Microsystems Annual Research Conference (MARC) highlights students' research, looks to the future of micro & nanotechnology

The Microsystems Annual Research Conference (MARC) is a two-day exploration of technical achievements and research ideas in the fields of microsystems and nanotechnology. Organized and carried out annually by an MIT student committee, the 2020 conference was led by doctoral students Mayuran Saravanapavanantham and Rachel Yang.

This year's conference, held on January 28–29 in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, brought together more than 200 students, faculty, staff, postdocs, and industry members for poster sessions, keynote lectures, networking opportunities, and a bit of winter fun.

Co-Chairs and Faculty Directors
L-R: MIT.nano Director Vladimir Bulović, Rachel Yang, Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, and MTL Director Harry Lee

MARC began with a half day of winter activities—downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing—in which nearly 100 attendees participated. The fun continued with a "tallest tower" ice breaker before dinner. Groups were given a deck of cards, a roll of tape, and instructions to build the tallest freestanding structure possible in a short, five-minute time frame.

MARC attendees build a tower with playing cards.
MARC attendees work together in a race to build the tallest card tower.

Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) Director Hae-Seung (Harry) Lee officially kicked off MARC 2020 with his opening remarks. In his speech, Lee spoke about the transition of the MTL fabrication tools to the new MIT.nano facility in building 12. "The fabrication facility has been like our baby—we gave birth to it, we put a lot of money into it, we took care of it. Now it's grown up and we've married it off to a wonderful spouse, MIT.nano." MTL passed administrative responsibility for its shared fabrication and other tools and instruments to MIT.nano last year. The two laboratories have been working closely together since then to transfer toolsets without delaying research. As part of that collaboration, MARC 2020 was, for the first time, co-sponsored by MTL and MIT.nano.

Lee then introduced the evening keynote, Reed Sturtevant, general partner at The Engine, a company built by MIT to facility the launch of new technologies through start-up incubation. Sturtevant spoke about the challenges of starting your own company, and shared some success stories as well as common trends he has seen among start-ups that continue to thrive.

Reed Sturtevant
Reed Sturtevant, General Partner at The Engine

For the evening portion of day one, the MARC student committee coordinated social activities around augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). Participants could step into the virtual world in a gaming capacity, or use one of the MIT.nano Immersion Lab headsets to take a virtual tour of MIT.nano.

Day two opened with remarks from Vladimir Bulović, faculty director of MIT.nano. Vladimir shared updates on the MIT.nano facilities, tool moves, and other work completed in phase one. He then introduced the second day keynote, Mark Rosker, Director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Microsystems Technology Office. In his talk, Rosker addressed the challenges ahead in microsystems including fabrication of heterogeneous 3D circuits and secure microelectronics, among others.

Mark Rosker
Mark Rosker, Director of DARPA's Microsystems Technology Office

The day continued with two poster sessions comprising seven categories: circuits, energy harvesting and storage, electronic and quantum devices, nanotechnology and nanomaterials, medical devices and biotechnology, photonics and optoelectronics, and materials and manufacturing. There were nearly 100 poster presenters from close to 40 different research groups.

Students presenting at the poster session.
Poster presenters discuss their research with industry partners, faculty, and students.

Prior to each session, presenting students had the option to give a 90-second pitch to the attendees. To better engage the audience and increase the benefit for the students, faculty and industry members rated poster pitches and awards were given out to the top five. Faculty were also each assigned approximately three posters to review and provide feedback. MARC 2020 student session chairs evaluated all submitted posters, choosing the top ones from each category for a poster award.

Pitch Prize Winners:
•Alan Cheng - "Depth Map Estimation and Compression for Low Power Time-of-Flight Imaging"
•Alon Vardi - "W contacts to H-terminated diamond"
•Christian Lau - "Modern Microprocessor Built from Complementary Carbon Nanotube Transistors"
•Haluk Akay - "Low-Frequency Buckled Beam MEMS Energy Harvester"
•Jeong Min Park - "Strongly Correlated Physics in Twistronics: Interaction-Driven Exotic States and Phase Transitions in Twisted Bilayer-Bilayer Graphene"

Poster Awards:
•Yufeng Ye, "Josephson Travelling Wave Photon Detector"
•Jochen Braumueller, "Surface spin induced 1/f flux noise dependent on SQUID geometry"
•Liane Bernstein, "Digital Optical Neural Networks for Large-Scale Machine Learning"
•Geoffrey Vaartstra, “Measurement of the Condensation Coefficient of Water Using an Ultrathin, Nanoporous Membrane”
•Jessica Boles, “DC-DC Converter Implementations Based on Piezoelectric Resonators”
•Marek Hempel, “SynCells - Microelectronic Particles for Sensing Applications”

Undergraduates who participated in MARC, including students from the 6.152 EECS/DMSE course in micro/nano processing who completed their coursework in the new MIT.nano facilities, also received awards.

undergraduates at MARC
MARC undergraduate participants pose with their new Fluke mulitmeters.

This was the 16th year for MARC, a conference that has expanded significantly since its inception. It grew out of the semesterly VLSI Research Reviews, which began in 1984 under the Microsystems Research Center. From there, it evolved into a faculty-run research review that became known as the MTL Annual Student Review. In 2005, the event was rebranded as MARC and became the student-run conference that exists today. Yang and Saravanapavanantham will now hand over the reins to two new student co-chairs who, together with staff from MTL and MIT.nano, will begin planning MARC 2021.

MARC student and staff committee

The MARC 2020 committee. From L-R, MTL staff Joseph Baylon, Jami Mitchell, and Katrina Mounlavongsy; Erik Saathoff, Miaorong Wang, Haozhe Wang, Jatin Patil, MIT.nano Director Vladimir Bulović, Co-Chair Rachel Yang, Jessica Boles, Co-Chair Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, Navid Abedzadeh, MTL Director Harry Lee,  Jay Sircar, Jane Lai, Rishabh Mittal, Kruthika Kikkeri, Elaine McVay; MIT.nano staff Shereece Beckford and Amanda Stoll.

See the full photo album from MARC 2020 here.