What am I working on and why is it important?
The arrival of the internet has fundamentally changed so many aspects of our lives whether it be through business, communication, education, or entertainment, just to list a few. And in order to support such a huge amount of internet traffic, we rely heavily on data centers. Data centers are facilities that contain many computers and other necessary hardware. These computers talk to each other and are responsible for data storage, analysis, and processing.
Unfortunately, data centers are power hungry and energy inefficient. However, the integration of optical circuit switches in data center interconnects has shown great promise in terms of improving energy efficiency. Optical circuit switches are made up of multiple copies of a subcomponent that directs how light travels. A subcomponent is made up of an optical ring and it’s corresponding heater. Optical rings are wavelength selective filters that shifts depending on the temperature generated by the heater, thereby acting as a reconfigurable switch. My job this summer is to simulate these optical ring and heater systems in order to determine which configuration yields the widest thermal tuning range at the lowest power.
What’s my impression of research?
Some days can feel frustrating. Sometimes I spend a day or two trying to figure out how to fix the newest problem I’ve run into and it turns out to just be another silly mistake. At times, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and get really bummed out, but when something finally works it feels amazing! Food will taste that much better and my body will suddenly feel so much lighter.
It’s also really cool to see how all the things I’ve learned in the past three years have given me more confidence to approach new material. During junior year, I took a fabrication class that included clean room experience. I learned a lot about what goes on into actually making a chip from a bare silicon wafer. When I started doing research and reading papers, it was really cool when I was able to understand certain fabrication terms and procedures. It made the new material much less intimidating. I think my classes have definitely helped me get comfortable with that uneasy feeling of not knowing what in the world is going on and still having to plow through.
What are some cool perks of the AIM program?
I really love the career development seminars (every Monday) because professionals from different institutions are invited to present on their research and their careers. Also, we have workshops every Friday where professors teach how to successfully deliver an elevator pitch or nail a Powerpoint presentation. And even though I dread presenting in front of actual people, I really appreciate the emphasis they put on public speaking.