EFTF IFCS 2017 Report from a Student’s Perspective

August 10, 2017 | Contributed By - Gayathri Pillai, Student Member IEEE UFFC

View of Besançon from the Citadel.

A state-of-the-art joint meeting in a charming French setting

The 2017 joint European Frequency and Time Forum and IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium were held from the 9th to 13th of July at the Micropolis Conference center in Besançon, France. This was the 31st EFTF and the 71st IEEE IFCS. The conference attracted leading professionals and students from academia and industry working in the areas of time and frequency control. Close to 500 researchers and 31 industrial exhibitors were present at the conference. The talks, posters and exhibits covered a wide range of topics in the recent developments in material research, device design, process development and manufacturing technologies. The tutorial sessions on the 9th of July were followed by the regular technical sessions from the 10thto the 13th , comprised of plenary talks, oral and poster sessions.

Besançon is the capital of the department of Doubs. It has been declared as the first green city of France. The small city also houses the Citadel of Besançon which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besançon is well connected with all the major cities and easily accessible. Moving about within the city is also impeccable. The trams run till past midnight making it comfortable for conference participants to stay after the day’s sessions and enjoy all the extra-curricular activities organized during the course of the 5 days.

Ginko tramway connecting the town.

Micropolis Convention Centre, Besancon.

Tutorials

The tutorial session on July 9th was comprised of 5 sub-sessions with three parallel sessions. Academic leaders and other scientists delivered talks on their areas of expertise. The parallel sessions were focused on the areas of (i) Time keeping and noise (ii) Atomic clocks and optical combs and (iii) MEMS/NEMS.

Aaron Partridge, the founder and chief scientist of SiTime delivered a talk on MEMS oscillators. Professor Songbin Gong from the University of Illinois spoke on his research on Lithium Niobate NEMS/MEMS. In his talk, Professor Gong emphasized the concerns about using the spectrum optimally and the need for an efficient filter design considering the fact that many bands are regularly introduced in the spectrum. He explained the need for the design and optimization of wide band filters. The 20-billion-dollar filter industry was also a major focus of his talk which conveyed the importance of research in consumer electronics. During his speech, he described the basics of piezoelectric MEMS and why Lithium Niobate is a key player among the piezoelectric materials. Lithium Niobate has a crystalline nature, a very high electromechanical coupling coefficient and a higher bandwidth that ensures a higher data rate. The material also has attractive electro-optical properties. His work on eliminating the spurious mode by engineering the electrode overlap was also explained. The usage of Lithium Niobate devices for future Internet of Things systems was also mentioned in the tutorial.

Professor Songbin Gong’s tutorial on Lithium Niobate NEMS/MEMS.

Welcome reception

The welcome reception was held at the exhibition area of the Micropolis Convention Centre. It provided a great opportunity for the attendees to get to know more about each other’s research domains. The exhibitors also actively participated in the socializing event to describe the latest technologies that could benefit academic research. French delicacies were served for the welcome reception dinner.

Welcome reception at the exhibition area of the Micropolis Convention Centre.

Technical program

The program schedule for the 10th – 13th of July included 3 Plenary talks, 36 oral sessions and 2 poster sessions. The welcome speech mentioned that a total of 407 abstracts from 34 countries were submitted this year. The submissions were classified into 7 groups.

On the 10th of July, during the parallel oral sessions, I attended a talk from Professor Nguyen’s group in Group 1 – Resonators. The paper focused on the enhancement of device Q using induced tension. It uses a difference in TCE to cause the recrystallization of the layers. The effect of stress on the operational frequency of the device was also discussed. The application of pulse signals on the MEMS pad avoids heating throughout the structure. The talk was followed by an interesting discussion concerning the methods to apply stress/strain to the structures. The other talk was in the Group 4 – “Liquid Sensing Phase” from Professor Joshua Lee’s group. The speaker emphasized the usage of new modes to enhance the quality factor of the resonator in water operation. Improved methods using water dropping on the structure to reduce the feedthrough capacitance was also explained. They compared their new mode of operation with existing modes.

Oral session: Professor Nguyen’s group.

Oral session: Professor Joshua Lee’s group.

Women in Engineering

The Women in Engineering Lunch and Workshop was organized on the afternoon of July 10th . The workshop was led by Jody Julien. The main emphasis of the workshop was “Confidence throughout our careers”. Ms. Julien spoke about confidence and assertiveness. The workshop included several activities which encouraged women from different spheres of research and industry to share their work challenges. Many techniques for empowerment were discussed in the two-hour program.

Women in Engineering Lunch and Workshop attendees.

Conference banquet and student dance party

The conference banquet was arranged in the Lunch area of the Micropolis Convention Centre. A huge variety of French cuisines and cheeses were served during the dinner. The dinner was accompanied with an enthralling magic show. The banquet provided a platform for many attendees to interact. The banquet was followed by a dance party for students.

The magic show that accompanied the conference dinner.

Conference banquet at the Micropolis.

Student dance program.

Exhibitors

The conference also witnessed an impressive exhibit by different companies and research labs at the Exhibitors’ venue. Various measurement instruments, fabrication tools, etc. were exhibited from the 10th-12th of July. This provided a chance for students to get to know about the high end technologies used in the industries and to establish contacts with vendors for future collaborations.

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Poster sessions

The poster sessions were held on the 11th and 12th of July from 16:00 to 18:00. There were a total of 223 posters. The poster session on 11th of July included the best paper award finalist’s posters. There were 30 student paper finalists (all the groups included). The two hour poster sessions provided ample time for the attendees of the poster session to interact with the presenters.

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Student rally and pizza party

On July 11th a Student rally and Pizza Party was organized. The participants were split into different groups and were made to find different places around Besançon based on a set of questions given to each group. Places such as the Prefecture of Doubs, Victor Hugo, etc. were explored during the activity.

Sunset at quai veil picard, Besançon.

After the activity, a Pizza party was organized at Istorante-Pizzeria La Vela Azzura, Besançon town center. Here, many students got a chance to get to know one another, make new acquaintances, and have a little leisure time.

Student pizza party at Pizzeria La Vela Azzura, Besançon.

Student paper prizes

On the evening of July 12th, the student finalists were awarded their certificates and the winners were honored with a cash prize of 500 Euros.

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Student-industry networking event

After the award ceremony a student/industry networking event was organized.  This platform provided an exclusive opportunity for graduating students to present their work to a group of industry representatives. The industry officials also presented a brief introduction about their companies and the job openings they have in the near future. This event provided a one-on-one interaction opportunity for many researchers with their future potential employers.

In summary, EFTF IFCS 2017 was organized and executed meticulously.  There was great exchange of knowledge and ideas during these 5 days of conference. The WIE workshop was a great success. The student activities provided an excellent opportunity for students all across the globe to interact and share their experiences and ideas in research and work domains.

Student/industry networking event.