Macquarie Uni and Analog Devices partner on engineering lab
Macquarie University’s School of Engineering has partnered with semiconductor company Analog Devices to launch the Macquarie and Analog Devices Teaching and Research Laboratory (MADTRL) — an initiative to bring industrial experience into Macquarie University in order to better prepare the next generation of engineers.
As explained by the School of Engineering’s Professor Michael Heimlich, “Traditionally, undergraduate engineering education has been structured around classroom theory, laboratory exercises and a relatively disconnected industry placement or internship system.
“Similarly, Masters and PhD work is typically done in an academic setting with inputs and arms-length interactions with the ‘real world’ at best.”
Emerging applications ranging from 5G mobile networks to low Earth orbit satellite constellations will require new design paradigms to meet their technical needs and cost constraints. Analog Devices’ Senior Director of Engineering, John Cowles, said he hopes the partnership will help develop the next generation of microwave and millimetre-wave integrated circuit (MMIC) designers to meet the demand.
“Macquarie University has a history of world-class MMIC design and modelling expertise,” he said.
“Bringing these technical skills closer to real product development is critical towards accelerating the introduction of next-generation technologies into emerging high-frequency applications. The merging of design innovation with world-class manufacturing is what makes this partnership so exciting.”
The lab aims to address the mismatch between existing educational pathways and industry needs, by reversing the tradition of sending students out to industry. Instead, industry is being invited into the university.
“Half a dozen or more engineers with industry experience will be embedded within MADTRL and provide mentoring to dozens of students across the entire degree spectrum,” said Professor Heimlich.
“And Macquarie University researchers will be providing cutting-edge computer-aided design, modelling and measurement technology to continually push the circuit design capability forward.”
“Australia in general, and Macquarie University in particular, is one of the few places in the world where there is a relatively high degree of expertise in MMIC design,” said Macquarie University Professor of Electronics Simon Mahon.
“Universities and employers haven’t been interested in this skillset in the last 20 years, preferring to work on radiofrequency system-on-chips (SoCs) which, while sharing some challenges with MMICs, are significantly different in the skillset they require.”
Macquarie University, however, was a pioneer in wireless computing 20 years ago and has maintained its specialist expertise in that space. Due to the university’s history in helping CSIRO commercialise Wi-Fi, and its expertise in semiconductor measurement, modelling and circuit design, it has an invaluable combination that exists nowhere else.
“It’s a trinity of expertise,” said Professor Mahon. “Good circuit design for millimetre-wave is a rare skill, and we have the world expert in the mathematics and measurement of transistors, Professor Tony Parker.
“We’ve found ourselves in a highly advantageous position to be able to capitalise on the needs of companies like Analog Devices.”
MADTRL will be augmented by additional research from other partners and also undertake foundational teaching in electronics, to create a self-sustaining critical mass of university–industry engineering activity.
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