Microelectronic chips have become ubiquitous in modern technology. Vehicles of all types, computers, smartphones, appliances, defense technology and more use microelectronic components, also known as semiconductor chips.

As more and more of society depends on microelectronics, ensuring their reliability becomes increasingly crucial to avoid issues ranging from personal computer failures to plane crashes. The microelectronics test field formed to address this problem and keep the devices the modern world depends on every day humming along smoothly.

To advance microelectronics testing and ensure professionals have the most up-to-date knowledge, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, hosts the annual VLSI Test Symposium. Held on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, the 2024 event marked the 42nd edition of the conference, the first time it took place at a university and the largest attendance numbers ever recorded.

Testing reception to new VLSI test ideas

Attendees from industry, government institutions and universities from around the world network with other microelectronics testing experts, showcase their discoveries in research papers published as part of the event proceedings, listen to keynote speeches and exchange ideas in various aspects of testing. Conference participants discuss testing capabilities for the latest developments in electronics designed with very large-scale integration, or VLSI.

VLSI devices use thousands to billions of transistors on a single chip and include those for artificial intelligence, or AI, 5G communications technology and more.

ASU electrical engineering faculty were heavily involved in the organization of the 2024 symposium. Sule Ozev, a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, served as one of the general chairs for the event, leading its organization and the associated logistics.

Ozev, a faculty member in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Fulton Schools, has attended more than 20 VLSI Test Symposium events and has been involved in organizing them since 2005.

“I got introduced to the VLSI Test Symposium in 1997, when I was working on my doctoral thesis,” she says. “It has been a great conference to present cutting-edge research as well as discuss ideas and network with peers.”

Jennifer Kitchen and Jennifer Blain Christen, both Fulton Schools associate professors of electrical engineering, were also involved in organizing the conference as part of the Program Committee. In total, more than 20 Fulton Schools students and faculty members were involved in presenting their work in a variety of sessions throughout the symposium.

Beyond faculty and student involvement, the ASU Center for Semiconductor Microelectronics, or ACME, was among the event’s sponsors.

Breaking symposium boundaries

Janusz Rajski, a Program Committee member and vice president of engineering at Siemens Digital Industries Software, was impressed with ASU’s hosting of the VLSI Test Symposium. He says he admires Ozev and ASU Fulton Professor of Microelectronics Krishnendu Chakrabarty’s research but had never visited one of ASU’s campuses before.

Rajski’s hope for the conference is that collaborative solutions come from the technical discussions and panels that can solve issues facing the semiconductor industry. He gave a keynote speech about challenges facing silicon microelectronics to ensure they’re designed to be testable to detect malfunctions and remain reliable and secure throughout their life cycles.

“The symposium has traditionally put a lot of emphasis on new ideas and innovation,” Rajski says. “Today there are many challenges facing the semiconductor industry, and we will need many good ideas to effectively solve them.”

Ozev concurs that networking and collaboration are among the symposium’s biggest benefits. She says electronics testing solutions company Teradyne announced three internships at the conference and gave student attendees priority on applying before the positions were posted publicly online.

“Networking is essential for collaboration as well as finding good employment opportunities,” Ozev says. “The conference is also the place many attendees get together face-to-face and discuss interesting research ideas.”

She says many attendees told her they were impressed by ASU’s research and students. Through National Science Foundation grants, Ozev secured funds for 24 students from the university to attend the conference who would not otherwise have the opportunity.

For her, the increased visibility and positive impression among peer institutions for ASU among the microelectronics test community makes the event a success.

“It is rare for an IEEE conference of this esteem to be held at a university campus,” Ozev says. “ASU is once again a leader.”