Second Annual Electrical Engineering Master’s Students Project Demonstrations

On December 8th, 2016, the Electrical Engineering Department hosted a project demonstration featuring the work of its Master’s Degree candidates. M.S. students showcased projects  completed as part of a class or as part of independent research projects conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. The event brought together graduate students to present their findings to their peers and to faculty, and to exchange their ideas in a scientific workshop setting.

Class projects were on display from the VLSI Design Laboratory, the Hybrid Computing for Signal and Data Processing course, and the Modern Display Science and Technology course.  These project-based courses offer students the opportunity to apply the skills they learn in class and apply them in a laboratory setting to address real-world, open-ended challenges. Such experience is invaluable to enhance students’ post-graduation prospects in industry or in competitive Ph.D. programs.

In the VLSI Design Laboratory (ELEN 6350), taught by Professor Peter Kinget students  go through the complete integrated-circuit (IC) design cycle from system concept, circuit design, layout, and simulation verification, to testing and demonstration of the fabricated IC. Students design their CMOS IC during the Spring semester and the ICs are fabricated in an industrial fabrication facility during the summer. The prototype ICs are then tested and demonstrated by the students in a system application during Fall semester.At the end of the course the students record a video presentation in which they present the system applications with their custom CMOS ICs.  Several projects were on display during the demonstration session including a custom FPGA (co-supervised by Prof. Mingoo Seok), an FM radio, a smart temperature sensor, and a digital clock.  Videos of the student presentation are posted on the class website: Spring 2016. Projects from Spring 2014 and Spring 2015 are also available.

Hybrid Computing for Signal and Data Processing, EECS E4750, taught by Professor Zoran Kostic, presented 12 projects.  This course teaches students applied parallel computing on several computational platforms - general purpose processors, graphics processing units (GPUs), DSPs, and FPGAs. Two main languages studied in the course are CUDA by NVIDIA and OpenCL by Khronos. The course  was developed for electrical engineering students with BS degrees. A number of prerequisite skills reviewed through labs and assignments include Linux OS, Python and C coding, scripting languages for simulation deployment, and architectures of parallel processors. The course focuses on applications in signal and data processing and gives students the opportunity to work on projects as diverse as highly optimized FFTs for parallel machines, computing blocks for deep learning networks, statistical optimization problems, and FPGA deployments of OpenCL. The  goal of the course is to  broaden the knowledge and skills of EE MS students and to allow them to seek professional engagements in parallel software development.

Professor John Kymissis teaches ELEN E4193, Modern Display Science and Technology, which discusses all aspects of displays including human perception, the physics of light generation and manipulation, electronics required for display addressing and drive, and image storage and processing formats. In class, students build several display types starting with basic materials and learn how to structure the electronics required to address and drive the displays. The group projects presented at the demonstration fair reinforced many of these concepts.  “I was very impressed with several of the developed systems, which this year all used a microcontroller to synthesize a composite or VGA monitor output while simultaneously running a video game of the students’ design,” Professor Kymissis noted.  “Each group got the system to work, with some variation. Some operated in color, for example, using the VGA port instead of the composite output, but what was especially impressive to me was the quality of several of the games and the custom controllers developed by the students which demonstrated both a high level of hardware acumen and software insight and ability.”

In addition to class project presentations, several MS students presented the results of research they conducted for credit in one of the Electrical Engineering research laboratories. Courses taken for research credit give students the opportunity to work closely with faculty to develop their interests in the multi-faceted field of Electrical Engineering.

Professor Osgood’s group studied two major research topics: nanoantennae and nanodiamonds. Nanoantennae create highly enhanced local electric fields when pumped resonantly, and can provide solutions to many size mismatch problems in nanoscience and engineering. Nanoantennae performance depends  on a variety of factors  that must be controlled through careful optical engineering techniques. Nanodiamonds have excellent optical properties and are bio-friendly, making them well-suited for biomedical applications. The defect center in diamonds, a leading candidate for implementation of a solid-state quantum processor, is a very interesting topic for a project  in biomedical engineering, optical and information processing, and nanoscience and technology. The project provided a unique experience for students to interact extensively with researchers and scientists, and  to learn how to use state-of-art facilities such as the supercomputer at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This real-world research allowed students to  develop important skill sets such as cyber security training and introduction to massively parallel processors.

Two student groups of Professor Christine Hendon, principal investigator at the Structure-Function Imaging Laboratory, presented  projects at the demo.  One group demonstrated an algorithm that takes an optical signal measurement and provides feedback to a surgeon, letting them know that they had made contact with tissue and therefore able to deliver the necessary therapeutic energy. Lab experiments were performed to generate training data for this algorithm, and the algorithm was tested on  live animals  with the assistance of a physician from Columbia Medical Center who navigated the optical catheter in the heart to deliver therapeutic energy. The second project, in collaboration with Prof. Helen Lu’s lab in Biomedical Engineering, focused on an automated image processing algorithm to identify tissue components within OCT images of the ACL and observe how the components change due to remodeling with age.  Prof. Hendon shared, “What is always interesting is how a student interprets a problem and comes up with an approach to address the problem. And in many cases, they use a different approach than I would have taken. So through them, I also learn more. This year, the MS student researchers in the lab have made incredible contributions to our laboratory and were able to present their work at the annual SPIE Photonics West conference. Through this experience, they also learned how to communicate their methods and results orally and through written form (conference proceedings). These are skills that they will be able to take with them into the workforce.”

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