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Roncken and Sutherland to Join PSU’s Dynamic Intellectual Community
Author: Danielle Cox, Maseeh College
Posted: August 13, 2009

The Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University (PSU) announces the formation of the Asynchronous Research Center (ARC), a collaborative research project conceived by Marly Roncken and Ivan Sutherland.  The ARC will provide an environment in which Roncken and Sutherland can collaborate with the Maseeh College's Departments of Computer Science (CS) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in advancing technology for the design of self-timed and asynchronous circuits, systems, design methods, and design tools.

Roncken and Sutherland are the central technical participants; they hold appointments within the College in CS and ECE respectively.  Sutherland will serve in a technical role and Roncken will serve both technically and as Director of the ARC.  PSU professors Andrew Black (CS) and Malgorzata Chrzanowska-Jeske (ECE) are the principal internal academic contacts for the ARC.  The ARC has initial support from a private Trust and through a founding grant from Sun Microsystems.  The ARC seeks additional industrial, private, and public support. 

In modern integrated circuit chips, wire delays make it increasingly difficult to synchronize the actions of an entire chip to a single fixed clock rhythm.  Because it was easy in older technologies to use a single rhythm, the computer industry has become accustomed to the design simplicity of using a single clock signal to start and stop all computing actions.  With logic now faster than wires, it makes more sense to communicate time signals only where necessary.  As circuits complete tasks they can give go-ahead signals to the circuits that must wait for them to finish.  Localizing time signals in this way not only avoids distributing the same time signal everywhere, which is increasingly difficult, but also saves power and allows each circuit to take only the time necessary for its particular operation.  The ARC seeks to collect, understand, enhance, and teach computer-aided design tools, verification techniques, and design approaches relevant to the use of these more flexible timing formats. 

The Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science is excited by the potential offered by the ARC which began limited operation in April 2009 when Roncken and Sutherland arrived on campus.  The ARC's goals align directly with PSU's guiding themes regarding achieving global excellence, enhancing education opportunities, and deepening civic engagement.  As the ARC develops over the next few years, we expect that its opportunities for research, teaching, discovery, publication, and economic development will bring important benefits to PSU and to our intellectual community and industry in Portland and beyond.