Northwestern Hosts Cross-layer Computing Summer School: Circuits to System

Underrepresented students received a broad look at computer engineering: circuits, CAD, architecture, embedded systems.

The Summer School workshop on Computer Architecture and Circuits was held on August 16-17, 2018 at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. 35 students from all over the US and Canada with different research interests and diverse backgrounds participated in an agenda featuring a mix of technical talks and career development activities spread over the both days.

Through the generous sponsorship of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W), the workshop's primarily audience encompassed women and under-represented minorities who are currently enrolled in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering programs with an interest on computer architecture, circuits, and system research.

"For junior and senior undergraduates, the aim is to have them consider graduate school in computer engineering. For current graduate students, the workshop gives them advice for excelling in graduate school and possibly pursuing a PhD degree, while teaching critical skills in communication, getting started in research, building self-confidence, and networking," said Russell Joseph, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and the workshop's Co-organizer.

Diversity matters! Tech degree production shows significant gaps to close for women and minorities, while a lack of representation marginalizes underserved audiences with jobs in STEM (specifically tech) that are increasingly in high demand. This vicious cycle results in a lack of role models, which discourages women/minorities from pursuing tech careers and results in a missed opportunity for diverse teams to perform exciting work together.

Well established researchers from industry and academia gave technical talks that highlighted exciting current research topics. Speakers also sprinkled in some insights and lessons that they have learned in their careers. 

Featured Speakers and topics, included:

  • Tanay Karnik (Intel), "Challenges with Realizing a Dream IOT System"
  • Daniel Jimenez (TAMU), "How Conferences Work"
  • Panel Discussion: "Climbing the ladders: Getting into Graduate Schools, Finding Industrial Jobs, Interns"
  • Matthew Ziegler (IBM), "Deep Learning Acceleration: Opportunities Across the Stack"
  • Carole-Jean Wu (ASU/Facebook), "Delivering Accelerated Performance and Energy Efficiency Improvement with Heterogeneous Systems"
  • Panel Discussion: "Getting Ready for Research"
  • Josiah Hester (NU), "Gracefully Handling Failure in Computing", Panel Discussion: "School Daze: Dealing with Advisers, Labmates, and Networking"
  • Sule Ozev (ASU), "Engineering Smart Nets for Sustainable Fisheries"
  • Dan Lustig (NVIDIA), "Using Academic Research to Build a Better GPU"
  • Panel Discussion: "Work and Life Balance; Dealing with Stress and Changes"

In addition to giving technical talks, workshop organizers and speakers led development exercises that required students work in small groups to improve their communication skills and quickly scan technical papers to find the important detail.

"Speakers and organizers also interacted with students during meal times and breaks to answer questions and provide guidance. In many cases, these students have little to no interaction with women or minority faculty at their home institutions, so it can be nice change of pace to have these types of interactions," said Joseph.

The Computing Research Association (CRA) sponsors Discipline Specific Mentoring Workshops (DSWs) in response to diversity concerns in tech. They seek to increase participation of women and members of underrepresented groups within a specific computing research area. Discipline Specific Workshops provide career mentoring and networking opportunities in the context of a specific research area. These workshops include coverage of technical topics such as important recent
results and future related research directions.

Other organizers included: Jie Gu (Associate Professor of EECS in McCormick), Seda Ogrenci Memik (Professor of EECS in McCormick), Tanay Karnik (Intel Corporation), and Matthew Ziegler (IBM). Other sponsors included: CRA-W, McCormick, EECS, Intel, and SIGMICRO. Computer Architecture Summer School was previously hosted at Northwestern in 2012.

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