System-on-Chip (SoC) Design

The incessant march of Moore’s Law, which has enabled exponential growth in the number of transistors in integrated circuits, has culminated in System-on-Chips (SoCs) where many functions of an electronic system are integrated into a single chip. Most modern computing and electronic systems are powered by SoCs, from mobile phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to servers in the cloud. As a result, SoCs represent the fastest-growing segment of the semiconductor industry. Complex SoCs contain billions to tens of billions of transistors integrating microprocessors, graphics processing units (GPUs), accelerators, memory, and a host of off-chip interfaces, all on a single chip. Due to the complexity and diversity of modern SoCs, their design teams need to be competent in design at various levels of abstraction (from the system architecture level to the circuit level) and able to think across traditional boundaries such as hardware and software.

Potential employers for students focusing on this topic include not only the traditional semiconductor and hardware companies, such as Intel, ARM, Cisco, Qualcomm, Broadcom, TI, NVIDIA, NXP, AMD, etc., but also vertically-integrated system design houses (Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, IBM) and a range of startups.

Along with faculty advisors, each student will design his or her Plan of Study. Students are encouraged to pick courses that give them an overall view of considerations involved in SoC Design, along with a set of courses that give them specialization in one or more of digital circuits, analog circuits, or digital systems. In addition, students should ensure that their course selection includes courses that strengthen their hands-on hardware and software implementation skills. Students can obtain breadth by taking courses that give them an improved understanding of semiconductor devices and IC fabrication as well as courses that focus on algorithms and emerging application domains such as machine learning, video processing, etc.

Relevant Courses

Each student will consult with faculty advisors and develop a Plan of Study tailored for their goals and background.  Some relevant courses for this technical topic are listed below.

Technical Concentration (12 credits)

ECE 43700 Computer Design and Prototyping (4 credits)
ECE 69500 System-on-Chip Design (3 credits)
ECE 55900 MOS VLSI Design (3 credits)
ECE 59500 Digital Systems Design Automation (3 credits)
ECE 56500 Computer Architecture (3 credits)
ECE 56800 Embedded Systems (3 credits)
ECE 69500 Advanced VLSI Design (3 credits)
ECE 68800 VLSI Testing and Verification (3 credits)
ECE 59500 CMOS Analog IC Design (3 credits)
ECE 69500 High-Speed Mixed Signal IC Design (3 credits)

Technical Breadth (6 credits)

ECE 59500 Primer on Semiconductor Fundamentals (1 credit)
ECE 59500 Essentials of MOSFETs (1 credit)
ECE 59500 Primer on Analysis of Experimental Data & Design of Experiments (1 credit)
ECE 59500 Applied Algorithms (3 credits)
ECE 60800 Computational Models and Methods (3 credits)
ECE 59500 Machine Learning - I (3 credits)
ECE 59500 Microfabrication Fundamentals (1 credit)
ECE 59500 Primer on RF Design (1 credit)
ECE 30862 Object-Oriented Programming in C++ and Java (3 credits)
ECE 56300 Programming Parallel Machines (3 credits)

Mathematics (3 credits)

MA 51100 Linear Algebra
MA 52700 Advanced Mathematics for Engineers and Physicists - I

Ideas to Innovation Project and Skills Development (9 credits)

Several of the project ideas listed are relevant to this technical focus.

30 credits total