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Spring 2004

News from McGill In Focus - Spring 2004 edition

The official dedication of the Lorne M. Trottier Building took place on March 26, 2004. The celebration brought major benefactors to campus to view the completed project. Professors and students led tours of the recently furnished facilities.

With the new building comes space and facilities for two new programs, one in microelectronics and other in software engineering. There are classrooms on the first three levels, and a large auditorium on Level 0. A cafeteria is situated on level 1, and students can work on their laptops in the wireless environment of the comfortable lounge, located on the second floor.

Teaching laboratories and large numbers of open-access computer workstations occupy the upper three floors, with dedicated labs - circuit labs, for example - assigned to specific courses. The open work areas are comfortably furnished and spacious, where students can work independently. Adjacent to these work areas are breakout rooms where students can work on group projects, experiments and assignments. There is no equivalent to these work areas anywhere else in the Engineering Complex, and they have become so popular that student and faculty members of space committees are lobbying to establish similar work and study spaces in the other Engineering buildings.

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Trottier Awarded Prix du Québec

Hearty congratulations from all in the Faculty to Lorne Trottier, BEng'70(Elec), MEng'73(Elec), who received the prix Lionel-Boulet in November 2003. The prize is one of 11 prix du Québec awarded each year by the Government of Quebec for outstanding contributions to culture and science. Trottier was recognized for his contributions to the technological advancement of society and to the development of the IT sector in Quebec. At McGill, this contribution is exemplified by the building that bears his name, where future generations of IT professionals have access to courses and equipment that will give them an edge in the growing IT job market.

Trottier co-founded Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd. in 1976. The company's computer graphics accelerators and other products are widely used in homes, industry and business. Since 1998, Trottier has been a director of Montreal TechnoVision, an association of Montreal's high-tech companies. He is a member of Canadian Advanced Technology Association (CATA), and lobbied the Quebec government to increase funding for education in the IT sector. He has devoted time and energy to serving on the Engineering Faculty Advisory Board, and is a member of the McGill Board of Governors and its Finance Committee.

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ECE News

New hires in the Department have raised teaching staff numbers above 40. Professor Richard Rose, who works in the areas of digital signal processing and automatic speech recognition, joined the Department in September of 2003. Professor Shie Mannor, who studies automatic control, and Professor Anas Hamoui, who works in the area of electromagnetics, will take up their positions in June. The Department is also seeking to fill positions in software engineering and nanotechnology.

In October 2003, Professors Tho Le-Ngoc (Principal investigator) and Benoit Champagne were awarded a Collaborative Research and Development Grant, worth nearly $600,000, from NSERC, with industrial partner Bell Canada. The research, which will span three years, will contribute to improving the throughput and efficiency of Bell's copper access network, making it possible to reach more subscribers with higher data rates.

Professor Gordon W. Roberts was elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for contributions to the design and test of analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits, and to education. Ken Fraser was named an IEEE Life Member. In December 2003, Professors Benoit Boulet and Mourad El-Gamal were named William Dawson Scholars. In January of this year, Peter Caines was named a James McGill Professor.

A new multi-university Microelectronics Program, in collaboration with École Polytechnique and the Université de Sherbrooke, has been approved at the university level. PhD candidate Mona Safi-Harb is the recipient of the 2003 Annual Micronet Workshop Best Paper Award for her paper entitled "Low power Sigma-Delta ADCS for ADSL Applications in 0.18 micron CMOS Technology." Postdoctoral student Jose Arroyo is the recipient of a Tomlinson Postdoctoral Award. And Gabriel Menard and Eric Vigeant won a student design competition at the Audio Engineering Society Convention held in October in New York. The duo designed a digital power amplifier.

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A Machine Shop for the 21st Century

McGill Engineers are machining tools with size tolerances of between one-millionth and one-billionth of a metre, which is to say, they've gone nano

A collaborative effort amongst researchers from the Department of Mining, Metals and Materials, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics has established Canada's foremost nanoscience research lab. The machining process may be thought of as micro-lithography; as professor Andrew Kirk, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, explains, "You first apply a coat of photoresist to the material you want to structure, say a silicon or glass wafer. Then you expose it to light through a mask that has the pattern you want to transfer. After development, the areas that were exposed to the light will remain covered with the photoresist. Now is ready for etching."

One etching process, which Kirk calls "plasma etching", makes it possible to create sharp edges on microscopic - or rather, nanoscopic - structure. "It's basically patterning with light," says Kirk. "And you repeat the process until you get what you want: pattern - develop - etch, pattern - develop - etch."

The new facilities, located in the M.H. Wong Building and the Rutherford Physics Building, were funded with $9 million from the private and public sectors. They operate under the direction of the McGill Institute for Advanced Meterials (www.miam.mcgill.ca). At the heart of the lab's 8,000 square feet of space is a micromachining facility situated in a "clean room," where dust and other fine particles that could interfere with the machining processes are kept to a minimum.

Other features of the nano complex are a unique atomic manipulation facility that allows researchers to construct devices atom by atom, and a Beowulf supercomputer, with over 700 processors, used for the modelling of nanomaterials.