Lab Positions:
Hardware Engineer

General Description

The hardware engineer (Science and Engineering Associate) will have expertise in printed circuit board design, assembly, and debugging, and in system integration. A person with a powerful desire to build neuromorphic systems for use by others and a strong drive to facilitate their development and deployment is sought. The successful candidate will be one of two core staff working closely with the PI to refine and realize his vision for this innovative technology.

The Brains in Silicon Laboratory is designing a specialized hardware platform (Neurogrid) to simulate the brain and ultra-low-power chips to decode neural signals into motor commands for fully implantable neuroprostheses, projects funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Position Details

The responsibilities of this position include understanding the functionality and specifications of mixed analog–digital ASICs designed in the lab and taking the lead in designing and testing printed circuit boards (PCB) to connect these custom chips with each other and to peripheral circuitry (FPGA, CPLD, SRAM and USB chips). The successful candidate will get the chance to design next-generation hardware, develop automated testing procedures to accelerate debugging, and participate in on-going research in the Brains in Silicon lab (e.g., designing an ultra-low power, fully implantable, neuroprosthesis).

The major function of this position is to accelerate the development and deployment neuromorphic systems. This requires excellent understanding of PCB design and system integration, and extensive experience in designing supporting drivers and user-interface software.

  • Work closely with the PI and the other members of the lab.
  • Determine the key features that determine the performance of a system that comprises many levels: custom silicon chips, glue logic, USB interface, device driver, and software.
  • Design and implement high-performance PCBs.
  • Effectively convey new ideas, design specifications, and results to faculty, staff and students, orally and in writing.
  • Design automated testing setup to efficiently debug own PCB and FPGA/CPLD designs as well as holistic system-level tests.
  • Contribute to deployment, training, dissemination and documentation in areas of expertise.
  • Interaction with researchers, including support of initial users and participation in meetings and workshops.
Required Qualifications
  1. A minimum of two years applicable experience in a professional PCB design and testing environment.
  2. BS in Electrical or Computer Engineering (or related field) is required.
    *MS or PhD in Electrical or Computer Engineering (or related field) is preferred (or an equivalent combination of education and experience).
  3. Requires sophisticated expertise in CAD tools for PCB design to produce robust and reliable highspeed systems.
  4. Requires advanced knowledge of hardware-description languages and tools for implementing, simulating and debugging logic in FPGAs and CPLDs.
  5. Extensive experience in high-performance mixed analog-digital system design.
  6. Expected to operate as a peer to the other staff engineer and will be trusted to make key decisions that will impact the neuromorphic system’s functionality, and to be comfortable initiating discussions with others both to give and seek advice and to address issues of broad impact when they arise.
  7. Highly proactive and be able to work independently.
  8. Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  9. Careful attention to detail, thorough design verification, and anticipation of potential problems.

The Brains in Silicon Laboratory currently has a board with 16 identical ASICs laid out with Cadence’s Allegro tool (6 by 8 inch2, 8 layers). The board has a CPLD programmed in Verilog to communicate asynchronously with the ASICs and synchronously with a USB chip. A daughterboard contains FPGA that communicates asynchronously with SRAMs as well as the main board. The successful candidate would be expected to maintain these existing designs as well as to design future systems of similar complexity.

Desirable Skills

The following areas of expertise are all relevant to neuromorphic system development, and experience in any or all of them is considered a strong plus:

  • Expert in using and maintaining industry-standard tools for PCB design, simulation, and verification.
  • Advanced knowledge of hardware-description languages and tools for implementing, simulating and debugging logic in FPGAs and CPLDs.
  • Demonstrated ability to design complex, dense, high-performance PCBs.
  • Skill in writing and optimizing code for microcontrollers, FPGAs, and CPLDs
  • Comfortable with advanced C++ programming and the use of objects to represent high-level abstractions.
  • Strong understanding of system integration to optimize overall performance, carefully considering the impact of choices at the chip, package and board-level.
  • Working knowledge of analog and digital electronic circuits.
  • Ability to apply theory of linear systems and signal processing techniques.
  • Good grasp of basic neurobiology and neural network models.

To apply