CSSI in the News

December 2008

Shawn Blanton Named IEEE Fellow - December 15, 2008

ECE Professor Shawn Blanton has been named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for his contributions to the testing of micromechanical systems and integrated circuits.

"It is both an honor and a privilege to be named to such a prestigious group of peers," said Blanton, who is also director of the Center For Silicon Systems Implementation (CSSI) in ECE.

Pradeep K. Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering, said the honor is bestowed upon a limited number of IEEE members who have made important contributions to electrical and information technologies and sciences, and for the benefit of humanity and the profession.

Since 1995, Blanton has worked to create pioneering models to make tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) operate more economically and efficiently in a wide variety of industry sectors.

"Blanton has forged successful collaborations with industrial partners such as Freescale and Analog Devices where MEMS represent significant growth areas for these companies," said ECE Professor Rob Rutenbar, who nominated Blanton for IEEE fellow status.

Ed Schlesinger, head of the ECE Department, praised Blanton for his innovative leadership of the university's internationally recognized silicon systems center.

In February 2008, Blanton took the reins of the center which focuses its attention on all aspects of chip design, from system-level architecture to the physics and modeling of the complexities found in semiconductor manufacturing. Much of the CSSI's current research funding comes from the Semiconductor Research Corp., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation.

In addition to his world-class research, Blanton is an active advocate for bolstering science and engineering education.
Blanton earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Calvin College in 1987 and a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona in 1989. He was awarded a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering in 1995 from the University of Michigan.

Rutenbar Wins Alumni Achievement Award from Wayne State - December 15, 2008

ECE Professor Rob Rutenbar is a 2008 winner of the Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award from his alma mater, Wayne State University. This "Hall of Fame" award is given to alumni who have made significant engineering accomplishments over their post-WSU careers. Rutenbar received the BSECE degree from WSU in 1978.

Rutenbar is currently the Jatras Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Center for Circuit & System Solutions (C2S2), a consortium of universities, chartered by the U.S. semiconductor industry and U.S. government, to address the circuit design challenges that arise as we reach the physical limits of "Moore's Law" semiconductor device scaling.

October 2008

Wu, Marculescu Win Best Paper Award at Computer Design Conference - October 3, 2008

ECE graduate student Kai-Chiang (Alex) Wu and his Ph.D. advisor, associate professor Diana Marculescu, have won a Best Paper Award in the EDA category at the 2008 IEEE Conference on Computer Design. The paper, titled "Power-Aware Soft Error Hardening via Selective Voltage Scaling," will be presented at the conference, which will be held October 12-15 in California.

With continuous technology scaling such as shrinking device sizes, radiation-induced soft errors become increasingly important and need to be mitigated as early in the design as possible. This paper proposes a power-aware methodology using dual supply voltages for soft error mitigation. The overall normalized design penalty per 1% soft error rate reduction is only 0.64%, 1.33X smaller than that of existing state-of-the-art approaches.

September 2008

Larry Pileggi Wins SRC's Aristotle Award for Outstanding Teaching - September 16, 2008

ECE Professor Larry Pileggi has been awarded the prestigious Aristotle Award for 2008 from the Semiconductor Research Corporation. This annual award was established in 1995 to recognize faculty who have had a deep commitment to the educational experience over a long period of time. Pileggi was to have received the award at TECHON 2008 which was scheduled this week in Austin, but cancelled because of Hurricane Ike. Organizers are looking into possibly rescheduling the conference later this year.

Pileggi, the Tanoto Professor of ECE and director of the Center for Silicon System Implementation from 2000-2008, is being recognized for his innovative teaching abilities as evidenced by the outstanding research accomplishments of his students.

"Professor Pileggi is a great teacher and research advisor," said Peng Li, a 2003 graduate of ECE and a professor at Texas A&M University. "It was an invaluable experience to be part of his research team, and to see how he injected his wisdom into projects to ensure that the research stayed on a strategically, well-planned course which led to a successful end," said Li, who nominated Pileggi for the award.

Ed Schlesinger, head of the ECE Department, said the Aristotle Award was created by the Semiconductor Research Corporation to recognize teaching excellence in the broadest sense, emphasizing student advising and teaching during the process.

"Larry continues to raise the bar and set the standard when it comes to creating a highly successful environment that allows all of his students to collaborate and be innovative in a multidisciplinary environment," Schlesinger said.

A visionary, Pileggi has been a pioneer in developing new methods and techniques for various digital and analog integrated circuit design for the competitive semiconductor industry.

"I am both delighted and surprised to win this award," said Pileggi, who began teaching at Carnegie Mellon in 1996.

In addition to this latest accolade, the Semiconductor Research Corporation recently awarded the 2007 Richard A. Newton Industrial Impact Award to Pileggi for his work in the MARCO/DARPA Gigascale Research Center. He has consulted for various semiconductor companies and served as a founder for three companies, including Fabbrix Inc., which was recently acquired by PDF Solutions of San Jose, Calif. Along with his academic responsibilities, Pileggi currently serves as a chief technologist for PDF Solutions.

Before coming to Carnegie Mellon, Pileggi worked for Westinghouse Research and Development, where he was recognized with the corporation's highest engineering achievement award in 1986. He was an accomplished faculty member at the University of Texas from 1989 through 1995.

Pileggi received his master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1984, and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon in 1989.

CSSI 25+ Anniversary Workshop - September 4-5, 2008

Alumni, colleagues, sponsors and friends gathered on September 4-5 to celebrate CSSI-25, a quarter century of innovation and education by the Center for Silicon System Implementation – and its partnership with the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC).

Speakers included Stephen W. Director, the founding director of the SRC-CMU Research Center for Computer-Aided Design, Larry W. Sumney, the first president of the SRC, Ralph K. Cavin III, the first head of the SRC Design Sciences research programs, John Cohn, 1991 alumnus and Chief Scientist, Design Automation at IBM, and John P. Shen, one of the first faculty members in the CAD Center and currently Head of the Nokia Research Center, Palo Alto.

Founded in 1982 as the SRC-CMU Research Center for Excellence in Computer-Aided Design, the CAD Center not only had great impact on the semiconductor industry, but also played a pioneering role in the relationship between universities and industry that we enjoy today.

At the kick-off reception, the history of the Center was summarized by Director, now Provost and Senior Vice President at Northeastern University, and Sumney, who remains President and Chief Executive Officer at the SRC.

Director and Sumney both reminded attendees that the interdisciplinary research and university-industry collaboration at the heart of CSSI today were unheard of when the CAD Center was formed.

“University-industrial partnerships are pretty common today and hardly a college of engineering today would not claim that these concepts are central to their mission,” said Director. “But this was not always the case – it certainly wasn’t 25 years ago when the CAD Center started. In fact, back then there was a serious disconnect between academia and industry – between what academia produced and what the nation’s industry needed.”

American industry was losing its dominance. The Carter administration had approved a government bailout of Chrysler Corporation and the U.S. semiconductor industry was in trouble with market share being rapidly lost to the Japanese.

Rather than asking the government for help, a number of leading semiconductor and computer companies joined forces to form the SRC, designed to fund research at universities in areas specifically of interest to the semiconductor industry and to educate a large number of future employees for the industry.

Sumney, was recruited to the presidency of the SRC after holding several positions with the Department of Defense including overall responsibility for the Very High Speed Integrated Circuits (VHSIC) Program, the largest technology development program in the Department of Defense at the time.

At a board meeting, Sumney presented the idea of centers of excellence and “task level” research, smaller grants to individual faculty for specific research, and a call for proposals went out. The ECE CAD Center was awarded one of the first two centers of excellence beginning the productive relationship with the SRC and it’s industrial affiliates that has endured for the past quarter century.

Ralph Cavin reminded participants of the many successes and awards earned by Center faculty, indicating a legacy of relevance to industry. Cavin noted that the first 13 technical reports published by the SRC were from CMU. Since 1990 when the first SRC technical excellence award was established, a record seven of the 30 awarded have been to Center faculty. And since the Aristotle Award was created in 1995, a record four of the 16 awarded were to Center faculty.

The SRC celebrated it’s 25th year in 2007 and that same year was awarded the National Medal for Technology and Innovation. “We are very very proud of winning the National Technology Medal,” said Cavin. “It’s really an award to the whole community. Without the hard work of universities like Carnegie Mellon and many others we couldn’t have qualified.”

Looking forward Cavin threw out a challenge to today’s Center members – a challenge echoed across the planet – “to rethink our technology and rethink our architectures” to reduce power consumption.

Center alumnus John Cohn (1991), Chief Scientist, Design Automation at IBM, has been featured in previous ECE articles because of his funny and entertaining outreach work with children. But Cohn turned very serious at the reception with his statements about the influence that Center graduates have had on IBM and the entire industry.

“There is a huge alumni club inside of IBM,” said Cohn, who went on to name a long list of people he immediately thought of in connection with various technical areas at IBM. “It's amazing how influential the CMU CAD program has been in shaping the current landscape of CAD. The technology and the people who came from here are absolutely the foundation of our industry. In fact, CMU innovations contribute in a major way to every machine my company ships.”

The growing dominance of mobility devices was part of the topic of John Shen’s keynote speech during the dinner following the opening reception. Shen’s experiences at Intel and now at Nokia places him in an ideal position to discuss all of the problems the industries involved must solve in order to maximize the user experience. Among other things, Shen echoed Cavin’s earlier challenge to researchers to work towards maximizing energy efficiency.

What will the next 25 years bring? “CSSI is addressing the challenges of the future with a diverse group of researchers and students, focusing on the implementation of more capable integrated systems using new types of nano-technologies and devices, fabrication processes, and system-level design methodologies that we are developing,” said ECE Professor Shawn Blanton, director of CSSI. “Going forward, we believe the next twenty-five years will be just as exciting as the first.”

March 2008

ECE Team Takes Third Place in IC Design Challenge Phase One

ECE graduate students Abhishek Jajoo, John Reinke and Leon Wang have been awarded the 3rd prize in the Phase 1 of the 2007-2008 SRC/SIA IC Design Challenge. Their contest entry integrates their Ph.D. research in RF MEMS devices and circuits into an implementable design for "A Tunable Multiband RF MEMS Transceiver Front-End." (More info...)

February 2008

Blanton named director of CSSI

Professor of ECE Shawn Blanton is the new director of the Center for Silicon System Implementation (CSSI). Blanton succeeds Larry Pileggi, Tanoto Professor of ECE, who served as director since 2000.

CSSI is focused on all aspects of chip design spanning the spectrum from system-level architectures to analog/digital circuits, to the physics and the modeling of the complexities found in semiconductor manufacturing.

Blanton joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in 1995 after earning a doctorate in computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. In 2006, he was awarded an Emerald Award for outstanding leadership in recruiting and mentoring minorities for advanced degrees in science and technology. The Emerald Awards, sponsored by Science Spectrum magazine, are recognized as the premier awards for African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans working in the research sciences.

Blanton is the leader of the Carnegie Mellon Laboratory on Integrated Systems Test, which uses the physical design description of integrated circuits to identify and characterize defects. Research results from his lab are currently being employed by companies that include Intel and IBM, and currently being commercialized in the Carnegie Mellon spin-out TestWorks.

CSSI has 18 participating faculty from the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering, and over 60 graduate students.

CSSI was formed in 2000 upon the infrastructure of the Center for Electronic Design Automation (CEDA) which grew out of the Semiconductor Research Corporation-Carnegie Mellon Research Center for Computer-Aided Design founded in 1982.

In his role as director of CSSI, Pileggi re-focused the center on silicon system design and optimization. This led to the center's participation in two FCRP-funded multi-university research centers: The Center for Circuit & System Solutions (C2S2) and The Gigascale Systems Research Center (GSRC). In addition, the CSSI is supported by DARPA, NSF and industry.

Janurary 2008

Singhee, Wang, Calhoun and Rutenbar win Best Paper Award at 2008 VLSI Conference

C2S2 researchers Amith Singhee and Rob A. Rutenbar (CMU), and Jiajing Wang and Benton H. Calhoun (University of Virginia) are winners of the 2008 Best Student Paper Award at the 21st International Conference on VLSI Design. Their paper, "Recursive Statistical Blockade: An Enhanced Technique for Rare Event Simulation with Application to SRAM Circuit Design," extends the teams highly visible work on ultra-fast analysis of memory circuits to handle extremely difficult "rare event" statistics.

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