Profile of a Scientist: Lukas Kull

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Who: Lukas Kull

Location: IBM Research – Zurich

Nationality: Swiss

Something about me: I speak Swedish and I build my own ultra-light tents for hiking in the mountains.

Lukas holding prototypes of his chip design.

Focus: Analog to Digital Chip Design

The annual growth rate of structured and unstructured Big Data is 60 percent. A large portion of this is real world data from the environment, including images, light, sound and even the radio signals from the Big Bang 13 billion years ago — and it’s all analog.

To make use of this data in computers the analog signal needs to be converted to digital, in the form of zeros and ones. This is done using an analog to digital converter or ADC, which approximates the right combination of zeros and ones to digitally create the data. For example, the sound of automobiles driving on a highway may be represented as “00100110001100100”.

“Analog circuit design is thought of as black magic in chip design and not fully understood. This creates many opportunities to pursue innovative designs making — it both challenging and interesting as a young scientist. In addition, I see a lot of demand due to the growth of Big Data and Internet of Things, so it’s a skill set that will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.”

Career Advice:

“I chose analog design very late in my career as a student. My advice for any student would be, don’t focus on a discipline because its easy; choose what is the most appealing and applicable to the market. Also when choosing an organization to work for, decide on the balance of research and development that suits you. And at least as important: make sure you feel very comfortable with the people you work with.”

Insider Tip:

“The average smartphone has more than 10 analog-to-digital converters (ADC), such as temperature, touch screen and motion sensors. The number will only grow faster as sensors become even more ubiquitous in our mobile devices, at home, and in areas like healthcare and supply chains. So stay tuned, it’s only the beginning.”

Lukas recently presented his new breakthrough ADC at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.

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