Throughout 2019, University of Virginia engineering students with a common interest in integrated circuits organized knowledge-sharing and career development activities as members of the Solid-State Circuits Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The UVA student chapter is one of two in the United States, an honor shared with Oregon State.

Henry Bishop, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, chairs the student chapter; Anjana Dissanayake, also a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, is the chapter’s vice chair. Bishop initiated the chapter’s founding after visiting a top Solid-State Circuits Society conference in 2018. The Society approved UVA’s student chapter application in early 2019.

“We believe that bringing the UVA integrated circuits community together can create substantial research benefits for those involved and mold us into more well-rounded engineers,” Bishop said.

More than 30 graduate and undergraduate engineering students have joined the chapter to cross-fertilize research in self-powered systems for the “internet of things,” hardware accelerators for deep neural networks and machine learning, and next-generation ultra-low power and 5G radio technology.

Demonstrating the breadth of electrical engineering as a field of study and rewarding career is a priority for chapter adviser Steven M. Bowers, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We are immersed in technology built by electrical engineers; solid-state circuits enable people to better connect with one another and allow us to better understand the world around us,” Bowers said.

Fifty first-year undergraduates gained a greater appreciation for the field during a workshop in which they each built and took home a wireless Bluetooth speaker from a kit designed by student chapter members. The DIY kits required students to solder and assemble an inexpensive, commercially available circuit board, speakers, wires and custom 3-D-printed parts.

The student chapter hosts guest speakers from industry who spur ideas for technical advancements and career development. The chapter invited Randy Mann, who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UVA in 2010, to be the inaugural speaker. Mann shared his outlook on research directions in modern memory design and discussed challenges in static random-access memory technology development for transistors that are only 10 nanometers long. Mann also fielded questions about his research at Global Foundries, a semiconductor foundry headquartered in Santa Clara, California.

In November, Bryan Wang gave a talk on how to prevent the reverse engineering of integrated circuits, using historical examples and describing current techniques such as silicon camouflage to mitigate attacks. Wang is principal hardware design engineering with Rambus, a silicon integrated process and chip provider based in Sunnyvale, California.

The student chapter will continue the speaker series in 2020. Early plans include hosting a talk on custom design tools this spring. Students interested in joining the chapter may email Bishop at hlb9ce@virginia.edu.