Sergi Abadal (Technical University of Catalonia, UPC) has obtained an ERC Starting Grant 2021. During his project WINC (Wireless Networks within Next-Generation Computing Systems), he will lay the foundations of revolutionary computing systems enabled by the integration of a miniaturized wireless chip-scale network that will help build ultra-fast and versatile interconnects.
Sergi Abadal received a PhD in Computer Architecture from the Department of Computer Architecture of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona (Spain) in July 2016. Previously, he obtained an MSc and BSc in Telecommunication Engineering at UPC in 2011 and 2010, respectively. He has held several visiting positions at Georgia Tech (USA) in 2009, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA) in 2015 and 2017, and the Foundation of Research and Technology – Hellas (Greece) in 2018. Before receiving the Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), he was the coordinator of the European H2020 WIPLASH project and principal investigator in an NEC Labs fellowship. From 2020, he acts as one of the ambassadors of the European Innovation Council (EIC) through its program of National Champions. He is Area Editor of the Nano Communication Networks Journal (Elsevier), has served as TPC member of more than 20 conferences, and has published over 90 articles in top-tier journals and conferences. Abadal was the recipient of the Nano Communication Networks Young Investigator in 2019, the UPC Outstanding Thesis award in 2016, the INTEL Doctoral Fellowship in 2013, and the Accenture Award for MSc students in 2012. His current research interests are in the areas of chip-scale wireless communications and the application of these techniques for the creation of next-generation computer architectures in the classical and quantum domains.
Which are the main objectives of WINC?
Computing systems are ubiquitous in our daily life and have transformed the way we learn, work, or communicate with each other, to the point that progress is tied to the pace at which companies can improve the processors that lie at the heart of these systems. However, progress has been slowing down in part because the wired interconnects (used within current processors to share and move data) have become a fundamental bottleneck. In this context, the overarching goal of the WINC project is to lay the foundations of revolutionary computing systems enabled by the integration of a miniaturized wireless chip-scale network that will help build ultra-fast and versatile interconnects. In more detail, my aim is to:
1. Demonstrate that wireless technology can fundamentally meet the communication requirements of current and future processors.
2. Design antennas and communication protocols that can actually operate within processing chips.
3. Develop computer architectures (both classical and quantum) that can achieve 10X improvements in speed, efficiency, or scalability thanks to the newly proposed wireless chip-scale networks.
Why did you decide to carry out your research at the UPC?
I decided to develop the project at UPC for reasons that involve international relevance, a unique environment for interdisciplinary research, and prospective growth in the institution. The research group that I am working on (NaNoNetworking Center in Catalunya, N3Cat) not only gathers experts in electrical engineering and computer science but is also well-connected to the nanotechnology sector. Wireless chip-scale communication, which lies at the core of the project, is one of those applications and benefits from the close interaction with N3Cat experts in ways not achievable in other centres. Beyond N3Cat, UPC counts on leading experts in the required disciplines including experts in electromagnetics, wireless communications, and computer architecture. To cite a relevant example, UPC has ties with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center which makes it a unique opportunity to conduct research in classical and quantum computing. Besides the convergence of excellent researchers, UPC hosts ETSETB-UPC and FIB-UPC, two schools of international relevance in Telecommunications and Computer Science. These are precious sources of prospective top-notch researchers. Notably, both schools are part of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, which attracts the best students all over Spain to obtain a double degree.
How do you expect this grant will affect your professional career?
The funding and prestige of the grant will allow me to establish a relatively large team of top students and researchers to develop cutting-edge research, which at my career stage is hard to achieve because of how competitive the European calls are. Hopefully, the line of research that the ERC grant is opening will also lead to opening new interesting collaborations with top researchers worldwide, in turn leading to more projects in the future and more sustained growth. Besides this, we cannot obviate the fact that having a stable position in top public Spanish universities is hard. This said, obtaining an ERC Starting Grant will guarantee a professorship position within UPC and that’s perhaps the most immediate and direct impact on my professional career.
Are you planning to open research positions in your group?
Indeed, the ERC grant will open space for at Indeed, the ERC grant will open space for at least 4 PhD students and 2 postdocs and I will be more than happy to receive applications. I am currently looking for top-notch and motivated candidates with a background in telecommunications, electronics, or computer science, willing to work on one of various of the subjects researched in the project, namely: unconventional electromagnetics and antenna design, RF/analogue circuit design at high frequencies, signal processing, communication protocol design, multiprocessor computer architecture, and quantum computing. Exact details on the positions currently being advertised can be found on the project website and in specific offers in Euraxess: here, here, here, and here.
Are you planning any collaborations?
Indeed. I hope that the project will allow me to continue (and even extend) my ongoing collaborations with researchers at institutions such as RWTH Aachen, EPFL, IBM Research, NEC Labs Europe, the University of Illinois, or Georgia Tech. Besides that, I am very much eager to establish new collaborations as the ERC grant will be exploring areas that are also new to me. I am in contact with colleagues at different institutions, including Cambridge University, University of Nottingham, University of Essex, and Intel Labs among others.
Where can we learn more about you and your project?
Personal website: http://sergiabadal.com/
Project website: https://www.winc-project.eu/
Graphene-based Wireless Agile Interconnects for Massive Heterogeneous Multi-chip Processors, S. Abadal, R. Guirado, H. Taghvaee, et al., arXiv:2011.04107 (2020)
Wave Propagation and Channel Modeling in Chip-Scale Wireless Communications: A Survey from Millimeter-Wave to Terahertz and Optics, S. Abadal C. Han, and J. M. Jornet, IEEE Access, vol. 8, pp. 278-293 (2019)
During the following weeks, we will be presenting those researchers working at Spanish institutions that have obtained an ERC Starting or Consolidator Grant 2021 and their projects. You can check their profiles HERE.