ECE Students Win NDSEG Fellowships

 Awards Granted to John Reinke and Nicholas O'Donoughue

July 9, 2007

ECE students John Reinke and Nicholas O'Donoughue were selected for the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, which will cover their tuition and stipends over three years. Alumnus Daniel Weller (B.S. 2006) also qualified for the honor and will use his fellowship at MIT, where he is a graduate student in electrical engineering. Students at or near the beginning of doctoral study in science or engineering compete nationally for the awards, which are funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). According to the program's website, the primary goal of the fellowship is "to provide the United States with talented, doctorally-trained American men and women who will lead state-of-the-art research projects in disciplines of greatest benefit to national defense."

Spending two summers interning at Honeywell's primary research center, John Reinke was exposed to several microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) projects, including a chip-scale atomic clock, a MEMS gyroscope, and a liquid gallium switch. His experience led him to pursue graduate study in the MEMS Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon designing radio frequency (RF) micromechanical switches and tunable capacitors made in foundry complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) processes.

"John has made rapid progress toward robust tunable capacitive designs directly using the CMOS back-end-of-line metal-dielectric layers as the mechanical elements," said Gary Fedder, Wilkoff Professor of ECE, who co-advises John along with ECE Professor Tamal Mukherjee. "In a further challenge, John is leveraging the lessons learned from the tunable capacitors by incorporating appropriate metal layers to create RF DC [direct current] switches," he added.

"One of the key distinctions of my research is that I can fabricate a mechanical device with the same process used to create conventional electronics," John said.

Professor Fedder described the applications of John's research: "RF MEMS are becoming increasingly important to the DoD and the general population in future cognitive radio applications for agile tuning of spectral bands," he said.

"Integrating RF MEMS with CMOS electronics on the same chip leads to higher quality and more cost-effective communication systems," John expanded.

The recipient of the ECE Department's Leo Finzi Memorial Fellowship for 2006-2007, John earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities. His hometown is Plymouth, Minnesota, which is a suburb of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He hopes to work in industry upon graduation.

Nicholas O'Donoughue conducts research in signal processing applications and algorithms in the Time Reversal Imaging Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon. His studies focus on creating novel algorithms to improve the resolution and applicability of radar imaging through time reversal techniques. This new methodology has applications of interest to national defense, because it may be used to detect objects that are buried under heavy clutter, such as under forest canopies.

"In the few months Nick has been with us, he has made significant contributions both to the development and implementation of new imaging algorithms and to their testing with real radar imaging data that he helped to collect in our own laboratory," said his advisor, José Moura, Professor of ECE and BME.

"Carnegie Mellon is a vital part of my development and decision process; I'm learning how to do research as well as the complexities of the fields that interest me," explained Nicholas. "I'm taking coursework to help me decide which career path to take, and through my research experience at Carnegie Mellon I will be ready to do great things with my career."

Earning his B.S. in computer engineering with a minor in mathematics from Villanova University last year, Nicholas spent the past two summers as an intern with the Space & Terrestrial Communications Directorate (S&TCD) of the United States Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

On campus, Nicholas is a student member of the IEEE, the manager of the volunteer rewards program for the ECE Graduate Student Organization (EGO), and a right wing in the Carnegie Mellon ice hockey club. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, he hopes to one day either be employed for a defense contractor doing signal processing for radar and communication systems, or to work on biomedical applications for signal processing.

ECE students John Reinke (left) and Nicholas O'Donoughue won NDSEG Fellowships.


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