Prairie View A&M, TEES receive $1 million NSF grant

by Susan E. Cotton
TEES Communications

Researchers will use the grant to model and characterize mixed signal systems that can overcome the challenges of ever-smaller sizes.

This research will provide a strong tie between Prairie View A&M and the high-tech industry.

(Prairie View)—Four faculty members in the electrical engineering department at Prairie View A&M University were awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a research project on modeling and testing of advanced mixed signal systems.  

They are Drs. John Attia, Matthew Sadiku, Cajetan Akujuobi and Lijun Qian. Their project began on Sept. 1, 2005, and will end in August 2008.

The grant was given through the NSF project Historically Black Colleges and Universities—Research Infrastructure in Science and Engineering.

The project's goal is to enhance research at historically black schools that award doctoral degrees in science and engineering.

Mixed signal circuits are found in medical instruments and military, space and telecommunication systems. Advanced mixed signal systems of the future will have increased chip speed and reduced operating voltage.

However, as the feature size of semiconductor devices becomes very small, mixed signal systems face technological challenges such as increased crosstalk noise, low noise margin and increased susceptibility to radiation.

The grant will allow the researchers to model and characterize low-power, high-speed and anti-radiation-capable mixed signal systems for the next generation of wireless network applications.

This project will build on the existing research work in mixed signal testing methodologies at the Texas Instruments Analog Mixed Signal Laboratory at Prairie View. Texas Instruments Inc. has supported the lab for the past five years. Expansion of the current mixed signal reseach work will include the study of crosstalk, power management and radiation effects in advanced mixed signal systems.

Through the research project, Attia, Sadiku, Akujuobi and Qian expect to develop additional relationships with companies that manufacture mixed signal circuits.

This research will provide a strong tie between Prairie View A&M and the high-tech industry in the area of mixed signal systems. With the grant, Attia, Sadiku, Akujuobi and Qian will increase the infrastructure for mixed signal systems research at the university. In August 2005, the university opened a $12 million, 48,787 square-foot electrical engineering facility that houses much of its engineering research and laboratories.

"We hope by the end of this project to be in a position to get a center for the study of mixed signal systems and be one of the world leaders doing research in mixed signal systems," said Attia, electrical engineering department head and this project's principal investigator.

The grant allows Prairie View A&M to train undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students through research and hands-on experience and to enhance the current analog mixed signal techniques courses. Another benefit of this award is that it will provide a variety of topics for teams of students to work on their senior design projects.

"In addition,  the grant will help us attract more master's and doctoral students, and we may be able to write supplementary grants to provide more research experience to our undergraduate students," Attia said.

The Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), another member of the A&M System and the engineering research agency of Texas, administers this grant.

"TEES has worked to create a substantial partnership with Prairie View A&M University and is pleased that efforts are bringing federal dollars to engineering in Texas that will benefit the citizens of the state," said Dr. Theresa Maldonado, associate director of TEES and dean of research for Texas A&M Engineering. "This funding will enhance Prairie View’s new electrical engineering Ph.D. program, and TEES looks forward to further developing ideas for funding proposals with the institution."