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Interview: IMS 2014's Larry Dunleavy

Interview: IMS 2014's Larry Dunleavy

Larry Dunleavy, general chair of the IMS Steering Commitee, previews what's in store at this year's RF/microwave extravaganza.

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NF: How does one get to be the general chair for the International Microwave Symposium (IMS) Steering Committee?

LD:  Everyone took one step back when someone asked who wanted to chair a future conference. There I was, standing alone, asking, “What was the question again?” Seriously, though, I think that it varies. Being involved in your local IEEE MTT Chapter as well as getting involved in IMS activities and getting to know Adcom members over a period of time sets the stage. Beyond that, unbounded enthusiasm to bring a future IMS to your area—and the ability to rally the troops to get a proposal together for your area—helps a little. In my case, it was mostly arm-twisting by Dick Sparks and the late Dr. K.C. Gupta, at a lunch with Tom Weller and myself, that resulted in our being vice-chair and chair, respectively, for this year’s conference.

NF: What benefits would you say the Tampa, Fla. location offers?

LD:  I know every chair probably says this, but we do have a great venue. Tampa provides a nice mix of a great convention center that is right-sized for the conference, convenient hotels, and a nice waterfront setting. For those who may like to spend a little time in the area before or after the conference or bring their family, the region offers a wide range of fun activities—from world-renowned beaches and theme parks to year-round golf at the nearly 100 courses in the area. There also is a plethora of watersports, boating, bike trails, zoos, museums, and theme parks.  In addition, June is baseball season. The Tampa Bay Rays will be in town for those who want to sneak out and see a game.

NF: How do attendee numbers look pre-show? Do you expect the conference to meet or beat attendance numbers?

LD: Attendance numbers so far are on track with recent shows in Baltimore and Seattle.

Larry Dunleavy
Larry Dunleavy
NF: How many papers were submitted this year? Which categories were most popular in terms of submissions?

LD: According to our TPC Co-Chairs, Scott Barker and Sanjay Raman, we received close to 900 initial paper submissions. After the outstanding work of our IMS 2014 Technical Program Review Committee, approximately 450 papers were accepted for presentation as either regular oral papers or interactive forum poster papers. Continuing the trend of the past several years, the most popular technical topic areas were all things related to power amplifiers (PAs) and millimeter-wave/terahertz technology. Passive components also made quite a strong showing in the submissions this year.

NF: The student papers always get a lot of attention at IMS. Were submissions up or down this year?

LD: We received 266 student paper submissions this year, or about 30% of the total submissions. This is nearly the same percentage that was received for IMS 2013. The accepted student papers were evaluated by the TPRC subcommittees and 33 finalists were selected. These finalists will be evaluated by a cadre of MTT experts at a special poster session Tuesday afternoon of Microwave Week. I would refer readers to the IMS 2014 website, under Technical Program > Student Paper Competition, for more details on the selected finalists.    

NF: Looking at the student and regular papers, what stands out in terms of new or unexpected trends?

LD: A good place to look for new trends is the emerging-technology topic areas. This year, we have emerging-technology sessions in 2D/3D-printed microwave circuits and phase-change material-based switches for reconfigurable microwave circuits. As additive manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, are taking off in the commercial market, we are seeing innovators in the RF/microwave community exploiting these techniques for the low-cost, rapid deployment of microwave components. Meanwhile, phase-change materials have been explored for nonvolatile memory applications. But they may also have great promise for low-loss, high-linearity microwave switches.

NF: What do students have to do this year in the design competition? Can you share any details?

LD: This is the 10th year of Student Design Competitions at IMS. The competitions continue to attract significant interest from students and the MTT community as a whole. This year, we have 11 Student Competitions, which equals the highest number of competitions offered since this program was introduced in 2005. The competitions cover a diverse set of topics including transistor modeling, PA design and linearization, oscillator design, filters, communications and radar systems, and even developing microwave software apps. I would refer readers to the IMS 2014 website, under Technical Program > Student Design Competitions, for more details.

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Special Attractions

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NF: Aside from the IMS technical sessions, RFIC Symposium, and affiliated workshops, what special offerings will be available to attendees this year? Are there any historical exhibits, for example?

LD: This year, the Automatic RF Techniques Group (ARFTG) is joining up with the IEEE WAMICON event on Friday. We also are hosting a STEM program for teens. In addition, Project Connect will bring a number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to the conference. The IMS will have an updated historical exhibit that provides a fantastic overview of how microwave technology has developed over the years. Of course, the IMS also will host the largest RF and microwave industry exhibition in the world. This provides an amazing opportunity for engineers from all over the world to see firsthand the latest industry developments and trends. The IMS exhibit showcases everything from material and component suppliers to system integrators. A subset of the exhibitors also will be providing technical seminars as part of the MicroApps program (see the IMS 2014 website for full details).

NF: Given your experience at Modelithics and your work on the show, how do you think that the show and the industry are being increasingly shaped by software?

LD: Well, I think the main players are well defined with some smaller contributors (like us) filling niches. Just to give an example, an area that remains hot is gallium-nitride (GaN) PA technology. In the old days, software was not a major part of PA design. That has all changed to the extent that it will be difficult to market GaN transistors without good nonlinear models. In addition, designers are expecting their simulated design to work in the lab with minor tweaks. To make that happen, they are combining nonlinear power-transistor models simulated in a harmonic-balance circuit simulator with electromagnetic (EM) simulations of packages and boards—if PCB-based—as well as other interconnect and passive structures on their MMICs. Thermal analyses also are becoming more commonplace in such circuits. This is just one area we have been participating in that will be well-represented on the show floor as well as in the workshops and technical sessions.  

NF: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about this year’s IMS?

LD: Yes. Our theme, “Powering the Waves,” is inspired by two things. One is the fact that it is precisely the MTT Society members and all those who frequent IMS who truly power the technology that enables “microwaves” in all of the many related applications and embodiments. You might think of the annual conference as a time to get refueled to go back and plow through technical and business challenges with new knowledge, refreshed ideas, and new power. The other inspiration will be obvious when you stand on the dock near the convention center, drive past some of the bays, or visit the beaches or lakes. You will see there is a lot of fun to be had powering around the waves of the Florida waters on various vessels. But at IMS 2014, our technical sessions, workshops, and sold-out exhibit floor will focus on how we all can learn some things to help power the microwaves of our industry. Consistent with our theme, we also are replacing the traditional opening reception with an upbeat, dockside kickoff celebration that attendees will not want to miss on Monday evening. All Microwave Week attendees and exhibitors are welcome!

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