Logo: University of Southern California

Electronic Research Group

Electronics Research Group

The ERG engages in a broad variety circuit and system design projects.  Its primary focus is the computationally efficient analysis, design, fabrication, and testing of broadband analog and high speed digital integrated circuits.  Its basic philosophy is that a circuit or an electronic system boasting laudable performance is not, in and of itself, an acceptable basis of a thesis dissertation.  Instead, a well-designed circuit or system is a pathfinding accomplishment only if it confirms the propriety and validity of a fundamental theory or postulate.  In other words, the theory or postulate, which may take the form of a new device model, a new macro-model, a new computational tool, an analytical approach proffered to highlight design–oriented insights, an innovative circuit layout or circuit packaging strategy, and so forth, is the research thesis, while the circuit itself comprises the experimental tool that confirms thesis propriety, utility, and applicability.
Several examples of completed or continuing projects, each conducted along the foregoing academic restrictions, can be cited.  These projects include a CMOS technology phase locked loop that boasts a dramatic reduction of phase noise caused by power supply problems and a remarkably efficient macro-model that promotes analytical effectiveness and simplicity.  Another example is a low cost sigma–delta converter, also in CMOS, that promises to satisfy a myriad of commercial applications.  Still other projects are a 16-bit sigma–delta data converter for hearing aid applications, and a high performance phase locked loop in silicon–germanium technology.  Integrated circuit filters are pursued vigorously for the purpose of realizing high Q, low noise, predictable on chip performance.  To the latter end, the basic mechanisms for potential instability in OTA–C filters have been identified, and new design architectures circumventing these instability mechanisms are currently undergoing development.  Other projects include circumvention of distributed on chip and packaging parasitic phenomena, multi-loop feedback in RF communication system applications, ultra wideband communication circuits and systems, high speed pulse networks for communication system testing purposes, and signal processing circuits for optoelectronic networks.  In the near term, projects in microelectronic machines, microfluidic structures, and nanoelectronic structures are contemplated.  Each of these projects will be described in further qualitative detail in succeeding newsletter editions.
The graduate student pursuing research in analog integrated circuits and systems research completes at least sixty (60) units of coursework beyond the academic requirements of the baccalaureate electrical engineering degree.  Approximately one-half of these units concentrate on circuit theory and design.  The subject matter to which these thirty or so units of formal courses concentrate include integrated bipolar, MOSFET, and BiCMOS circuit design, wideband integrated CMOS circuit design, advanced circuit theory, integrated analog and digital MOS technology circuit design, mixed signal VLSI concepts and design, integrated circuit layout, and microprocessor system applications.  Additionally, ERG students are afforded an opportunity to complete coursework in the material sciences and solid-state devices.  The remaining graduate coursework requirement reflects the philosophy that circuits are merely the technological vehicles that enable the realization of practical electronic and electrical systems.  Accordingly, students working in the ERG complete approximately twenty units of coursework in such areas as computer engineering, communication systems, computer engineering, and control systems.
Aside from its focus on electrical engineering graduate students, the ERG is an academic home for outstanding undergraduate electrical engineering students who support various research projects.  Several of these students are University Trustee Scholars, School of Engineering Merit Scholars, or School of Engineering Honors Students.  They are recruited for the assistance they provide to expedite a research project and for the purposes of teaching them the meaning of research, illustrating the crucial role that research plays in sustaining educational excellence in both the baccalaureate and the graduate educational programs, and providing them the quality faculty advisement and mentoring that conduces professional success and self-satisfaction.