to DDB but focused towards the Electrical, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science streams. We submitted our updated CVs to the companies we were interested in, and then the companies selected candidates who they wanted to interview. There are open-house days where interested students can go and chat with representatives from the companies as well!

Then again we have matchmaking events organised by some research labs in Microelectronics. We recently had one by the Electronic Instrumentation Lab in which they presented some of the proposed projects for the Microelectronics MSc students. We could then discuss about the projects with respective project leaders and have some pizza with them!

Everything’s frozen!

Meanwhile the temperature dipped well below zero, and all the water bodies in the open froze. The freezing was such that people could walk, skate and even bike on them! It was quite an entertaining and puzzling spectacle to see. Unfortunately the water in pipes froze as well, and the laundry room had to close down too.

I can so relate to this

So as you can see, I have a lot on my hands right now. Welcome to grad life…

Microelectronics @ Delft

As the new quarter starts everyone in campus heads back to the lecture halls. This also means we have to choose new courses again. Quite a few interesting courses have been added to the timetable for the microelectronics program in this quarter. I am finding it difficult to choose among them; they are all so good!

I will explain the structure of the Microelectronics program at TU Delft (for the analog design track). In quarter 1 we had to choose three courses from among seven courses on offer. I chose Measurement and Instrumentation (M&I), Structured Electronic Design (SED) and Advanced Computing Systems (ACS). Apart from these courses we were free to choose other courses as well. Since I am interested in the bioelectronics applications of electronics, I also opted for Anatomy and Physiology. M&I and SED are the basics for the microelectronics program and so they were the obvious choices. M&I deals with the various instrumentation techniques, some of which were developed here in the university itself. SED deals with the design of amplifiers using MOS transistors and the proper approach to the design process to make it first-time-right. ACS is a unique course in which I learned how to compute complex problems using GPUs and parallelize my code to make it more efficient on multi-core CPUs.

House Full! (in 3mE) Courtesy: twitter.com/@EEMCS_TUD

In quarter 2 we looked a bit deeper into the semiconductor devices and their applications in Semiconductor Device Physics (SDP) , Analog CMOS Design 1 (ACD1) , Digital IC Design 1 (DID1) and Sensors and Actuators (S&A). SDP helped us understand how the diodes and transistors (bipolar and MOSFET) work. In ACD1 we learned the various techniques to design a single stage amplifier. DID1 showed the various factors to be taken into account while designing any digital IC. Even though I had worked previously on digital design this course showed me a whole new perspective to the design discipline. S&A is an interesting course which showcases many sensing and actuating devices for a wide range of applications. The instructors gave live demonstrations of the devices which made the lectures all the more interesting.

A typical Sensors and Actuators lecture!

Now in quarter 3 we have several courses which deal extensively in the applications of semiconductor devices and their related design methods. In Nyquist Rate Data Converters we are studying the operation and design of Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADCs) and Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs). In Introduction to Power Conversion Technologies we are studying the various circuit designs to transform power between AC-DC, DC-DC etc. In Analog CMOS Design 2 (second part of ACD1), we are studying about 2-stage amplifiers. The course is graded according to a project in which we design and submit an amplifier based on certain specifications. Similarly in Digital IC Design 2 we are required to design an optimised IC for a specific application. Themes in Biomedical Electronics is a course similar to Sensors and Actuators in which we look into various biomedical applications of electronics and the principles which are used to design and operate them. In Bioelectricity we are learning how the human body conducts electricity and how the nervous system operates as a circuit. It is quite an interesting course for an electronics engineer! Finally in Analog IC Design we are studying the techniques of designing ICs for specific analog operations. Apart from these courses we also have Advanced Microelectronics Packaging, VLSI Test Technology & Reliability, Microelectronics Reliability and Solid State Physics as well. I could have opted for these other courses too but I already have too many to handle.

the EWI building in all its glory

The structure of the microelectronics program is pretty balanced as it creates the basis on which the next courses are based. We are able to apply the knowledge from previous courses in the courses that we are following now. The courses I mentioned are the ones I followed or are relevant for me. Apart from these there are many other courses which are relevant for other tracks like quantum computing or RF. There are some mandatory courses as well such as Profile Orientation (Q1 and Q2) and System Engineering (Q3 and Q4). In Profile Orientation we had to write a literature survey and present on a technical topic as a group. These activities helped us learn about our mistakes and how to correct them. In System Engineering we are learning about the process, conditions and norms for product design. In the next quarter we will work in teams to design and present our product.

The coursework for Microelectronics is heavy and tough. It demands a lot of time and effort. But it rewards equally well. I have learnt quite a lot in these last two quarters. I look forward to the coming quarters when I will start working on my thesis project!