Giving: Fall 2012
Author: Suzanne Pardington
Posted: September 4, 2012


Advancing chip design

A new investment from Mentor Graphics is training the next generation of computer chip engineers. 

LAST WINTER, was the first time Professor Mark Faust had to turn away students from his course on SystemVerilog, a way of describing and verifying complex computer chips before they are built.

At the same time, employers such as Intel were clamoring to hire students with the skills Faust teaches in his class.

Now Mentor Graphics has stepped up to help bridge the gap between the supply of students and the demand from employers by investing $825,000 in PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The support will allow the Maseeh College to expand its expertise and enrollment in the growing field of design verification and validation, including the relatively new field of hardware emulation, in the new Mentor Graphics Design Verification and Emulation Lab.

“This investment will advance PSU’s goal to become a national leader in the field of chip design,” says PSU President Wim Wiewel. “It is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership that blends philanthropy and education with an outcome that will have a positive impact on the economy.”

PSU’s growing partnership with Mentor Graphics, a worldwide high-tech company headquartered in Wilsonville, enables the University to enhance its relationships with chip design companies and improve the quality of research and instruction in its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“We greatly appreciate PSU’s commitment to partnering with private industry to ensure that its curriculum delivers graduates skilled in the most advanced technologies available in the world,” says Gregory Hinckley, president of Mentor Graphics.

MENTOR GRAPHICS makes software and hardware products to automate electronic design tasks, enabling engineers to develop electronic devices more efficiently. In 2009, the company gave PSU an emulator, a piece of hardware worth about $1 million that simulates how a new chip will behave before it is manufactured to discover design errors and save both money and time.

PSU is the only university in the country to receive an emulator for research and instruction from Mentor Graphics—giving students a rare opportunity to learn on cutting-edge equipment and making them valuable to future employers.

 Without the emulator, Faust and his students would have to use software to simulate a new chip’s behavior, a more expensive and time-consuming process.

“A simulation that might take a week takes a few hours on the hardware emulator,” he says.

This new investment includes a $700,000 gift over five years for a new faculty member, to be hired by June 2013, and $125,000 for options for exclusive access to intellectual property based on research conducted in the lab.

“We can benefit a great deal from working with Mentor Graphics,” says Renjeng Su, dean of the Maseeh College, “because they are one of the top companies in the world.”

Photo caption: Engineering professor Mark Faust teaches computer chip design using resources provided by Mentor Graphics.