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A semiconductor manufacturing tour

When it comes to physics, university and industrial R&D are tackling quite the same challenges. Neuroengineering Master Students of TUM spending a day together with semiconductor engineers - this has been the setting for new perspectives and many questions asked by very curious neuroengineering students. A report on TUM students visiting Texas Instrument's European headquarter in Freising. 

Research and development in industrial scale

During the first semester course "Mixed Signal Electronics in Neuroengineering", students of TUM/ENB Elite Master Program in Neuroengineering study the interaction between neural tissue and electronic circuits and explore tools to record from or to stimulate cells. This all requires a profound knowledge in neuro-physiological aspects and in physical as well as electrochemical properties. The process chain includes neural recording, signal pre-processing such as filtering and amplification, performed on application-specific hardware combining analog and digital domain. During this course, students are tackling challenges in theory and in hands-on lab sessions likewise.

In January 2020, a student of the Elite Graduate Program "Neuroengineering" de­le­ga­tion visited Texas Instrument's European headquarter in Freising. This visit, ac­com­pa­nied by TUM/MSNE associated faculty professors, turned out to be a great opportunity for neuroengineering students to extend their scope towards a more entrepreneurial per­spec­tive on semiconductor research and de­ve­lop­ment. The morning session included a presentation on semiconductor ma­nu­fac­turing, followed by several more technology-oriented discussions on next-ge­neration micro­controller technologies and elec­tro­che­mi­cal sensor de­ve­lop­ment. After a lunch break spent together, TI engineers showed their semiconductor production fab and explained labs for industrial-scale chip testing and characterization in detail.

Student feedback

Neuroengineering students, associated faculty and - quite recently - an international expert’s board reviewing the study program in neuroengineering, all emphasized that events such as excursions and contacts to research-oriented industry are a core asset of the study program.

Eric Ceballos Dominguez, MSNE student and one of the student representatives, summarizes the student visit at Texas Instruments retrospectively:

“Our visit to the Texas Instruments headquarters in Freising allowed us to gain insight into an expertise that is not necessarily taught during our classes in the program: the knowledge of balancing innovative approaches from research with their economic profitability. With the trend in miniaturization of the past century and the era of Nano­systems on the horizon, electronic components are increasingly limited by physical constrains. We learned in Prof. Wolfrum’s classes about electronics on a neurocellular level, and the visit to Texas Instruments gave us a better understanding of the en­gi­nee­ring behind the microscopic electronics that we use for our neuro-recording methods.
I personally liked the discussions we had with employees of TI as it made me understand that theory and practical application, while tightly tied together, introduce different sets of challenges and thus require different approaches to solve them. I want to thank Prof. Wolfrum and Texas Instruments for organizing this insightful visit.”

Text: Elite Graduate Program "Neuroengineering"