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Spintronic neuromorphic computing

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Technical Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Engineering programme. The position is available from 1 November 2020 or later.

Spintronic neuromorphic computing

Research area and project description:

Artificial neural networks are already having a very tangible effect in society. Despite the impressive progress in software, hardware is lagging behind by a decade or even more as it is not customized for implementation of such neural networks. Implementation of advanced neural network algorithms on general-purpose CPUs and GPUs is not energy-efficient. This can be overcome with the development of fully custom-designed hardware for implementation of neural networks with a vision of significantly improved energy-efficiency and performance in such a way that it resembles biological brains for specific applications such as complex signal processing and pattern recognition. Towards this goal, custom-designed CMOS implementation of artificial neurons and synapses have been researched and some progresses have been achieved. However, the CMOS implementation of neural networks is still not energy- and area-efficient [1], which will limit the scalability of such networks.

These issues have driven a significant effort on investigation of non-CMOS implementations of neuromorphic computing systems, which include synapses implemented using memristors [2,3], Magnetic Tunnelling Junctions (MTJs) etc., and artificial neurons using MTJs, Spin-Torque Nano-Oscillators (STNOs) [4], mutually synchronized Spin-Hall Nano-Oscillators (SHNOs) [5], etc.

Among different technologies, Spintronics is a strong contender as it is compatible with CMOS, multifunctional, extremely versatile with features like non-volatility, plasticity and oscillatory behaviour, which can be exploited to implement artificial neural components to develop energy-efficient neural networks.

Despite some progress in spintronic NCS [4, 6], challenges such as lack of proper artificial neuron and synapse implementation resembling biological neural components, low speed, lack of any forward-looking architecture implementation, lack of proper algorithms for spintronic networks, lack of any simulation platforms that combine libraries from several emerging technologies together for a better assessment of larger networks, have hindered scaling of complex architectures [7].

Within an interdisciplinary project, SpinAge, funded by H2020 [8], we aim at development of a brain-inspired (neuromorphic computing) networks using synchronized spintronic oscillators [9] together with other European research teams [8] leading to orders of magnitudes improvement in performance.  

For this position, we aim at development of analytical and numerical models for spintronic devices (oscillators) [10-12] and bringing them into a simulation platform enabling simulation of larger neural networks, which requires a good understanding of the physics behind the spintronic oscillators, and skills in development of analytical models for such devices.

[1] J. Kim et al., Proc. of the IEEE, 103 (1), 106-130, (2015).

[2] S. Ambrogio et al., Nanotechnology 24, 384012, (2013).

[3] S. Saïghi et al., Front. Neurosci. 9:51, (2015).

[4] J. Torrejon, , et al., Nature 547.7664, 428-431, (2017)

[5] A. Awad et al., Nature Phys. 13, 292, (2017)

[6] H. Farkhani, et al. Frontiers in Neuroscience 13 (2019).

[7] Grollier, J., et al. Nature Electronics (2020): 1-11.

[8] https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/899559

[9] M. Zahedinejad, et al. Nature Nanotechnology 15.1, 47-52, (2020).

[10] S. G. Ramasubramanian, et al. ISLPED. IEEE, (2014).

[11] D. I. Albertsson, et al. IEEE Transactions on Magnetics 55.10, 1-8, (2019).

[12] J. Pelloux-Prayer, and Farshad Moradi. IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices (2020).

Qualifications and specific competences:
The applicant is expected to have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering or Physics with strong mathematical background. Skills in script Python/Matlab is an asset. The PhD student will work with other people involved.

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University, and the place of work is in Integrated Circuits and Electronics Lab (ICELab) with integrated nanoelectronics group.  

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Associate Professor Farshad Moradi, e-mail: moradi@eng.au.dk

Assistant Professor Hooman Farkhani, e-mail: farkhani@eng.au.dk

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at the graduate school is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test (internet-based), minimum score: 83. The graduate school does not accept the paper-based test, nor the TOEFL ITP test. Remember to ask the test center to send your test results to Aarhus University in order to enable verification of your test results. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935.
    Currently, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test (available in selected areas) will also be accepted.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 7.0 points
    Please note, from 1 June 2020 the Graduate School of Science and Technology has split in two following the split of the faculty. For the two new schools, Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Graduate School of Technical Sciences, the minimum average score requirement for an IELTS test is 7.0 points (equivalent of a C1 level).
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to gsts@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to https://phd.tech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here/ - Note, the online application system opens on 1 June 2020.
Choose August 2020 Call with deadline 1 August 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CEST).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme “Engineering”.

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: “Spintronic neuromorphic computing”
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English. A certified English translation is required for documents written in languages other than English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) languages.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. If the original documents are not in English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) then copies of the original documents as well as a certified English translation must be attached.
  • Project description (½-4 pages). This document should describe your ideas and research plans for this specific project. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

The graduate school reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSTS Application Guide.

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  • The project will only be initiated if final funding (from the graduate school/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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