Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Advanced Digital Systems Engineering (Integrated Circuit Design) - MSc, PDip

2018

An MSc-level transition programme for those with first degrees in numerate disciplines (e.g. Maths, Physics, others with some mathematics to pre-university level should enquire).

2018

Overview

The programme targets producing engineers with knowledge and skills required for designing the integrated circuits which lie at the core of the vast array of consumer electronics of today’s world.  The demand for people to fill such roles is extremely high, in companies (small and large) covering the range of electronics and ICT products, and integrated circuit design companies that supply them.

Integrated circuits  have been powering the information revolution for over 50 years.  Continuous innovation has resulted in greater processing power, memory and new devices.  This, together with ever reducing manufacturing costs and reliability, has enabled the mass production of integrated circuits for consumer products that are more powerful han the supercomputers of the 1980s.  While the fabrication technology advances, there is an increasing need for innovative design which can harness the power of these circuits, while taking into account constraints such as requirements for energy efficiency.

About the School of Engineering and Digital Arts

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts successfully combines modern engineering and technology with the exciting field of digital media.

Established over 40 years ago, the School has developed a top-quality teaching and research base, receiving excellent ratings in both research and teaching assessments.

The School undertakes high-quality research that has had significant national and international impact, and our spread of expertise allows us to respond rapidly to new developments. Our 30 academic staff and over 130 postgraduate students and research staff provide an ideal focus to effectively support a high level of research activity. There is a thriving student population studying for postgraduate degrees in a friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.

We have research funding from the Research Councils UK, European research programmes, a number of industrial and commercial companies and government agencies including the Ministry of Defence. Our Electronic Systems Design Centre and Digital Media Hub provide training and consultancy for a wide range of companies. Many of our research projects are collaborative, and we have well-developed links with institutions worldwide.


National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Engineering and Digital Arts was ranked 21st in the UK for research intensity.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

Course structure

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

A major practical system will be developed either in an industrial context or within the department. There are no formal lectures - students will undertake the work in their own time under the regular supervision of a member of the academic staff and, where appropriate, industrial collaborators.

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An Introduction to reconfigurable systems. PLDs, PLAs, FPGAs. Fine grain architectures, Coarse grain architectures, Heterogeneous device Architectures. Case studies. Configuration of FPGA's. Run-time configuration, partial configuration, dynamic reconfiguration. Partitioning systems onto a reconfigurable fabric. Synthesis tools. Timing issues. Verification and Test strategies.

An introduction to Hardware Description Languages. VHDL will be used to illustrate a typical HDL (but this may change to or include Verilog in future). The lectures will define the architectural aspects of a VHDL : entity, architecture, process, package, types, operators, libraries, hierarchy, test benches and synthesisable VHDL. Workshops and laboratories will be used to illustrate how VHDL code is synthesised on to physical hardware devices and a number of challenging practical design examples will be used to illustrate the process.

Basic computer arithmetic and its implementation on reconfigurable logic architectures. Fixed-point and Floating point number representations. The IEEE-754 FP standard. Redundant Number Systems. Residue Number Systems. Methods for Addition and Subtraction. Fast adder architectures. Multi-operand addition. Multiplication: Multiplier architectures; Constant coefficient multipliers; Distributed arithmetic; LUT methods. Special methods: division, square root, the CORDIC algorithm. High-throughput arithmetic. Low-power arithmetic.

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This module will cover the fundamental concepts of digital circuit design using CMOS technology. It begins with an overview of CMOS technology and introduces the simple and extended circuit models for NMOS and CMOS transistor devices. The module will cover transistor level design of logic gates (both combinatorial and sequential) at the device and layout level. It will include memory design (ROM, SRAM and DRAM) and memory decode logic. Static and dynamic clocking methods will be described including examples of 1-phase, 2-phase, 4-phase clocking and Domino and NORA logic techniques. The course will also cover alternative low-power logic families such as DCVS and Adiabatic Logic and discuss the implications of modern methods such as the use near- and sub-threshold logic on circuit design. Chip level design methodologies such as full-custom, semi-custom and standard cell will be explored. The course will use appropriate CAD tools (Cadence®, Synopsys®, Tanner®) and modern fabrication technologies (down to 65 nm) that are common in the design of CMOS integrated circuits to illustrate the range of techniques and methods described in the lectures. Students will use knowledge gained in lectures and workshops to develop their own IC designs in the laboratories.

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This module focuses on the basic principles of modern computer architecture and how they are mapped onto modern (32-bit) microcontrollers. The course uses the ARM processor core as an exemplar of a modern processor architecture that is now ubiquitous in embedded systems. The course will cover classic topics in architecture (CPU and ALU structure, Instruction sets, memory and memory) and performance metrics for evaluating the relative performance of different architectures such as RISC vs CISC and also VLIW, SIMD, MIMD, ASSP and DSP devices.

The NXP 1786 (mbed) microcontroller is used as an example microcontroller development platform and industry standard IDE's from Keil/IAR are used to program, test and debug them. The course includes a comprehensive presentation of typical microcontroller peripherals: ADCs and DACs, Timers and Input Capture, communication using IIC, SPI, UART. Displays. Interrupts and Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs).

The course also provides an introduction to the C and C++ programming languages and their use with microcontroller based systems. This material will include: Variables, data-types and arithmetic expressions. Strings, Loops, Arrays. Functions, Structures, Pointers, bit operators. The pre-processor. I/O operations in C. Debugging Programs. Object-Oriented Programming. The Standard C Library.

Issues such as software testing and testing strategies are discussed. Compiling and downloading code onto the mbed using commercial Integrated Development Environments such as Keil® and IAR®. GNU based toolchains for Microcontroller development.

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Introduction to Matlab

Introduces the basics of the Matlab and Simulink programme environment and prepares the students for the Introduction to Matlab workshops.

Introductiion to the MSc Projects

Overall timetable and plan for the individual and group projects

Writing Better Technical English

As scientists and engineers, an ability to communicate information clearly through the written word is central to our professional activities. Whether we are publishing our research in an academic journal, writing a report for our employers or just summarising a piece of work for our records, the way in which we write will directly influence the quality and value of what we do.

In these lectures we will look at what determines the quality of formal writing, and how we can maximise the impact and clarity of what we write. Whether English is our native language or a second language, it is important critically to examine how we write if we are to express what we have to say in the best possible way. We will begin by examining the benefits of making more effort in our writing, and we will survey some of the common errors which often occur, showing how these can have an effect not just on the ease with which our work can be understood and absorbed but also on the precise meaning of what we say. We will explore some strategies for improving writing quality, and will consider some guidelines for the development of longer-term writing skills. We will explore a number of examples of "good" and "bad" writing, and everyone will have an

opportunity to take part in some simple exercises.

Literature Review: Techniques and Tools

Surveys using networked electronic information sources, on-line databases, inter-library loan facilities, private communications, etc. Identification of a technical area worthy of research, definition of the state- of -the-art in a given field, definition of the research project, and research proposals. Patent search.

Research Project Management

Time management. Resources management. Project management software (MS Project). Use of logbooks. Data management. Data security. Team working skills.

Research Publications

Structure, content and procedures. Project reports and theses. Journal and conference papers. Technical presentations. Use of references. Writing up of abstract, introduction and conclusions. Submission, refereeing and amendments. Effective use of figures, drawings and tables. MS WORD, ENDNOTE and LATEX.

Presentations and Research Results

Objectives and structure. Audience analysis. Rehearsal and delivery. Design of visual aids. Use of computerized projection facilities. Multi-media approach. Poster design and poster presentation. Handling questions.

Interllectual Property Rights

Patents, patent rights and know-how. Copyright and copying. Design rights and registered designs. Research contracts and agreements. Confidentiality agreement.

Research Ethics

Ethics in engineering research. Research supervision. Modelling and simulation versus real experimental work. Processing and presentation of experimental data. Obfuscation in writing up research papers.

Systems Engineering

Understanding systems definitions, the context of projects and levels of systems engineering. System boundaries. Capturing requirements. System design methods. Validation and verification.

Team Dynamics

Project management phases, Tucker's team building model. People, psychological types. Influencing others and managing people. Leadership styles

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Lecture Syllabus

SIGNALS

Introduction to signals and signal analysis. Frequency and time domain representations of signals. A review of the Fourier Series, Fourier Transform and Laplace Transforms. Noise: definitions and sources of noise in signal analysis.

DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING

The sampling theorem, Aliasing, Anti-Aliasing and Anti-Imaging Filters, ADCs and DACs. The Fourier Transform (FT). The Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) and The Fast Fourier Transform (FFT).The Z-transform. Pole-Zero placement methods for signal analysis. Transfer functions in S and Z domains. Theory, design and performance of Finite Impulse-Response (FIR) and Infinite-Impulse-Response (IIR) Filters. Multirate DSP. Architectures and devices for digital signal processing. Effects of Finite Precision.

APPLICATIONS OF DSP

Processing and filtering of signals for Instrumentation and measurement, Processing and filtering of images: DSP in modern communication systems.

Coursework

ASSIGNMENTS

The six workshop assignments use MATLAB and SIMULINK to develop and explore concepts that have been introduced in the lectures.

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Lecture Syllabus

Digital Communication

Optimal receivers design and their performances of QPSK, MSK and QAM; Signal design for bandlimited channels; Carrier and symbol synchronization; Multichannel and multicarrier communications (e.g. OFDM); Filterbank based Muticarrier Transmission (FBMC); Spread spectrum and CDMA signals for digital communications; Multiuser communications; multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology.

Information Theory and Coding

Channel capacity and coding. Block codes, convolutional codes and Turbo codes.

Coursework

Digital Signals and Communication

Six examples classes.

Information Theory and Coding

Five examples classes.

Simulink

Two 4-hour laboratory sessions introducing Simulink and its application to digital communications. An assessed assignment on a digital communications link.

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Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • educate mathematics, physics and (typically, with some additional mathematics provision) computer science graduates, equipping them with advanced knowledge in Integrated Circuit Design Engineering for careers in industry and academia.
  • provide an excellent quality of higher education with teaching informed by research and scholarship
  • support national and regional economic success by increasing the supply of highly-capable graduate engineers in a field of high demand
  • produce graduates of value to the region and nationally, in possession of key knowledge and skills, with the capacity to learn
  • prepare students for employment or further study in a field of high demand
  • provide learning opportunities that are enjoyable experiences, involve realistic workloads, based within a research-led framework and offer appropriate support for students from a diverse range of backgrounds
  • provide high quality teaching in a supportive environments with appropriately qualified and trained staff
  • strengthen and expand the opportunities for industrial collaboration with the School of Engineering and Digital Arts
  • permit students to meet academic requirements for accreditation by the IET/Engineering Council on successful completion of the programme.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the methodologies of engineering research and development and engineering design
  • digital electronic circuits and systems at the transistor, gate and system level. An awareness of the impact of innovations in integrated circuit technology on digital circuit design
  • mathematical and computer models for analysis of digital and analogue integrated circuits
  • design processes relevant to digital, analogue and mixed signal integrated circuit design
  • the characteristics of materials, equipment, processes and products, such as those of semiconductor technologies and integrated circuits.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills:

  • to use fundamental knowledge to explore new and emerging technologies
  • to understand the limitations of mathematical and computer-based problem solving and assess the impact in particular cases
  • to extract data pertinent to an unfamiliar problem and apply it in the solution
  • to analyse a problem and independently develop a specification for its solution
  • to apply engineering techniques taking into account commercial and industrial constraints.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills:

  • to apply knowledge of design processes in unfamiliar situations and to generate innovative designs to fulfil new needs, particularly in the area of IC design
  • to design, debug and test hardware/software systems through experiment and simulations and critically evaluate results
  • to be able to use a range of CAD tools to analyse problems and develop innovative/original solutions
  • to search and obtain technical information, critically evaluate it and apply it to a design
  • to prepare and present technical and non-technical reports and presentations.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • to generate, analyse, present and interpret data
  • use of Information and Communications Technology, project management and presentation tools
  • personal and interpersonal skills, the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility as an individual and as a member of a team
  • to learn independently for the purpose of continuing professional development
  • to make decisions in complex situations using critical thinking, reasoning and reflection.
  • to manage time and resources within an individual and group project.
  • to communicate effectively to different audiences using a range of techniques and to present complex data clearly using good written English.

Careers

The programme targets producing engineers with the knowledge and skills required for working in the communications industry on programmable hardware, in particular.  There is a high demand for people to fill such roles in communications and test & measure equipment vendors, and in many smaller companies developing devices for the internet of things.

Kent has an excellent record for postgraduate employment: over 96% of our postgraduate students who graduated in 2015 found a job or further study opportunity within six months.

We have developed our programmes with a number of industrial organisations, which means that successful students are in a strong position to build a long-term career in this important discipline. You develop the skills and capabilities that employers are looking for, including problem solving, independent thought, report-writing, time management, leadership skills, team-working and good communication.

Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we offer many opportunities for you to gain worthwhile experience and develop the specific skills and aptitudes that employers value.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School is well equipped with a wide range of laboratory and computing facilities and software packages for teaching and research support. There is a variety of hardware and software for image acquisition and processing, as well as extensive multimedia computing resources. The School has facilities for designing embedded systems using programmable logic and ASIC technology, supported by CAD tools and development software from international companies, including Cadence™, Xilinx™, Synopsys™, Altera™, National Instruments® and Mentor Graphics™. The SMT laboratory can be used for prototyping and small-volume PCB manufacture. A well-equipped instrumentation research laboratory is also available.

Students have access to commercial and in-house software tools for designing microwave, RF, optoelectronics and antenna systems (such as ADS™, CST™, HFSS™) and subsequent testing with network and spectrum analysers up to 110 GHz, an on-wafer prober, and high-quality anechoic chambers.

Support

As a postgraduate student, you are part of a thriving research community and receive support through a wide-ranging programme of individual supervision, specialised research seminars, general skills training programmes, and general departmental colloquia, usually with external speakers. We encourage you to attend and present your work at major conferences, as well as taking part in our internal conference and seminar programmes.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Recent contributions include: IEEE Transactions; IET Journals; Electronics Letters; Applied Physics; Computers in Human Behaviour.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A 2.2 or higher honours degree in Electronics, Computer Engineering (not Computer Science) or a related electronics discipline, Physics or Mathematics (especially Applied).

Computer Science degrees with sufficient mathematical content may be considered on an individual basis (pre-sessional Maths may be required).

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Communications

The Group’s activities cover system and component technologies from microwave to terahertz frequencies. These include photonics, antennae and wireless components for a broad range of communication systems. The Group has extensive software research tools together with antenna anechoic chambers, network and spectrum analysers to millimetre wave frequencies and optical signal generation, processing and measurement facilities. Current research themes include:

  • photonic components
  • networks/wireless systems
  • microwave and millimetre-wave systems
  • antenna systems
  • radio-over-fibre systems
  • electromagnetic bandgaps and metamaterials
  • frequency selective surfaces.

Intelligent Interactions

The Intelligent Interactions group has interests in all aspects of information engineering and human-machine interactions. It was formed in 2014 by the merger of the Image and Information Research Group and the Digital Media Research Group.

The group has an international reputation for its work in a number of key application areas. These include: image processing and vision, pattern recognition, interaction design, social, ubiquitous and mobile computing with a range of applications in security and biometrics, healthcare, e-learning, computer games, digital film and animation.

  • Social and Affective Computing
  • Assistive Robotics and Human-Robot Interaction
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Mobile, Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing
  • Sensor Networks and Data Analytics
  • Biometric and Forensic Technologies
    Behaviour Models for Security
  • Distributed Systems Security (Cloud Computing, Internet of Things)
  • Advanced Pattern Recognition (medical imaging, document and handwriting recognition, animal biometrics)
  • Computer Animation, Game Design and Game Technologies
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Digital Arts, Virtual Narratives.

Instrumentation, Control and Embedded Systems

The Instrumentation, Control and Embedded Systems Research Group comprises a mixture of highly experienced, young and vibrant academics working in three complementary research themes – embedded systems, instrumentation and control. The Group has established a major reputation in recent years for solving challenging scientific and technical problems across a range of industrial sectors, and has strong links with many European countries through EU-funded research programmes. The Group also has a history of industrial collaboration in the UK through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

The Group’s main expertise lies primarily in image processing, signal processing, embedded systems, optical sensors, neural networks, and systems on chip and advanced control. It is currently working in the following areas:

  • monitoring and characterisation of combustion flames
  • flow measurement of particulate solids
  • medical instrumentation
  • control of autonomous vehicles
  • control of time-delay systems
  • high-speed architectures for real-time image processing
  • novel signal processing architectures based on logarithmic arithmetic.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Peter Lee: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Embedded systems; programmable architectures; high-speed signal processing; VLSI/ASIC design; neural networks; optical sensor systems and applications; image processing using VLSI.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Advanced Digital Systems Engineering (Integrated Circuit Design) - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time
Part-time

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk


General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

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