The New England Center for Analog and Mixed Signal Design at WPI


Allegro Microsystems [Worcester, MA]

Analog Devices [Wilmington, MA]

BAE Systems [Nashua, NH]

Texas Instruments (formerly Unitrode) [Manchester, NH]


There is a long tradition of industry-sponsored research and project work in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at WPI. In the Analog / Mixed Signal Microelectronics Research Laboratory, for example, several companies have sponsored graduate research and/or senior project work. This type of work is usually targeted to a specific application. For example: The result of this kind of work is an information flow similar to that shown in Figure 1. The targeted nature of the research leads to a close coupling between the sponsoring company and the Analog Lab. However, due to the targeted nature of the work, an opportunity for synergistic coupling of information flow is lost. This is a shame, since (ultimately) all of the work in the Analog Lab is linked by a common theme: understanding fundamental performance limitations (speed, power, noise sources) in "real world application" circuits and systems. The National Science Foundation has recognized the importance of this approach, and has awarded three grants totalling almost $500,000 toward equipment and research in the Analog Lab.

The purpose of this Center is to take advantage of this common theme, and to create an environment where all sponsors can take maximum advantage of their common interest in mixed signal integrated circuit and system design. The goal is an environment in which information and contact can flow freely among all members, as shown in Figure 2.

Note that this center is intended to complement targeted research, not replace it. The Center faculty and laboratory facilities will continue to be available for separately funded, company-specific graduate research. Companies wishing to sponsor targeted research will benefit from membership in the Center, since students working in the Center will be familiar with the relevant areas of technology, giving them a "head start" in the early phase of their research.

A more detailed description of the Center is available in this presentation (PDF format 37K).

Mission Statement

WPI will create a center for research into all aspects of mixed signal integrated circuit and system design. The Center will be supported by a collaborative contribution from companies with a presence in New England. The Center will support the complete mixed signal integrated circuit and system design process: The center will be a tremendous enabling resource for students to "complete the loop" for the entire mixed signal integrated circuit and system design process - just the way it's done in the "real world".

Research and project topics will be proposed by the member companies. An industry Advisory Board, composed of representatives from the member companies, will make the final decision regarding which projects will be supported.


There will be numerous benefits for the member companies:
Access to graduating seniors, M.S. students
Each year there will be about 15 students working in the lab, on a combination of research and project work in mixed signal  design.
Increase pool of students with mixed signal design experience
Experience has shown that an active research center creates an atmosphere of excitement and student interest in the center's field. Even for students who are not working directly in the lab, there will be an increase in interest for mixed signal design.
More awareness of your company among all students in ECE
Similarly, an active research center creates an atmosphere of excitement about the companies who are sponsoring research and project work. This helps to create a positive "word-of-mouth" among students that has proven to be a far more effective recommendation for your company than any brochure!
Influence direction of research
For member companies with an expertise in specific subdisciplines of mixed signal design, membership in the Center offers an opportunity to influence the choice of research projects, and thus the direction of future research.
Awareness of and access to new technologies
Participation in the Center's research activites is a quick, low-cost way for member companies to get "up to speed" in other new areas of technology development
Influence curriculum development
New graduate courses are constantly under development to serve the needs of ongoing research in the department.
Twice-yearly meetings offer a chance to get together with your colleagues from other companies.


Advisory board

The Industrial Advisory Board consists of representatives from each member company. The Advisory Board meets twice each year, to review progress in ongoing research and choose projects for future research. Companies may send as many representatives as desired to the Advisory Board Meetings; however, the payment of membership fees determines how many votes the company has in the process for determining the research projects to be supported (see "Choosing Research/Projects for Upcoming Year" below).


Membership requires payment of an annual fee of $35,000. All membership fees support the research activities of the Center - no indirect costs are charged.


The general purpose of the twice-yearly meetings are to present completed research, update status for ongoing work, and choose future research topics.

Fall Meeting

The fall meeting, which takes place in early October, is more oriented toward determining general research priorities, and updating status of work in progress.
Status of Work in Progress
Graduate research projects will typically have been in progress for at least six months, so there will be a substantial amount of progress to report. The function of the student presentation will be similar to a critical design review (although not nearly so exhaustive in scope), since critical project milestones (for example, tapeout for IC fabrication) are often scheduled to occur soon after the fall meeeting.
Undergraduate projects will have been in progress for only one month, so the function of the presentation is to make sure that the students have begun their project "on the right track."
Determining General Research Priorities
At this meeting, member companies provide input regarding what research and project areas are of importance to them. Then the members and the Center faculty will work together to come up with a number of different project proposals. Given that there are multiple projects in progress at a time (at least four undergraduate and a varying number of graduate projects), it is hoped that a dozen or more project ideas could be generated at the fall meeting. In the time between the fall and spring meeting, the Center faculty will recruit students for various projects, so that informed decisions regarding choice of projects can be made at the spring meeting.

Spring Meeting

The spring meeting, which takes place in mid-April, is oriented toward presentation of work that is being completed, and choosing the work to be done in the coming year.
Presentation of Completed Work: Poster Session
The results of student research projects will be presented at a poster session. This gives the students exposure to a formal presentation environment, while maintaining an atmosphere that allows industry representatives to mix with several different groups of students.
The poster session will also be open to undergraduates and graduate students; indeed, the event will be advertised to them and their attendance will be encouraged. This will provide "recruiting" opportunities for the projects that will take place in the upcoming year. First year grad students will get a chance to see the type of research that is in progress at the Center. Juniors will also have a chance to see the type of senior project work that is being done.
Choosing Research/Projects for Upcoming Year
The Center faculty will present the proposed projects for the coming year, as well as any other information that might be relevant to the project selection process - for example, if a particularly outstanding student had expressed an interest in a certain proposed project.
After the faculty presentations are completed, the Advisory Board will vote on which projects will be carried out. Each membership is entitled to a number of votes equal to the total number of projects that will be supported.
For example, if there are to be 4 undergraduate projects and 4 graduate projects, then each membership would have 8 votes to cast among the possible projects. The top 4 projects in each category that received the most votes would be the projects that would proceed. Companies can pay for multiple memberships if desired, which would provide them with proportionally more votes in the selection process.

Research Areas

The initial goal for quantity of research will be 4 senior projects and 4 graduate students per year. This should be sustainable given the anticipated membership and personnel. Following is a description of the types of work that will be undertaken.

Graduate Research

It is anticipated that most of the graduate work will be Master's (MSEE) level work, with a project duration of 2 years. The student will receive Center support (tuition plus stipend) for a 12-month period, usually at the end of the M.S. thesis process. Follow this link for an overview of the typical path to the M.S. degree.

We will certainly be open to the possibility of Ph.D.-level work when appropriate - for example, if a "big research" project and a student seeking the Ph.D. coincide. In general, however, the "pure research" type of projects traditionally associated with the Ph.D. will not be the prime focus of the Center's research activities.  For examples of previous projects, an archive of selected MS thesis work is available.

Undergraduate Project Work

Undergraduate projects in mixed signal microelectronics typically involve design, fabrication, and test of application circuitry for mixed signal ICs.  For examples of previous work, an archive of selected project reports is available.

Following is a typical timetable for a senior project that would involve design, fabrication, and test of application circuitry for an integrated circuit.  Note that the selection process begins prior to the senior year, allowing companies the option of bringing one or more students into a summer internship if desired.

Typical Timeline for an Undergraduate Project
Time Period

October Fall Meeting
Propose Projects
January -
Recruit three-student project teams
April Spring Meeting
Choose projects to be supported
Opportunity for student internship at sponsoring company (optional)

August -
Complete background research and preliminary design specifications in preparation for October meeting
October Fall Meeting
Present project status to Advisory Board
November -
Complete design and fabrication of prototype hardware
January -
Test system
Complete project report documentation
April Spring Meeting
Presentation of results to Advisory Board

Faculty and Research / Advising Interests

Steve Bitar

  • Analog Electronics
  • Power Electronics
  • Automotive (Sensor and Actuator) Electronics

Rick Brown

  • Signal processing applications
  • Cooperative communication in networks
  • Interference mitigation for multi-user communication systems
  • Adaptive channel equalization

Susan Jarvis

  • Embedded Systems
  • Microcontroller-based Mixed Signal Systems

Reinhold Ludwig

  • RF circuit design
  • Electromagnetic/ acoustic sensors
  • Electromagnetic and acoustic Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE)

John McNeill

  • Mixed signal integrated circuit design.
  • Self-calibrating ADCs


Analog Lab

The Analog / Mixed Signal Microelectronics Research Laboratory comprises instrumentation, workstations, and software for the complete integrated circuit design process. Full CAD software tools are available for schematic capture, simulation, layout, parasitic extraction, and layout-vs.-schematic verification. Fabrication facilities are available through MOSIS and the industry partners. The equipment required to test the fabricated circuits (thereby verifying the design principles and completing the design process) has been purchased with a grant awarded by the National Science Foundation under the CISE Research Instrumentation Grant program. The lab is a tremendous enabling resource for test and evaluation to "complete the loop" for the design process. Since the instrumentation capability extends to 2.5GHz speeds, this lab will be a valuable resource for many years to come. A "Virtual Tour" of the Analog Lab is available, covering the instrumentation in the lab and the various measurement capabilities provided.