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ECE Doctoral Graduate Ran Wang Wins International Award

Duke becomes first university to win competitive IEEE honor for a second time

Ran Wang, a 2016 graduate of Duke University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) PhD program, has won the 2016 IEEE Test Technology Technical Council's E. J. McCluskey Doctoral Thesis Award—an award given annually after an international competition for the best PhD thesis in the field. Wang’s doctoral thesis, titled “Testing of Interposer-Based 2.5D Integrated Circuits,” outlines methods for testing and verifying the functionality of an emerging microchip architecture.

As modern microprocessors continue to increase in density while shrinking in size, they are beginning to approach hard physical limits. As technology companies struggle to fit more transistors in a flat, confined area, many are beginning to go vertical.

Stacking microprocessors on top of one another to create 3D architectures promises to provide a leap forward in the number of connections and logic operations available to a processor. As is true for many technological leaps, however, it is easier said than done.

As an intermediate step, many researchers are exploring so-called “2.5D” architectures, where computer scientists network microprocessors together through a base layer of connectivity called an interposer. Wang’s thesis presents methods to test and locate defects in these new, complicated computer architectures.

Researchers have validated Wang’s results outside of simulations on silicon chips at AMD and NVIDIA, and commercial companies have used his methods in the design-for-test architectures for 2.5D microchips. His work has also led to successful defect screening for an interposer manufactured by GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

“In terms of the significance and timeliness of his work, the quality and volume of his publications, the relevance to industry and demonstrations of transition to industry practice, and the impact of his work on the community at large, Ran has few peers,” said Krishnendu Chakrabarty, the William H. Younger Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Duke and Wang’s advisor. “I am thrilled that the award committee decided to reward him for his excellent PhD thesis.”

The McCluskey Doctoral Thesis Award involves two stages. The first sees doctoral students compete at three separate international symposiums. The winners from these events then compete at the International Test Conference, held this year November 15-17 in Fort Worth, Texas. The award’s intent is to promote impactful doctoral student work, provide students with exposure to the community and prospective employers, and support interaction between academia and industry in the field of test technology.

Wang is the second Duke ECE doctoral student to win the award recently, as Mahmut Yilmaz received the award in 2009, marking the first time one university has had two winners of the award. Duke was close to a third winner in 2008 as well, as ECE student Sudarshan Bahukudumbi was a runner-up that year.