Joe Carthy - ME in Computer and Electronic Engineering

My name is Joe Carthy, and I am currently in my first year of an ME in Computer and Electronic Engineering at UCD. Last year, I had the chance to go on exchange at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop both personally and academically.

While at UIUC, I heard about the Naughton Research fellowship and immediately thought that it was a great opportunity to get experience doing research at a top-class university. I then began to look at the possible research areas available and became interested in the idea of working with Professor Greg Snider in the area of low energy circuits. I wrote my application, with this research area in mind and was thrilled when I heard that it had been successful!

A couple of months passed, and then I was flying into South Bend, anxious to begin my research placement. As soon as I stepped foot on campus at Notre Dame I was blown away by the beauty of the university, and I can still remember the picturesque walk to Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering on my first day of work.

Once I arrived, I was warmly welcomed, first by Heidi Deethardt, who had been organizing the placement on the Notre Dame side, and then by the research team that I would be joining for what would soon be the best summer of my life. The next few days passed by in a blur, as I began to meet all the other Naughton fellows and other undergraduate researchers who had also arrived at the university for the summer, and as I began to find my feet with my research group.

Over the following weeks at the university, I began to get involved with different activities, such as talks from guest lecturers to us summer undergraduate researchers, and I also began to delve into research. My research group were amazing, and they enabled me to not only learn about the type of research they were conducting, but also made sure to get me up to speed quickly so that I could offer a meaningful contribution to the research they were conducting, by working on a research project with the group.

My project involved the design and testing of adiabatic circuits. An adiabatic circuit operates using reversible logic in order to reduce the amount of heat that it dissipates. This can reduce the amount of heat dissipated due to Landauer’s Principle, which states that there is no lower limit to the heat dissipated when performing reversible operations.

Adiabatic circuits can be tricky to test because the design process is different to conventional circuits. In conventional circuit design, you write code that describes your circuit in a HDL, or hardware description language. This code is easy to test, and it is relatively simple to verify that a circuit will operate correctly. Then the tested physical layout that will be fabricated can be easily generated from this code using automated tools. These automated tools do not exist for adiabatic circuits, making the creation and testing process more complex.

In order to create adiabatic circuits, it is necessary to design the layout, that would normally be auto-generated, by hand. This is a tedious process as a simple circuit could have thousands of components that now must all be designed by hand. Once the layout is complete, testing it directly is also tedious. Tests are awkward to set up and take a long time to run compared to the tests that are run on conventional circuits designed with a HDL. My research involved coming up with a method for directly testing the physical layouts using a HDL.

Throughout the summer, my entire research group offered me great support, especially one of the PhD students in the group, Rene Celis Cordova, and the two professors, Alexei Orlov and Greg Snider. Our team met every Monday to discuss the current status of our research, and these meetings gave us undergraduate researchers in the group great exposure to all of the activities of the research group. I was also given the chance to present on research papers to the group, which was awesome.

Throughout the summer I developed my knowledge of SystemVerilog and also gained a lot of knowledge in the area of Semiconductor physics. This knowledge has been really helpful now that I am back in UCD!

I would encourage any students considering the Naughton Fellowship and research in Notre Dame to definitely apply, because the opportunity to travel to America for the summer and apply your engineering skills that this fellowship offers is amazing. I would also like to thank UCD for nominating me for the fellowship, NDNano, and my research group for welcoming me to Notre Dame, and of course the Naughtons for establishing and funding the fellowship. It was an incredible summer, and the memories that I made will never be forgotten.