MTL News

MTL > 30

November 14, 2014

MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories celebrates its 30th anniversary with a look backwards and a look forward

On October 29th and 30th, 2014, MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) celebrated its 30th anniversary. Over 300 people from a wide variety of institutions attended the banquet on the 29th and the Symposium on the 30th. The event constituted both a look back at MTL's past and a look forward to the bright prospects for nanotechnology and nanosystems at MIT with the coming of MIT.nano, a new nanotechnology facility for the campus.

MTL is an interdepartmental laboratory that supports research across a wide range of disciplines, including circuits and systems, MEMS, electronic, photonic and molecular devices, and nanotechnology. MTL acts both as an intellectual home, where researchers with overlapping interests work together and as a set of shared experimental facilities, providing capabilities not available in any individual researcher's laboratory. Annually, MTL supports the research of about 550 students and staff.

President and former MTL Director Rafael Reif blows out the candles marking 30 years of MTL. Photo, David E. Sella/MIT.

The MTL>30 Symposium program kicked off on the evening of October 29th with a reception and dinner at the Cambridge Marriott Hotel, next to campus. Opening talks included short remarks by Jesús del Alamo, current MTL Director, and Charles Sodini, the Symposium Organizer. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, then spent a few moments reflecting on the history of MTL and his role in it, sharing anecdotes that delighted the audience. The after-dinner speaker was Robert Kahn, Chairman, CEO and President of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Dr. Kahn discussed the historical developments that played a crucial role in the advent of modern microsystems.

The main Symposium event took place at MIT's Media Lab on October 30th. The venue was ideal. The speakers and discussion panels were located in the main auditorium, with a high-definition video screen in the reception/poster area for those of us who wanted to chat while listening. At one point a drone with a gyro-stabilized camera made its appearance at the roof deck, leading to much speculation as to its ownership!

Prof. Paul Penfield, former EECS Department Head addresses the panel on nanosystems during the Symposium. The panel is chaired by EECS Department Head and former MTL Director Anantha Chandrakasan. Photo, David Sella.

The positive tone for the day was set by opening remarks from MIT faculty who have had senior leadership roles at both MTL specifically and MIT broadly. These included Jesús del Alamo; Martin Schmidt, MIT Provost and former MTL Director; Paul Gray, Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus of MIT; Paul Penfield, Professor Emeritus of EECS; and Dimitri Antoniadis, Professor of EECS and founding Director of MTL, who participated via video.

This was followed by the Keynote Session, chaired by Charles Sodini. The first keynote talk was given by Ahmad Bahai, CTO of Texas Instruments, and was titled Pervasive Solid State Electronics - Promises & Challenges. Dr. Bahai gave us a great perspective on the background and future of modern electronics system, from his broad academic and industrial experience, which in addition to Texas Instruments includes National Semiconductor, Bell Laboratories, and Algorex, which he co-founded.

The next keynote talk was by Jack Sun, VP of Research and Development and CTO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The talk, Collaborative Semiconductor Innovation - The Next Frontiers, gave us a look at the various semiconductor innovations that will be necessary to propel the nano-micro-electronics industry into the next decade of growth. This particularly includes 3D transistor, interconnect and packaging technologies. Prior to joining TSMC, Dr. Sun held a number of senior management and engineering positions at IBM.

After a short break, there was a panel discussion on Education for the Future of Nanotechnology / Nanosystems Students, moderated by Thomas Lee, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford and MIT alumnus. Those in the audience who attended the MTL MARC 2014 conference in January of 2014 recalled among themselves the fascinating talk that Prof. Lee gave at that meeting. This panel discussion was equally engaging. The panel was composed of five well-established MIT / MTL alumni representing academia, industry, and national laboratories: Mark Allen, Professor at University of Pennsylvania; Kush Gulati, Maxim Integrated; Craig Keast, MIT Lincoln Laboratory; Martin Schlecht, SynQor; and David White, Cadence. The discussion was centered on the future of the modern research university, with advice for today's students.

Next, a set of graduate students did a great job giving short 'pitches' for their research. This was followed by a lunch buffet combined with a poster session where students presented their work, which in some cases included live demos. The subject matter ranged widely and included non-silicon device physics, power conversion, various nano-devices and applications, medical electronics, sensors, and modeling. A few of the attendees managed to slip away for a tour of the MTL fabrication facility in Building 19, including visitors from Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico.

View of poster and demo session during the Symposium lunch. Phoot, David Sella.

As a symbol of our appreciation to their years of service at MTL during its entire 30 years, Carolyn Collins and Paul McGrath, MTL staff members, received special awards.

Vladimir Bulović, Professor in EECS and MIT Associate Dean for Innovation, then gave us a look at the future of nano-innovation at MIT, with MIT.nano, A Sneak Preview. For many in the audience this was the first look at plans for the innovation space now under construction. The new facility will be constructed in the heart of the MIT campus and will house a comprehensive set of tools for nanoscale research.

The next panel discussion was moderated by Karen Gleason, Professor of Chemical Engineering and MIT Associate Provost: Vision for the Future of Nanotechnology.
The panelists, all MIT professors and MTL core faculty, included Dirk Englund (EECS), Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (Physics), William Tisdale (Chemical Engineering). Kripa Varanasi (Mechanical Engineering) and Michael Watts (EECS). Each gave a short overview of their research program and all discussed their dreams for the future of nanotechnology.

The final panel discussion of the Symposium was moderated by Anantha Chandrakasan, Professor and Department Head of EECS and a former MTL Director. It was titled Vision for the Future of Nanosystem Applications. The panelists, all MIT professors and MTL core faculty, were Ruonan Han (EECS), Thomas Heldt (Institute for Medical Engineering and EECS), Scott Manalis (Biological Engineering), Tomás Palacios (EECS) and Dana Weinstein (EECS). The panelists presented both a view of each of their particular research efforts and collectively discussed some of the application areas for nanotechnology.

Closing remarks were by Jesús del Alamo who thanked both the audience for their attendance and participation as well as the event organizers made up of staff from the MIT Industrial Liaison Program and the MTL. The very successful dinner and symposium represented the culmination of several months of intense planning between the Microsystems Technology Laboratories and the MIT Industrial Liaison Program.

The curated website of the conference with the detailed agenda, a PDF of the printed program and pictures can be found at

--William Holber, Microsystems Technology Laboratories

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