Duke ECE Graduate Student Workshop

The 2016 Duke ECE 5th Annual Graduate Student Workshop will be held on Friday, September 23, 2016, at the Trent Semans Center Great Hall on Research Drive on the Duke medical campus.


This annual academic event brings together graduate students from each of our curricular groups to showcase their recent research accomplishments to peers and faculty from throughout the department. Students will present a series of 15-minute talks throughout the day, as well as exhibit posters at our afternoon poster session. In addition, we'll hear from ECE faculty and alumni about their successful research endeavors.


  • Kick off the academic year by celebrating Duke ECE’s research accomplishments and goals
  • Embrace Pratt’s interdisciplinary emphasis by learning about research outside of your curricular area
  • Share your research accomplishments with your peers
  • Earn a chance at travel award prizes for the most outstanding talks and posters
  • Mingle with new ECE graduate students
  • Enjoy meals and socialize with ECE faculty and classmates that you don’t often see
  • Get Duke ECE swag!

Registration Information

All attendees must register using this Registration link. Registration will remain open through September 7, 2016.

Register now

Please remember that submitting an abstract does not automatically register you for the event; we ask each participant to complete the registration form separately.

Abstract Submission

Duke ECE PhD, MS, and MEng Students are highly encouraged to submit abstracts for featured talks and for the poster session. The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, September 9, 2016. Presenters will receive acceptance notifications by September 12, 2016. 

Submit abstracts at this Abstract Submission link.

Submit Abstract Now

The top talks and posters of the day will earn prizes in the form of travel awards:

  • $2,500 and $1,500 travel awards given for the top two oral presentations
  • $2,000, $1,500, and $1,000 travel awards given for the top three poster presentations

Note: All Participants (students as well as faculty) will vote for top posters and talks, so consider how you can impress your full audience!

Event Agenda

View full agenda

Distinguished Seminar Speaker

  Dr. Sani R. Nassif, CEO of Radyalis

Sani received his Bachelors degree with Honors from the American University of Beirut in 1980, and his Masters and PhD degrees from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1981 and 1986 respectively. He then worked for ten years at Bell Laboratories in the general area of technology CAD, focusing on various aspects of design and technology coupling including device modeling, parameter extraction, worst case analysis, design optimization and circuit simulation. While at Bell Labs, working under Larry Nagel -the original author of Spice, he led a large team in the development of an in-house circuit simulator, named Celerity, which became the main circuit simulation tool at Bell Labs.

In January 1996, he joined the then newly formed IBM Austin Research Laboratory (ARL), which was founded with a specific focus on research for the support of IBM's Power computer systems. After twelve years of management, he stepped down to focus on technical work again with an emphasis on applying techniques developed in the VLSI-EDA area to IBM's Smarter Planet initiative.

In January 2014 Sani founded Radyalis, a company focused on applying VLSI-EDA techniques to the field of Cancer Radiation Therapy. In October 2015, Radyalis announced that it has closed a deal with LSI software to license its flagship Monte Carlo particle therapy simulator.

Sani has authored one book, many book chapters, and numerous conference and journal publications. He has delivered many tutorials at top conferences and has received Best Paper awards from TCAD, ICCAD, DAC, ISQED, ICCD and SEMICON, authored invited papers to ISSCC, IEDM, IRPS, ISLPED, HOTCHIPS, and CICC. He has given Keynote and Plenary presentations at Sasimi, ESSCIRC, BMAS, SISPAD, SEMICON, VLSI-SOC, PATMOS, NMI, ASAP, GLVLSI, TAU, and ISVLSI. He is an IEEE Fellow, was a member of the IBM Academy of Technology, a member of the ACM and the AAAS, and an IBM master inventor with more than 75 patents.

Dr. Nassif was the president of the IEEE Council on EDA (CEDA) for 2014 and 2015, was the General chair of the ICCAD conference in 2008, and has served on the technical program committees of ICCAD, DAC and other conferences. He received the Penrose award (given to one outstanding graduate from the American University of Beirut), the Distinguished Member of Technical Staff award from Bell Labs, three Research Accomplishment Awards from IBM, and the SRC Mahboob-Khan Outstanding Mentor awards from the SRC.

Dr. Nassif will present a Distinguished Lecture: "Putting the Star in EDA, E*A"


No field in Engineering have had the sustained exponential that was Moore’s Law. One of the outcomes is a rich culture of “using computers to automate the design of computers”, namely EDA, which has had to rapidly adapt to ever larger complexity. But with Moore’s era now over, it is time to apply the energy of the EDA community to other areas. This talk will explore the application of EDA techniques and knowhow to the area of Cancer Radiation Therapy.

Alumni Speaker

  Dr. Boyla Mainsah (Duke PhD, Spring ’16) was advised by Dr. Leslie Collins.

The ECE Outstanding Dissertation Award for 2015‐16 went to Boyla Mainsah for her dissertation Adaptive Brain‐Computer Interface Systems For Communication in People with Severe Neuromuscular Disabilities. Boyla’s Ph.D. research focused on utilizing signal processing, machine learning and statistical modeling techniques to improve on the efficiency of non-invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCI) for communication, towards transitioning these systems from the research lab to the clinic.

Some of her work includes: incorporating statistical language models into BCI algorithms to improve spelling speed and accuracy; developing a probabilistic framework for predicting BCI performance, which can be used as an analytical tool for offline algorithm development, or to evaluate a user’s likelihood of success with real-time BCI use; and using an information-theoretic approach to design stimulation sequences that enhances the elicitation of the brain responses that are used as BCI control signals.

Boyla completed her PhD degree in just over 4 years, securing accolades like the ECE Department’s Kristina M. Johnson Fellowship along the way. Both Dr. Collins and Dr. Galen Reeves, who was a member of her preliminary exam and dissertation committees, commended Boyla’s theoretical and experimental talents as well as her originality. Upon leaving Duke, Boyla had published four papers in peer‐reviewed journals presented at ten conferences (2 invited), and had several other papers and book chapters in various stages of the publication process. We are thrilled that Boyla has returned to Duke to work as a research scientist in Dr. Collins’ lab.

Dr. Mainsah will speak on the topic of her dissertation research: "Adaptive Brain‐ Computer Interface Systems for Communication in People with Severe Neuromuscular Disabilities"


Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) have the potential to restore communication or control abilities in individuals with severe neuromuscular limitations, such as those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The role of a BCI is to extract and decode relevant information that conveys a user's intent directly from brain electro-physiological signals and translate this information into executable commands to control external devices. However, the BCI decision-making process is error-prone due to noisy electro-physiological data, representing the classic problem of efficiently transmitting and receiving information via a noisy communication channel.

This research focuses on P300-based BCIs which rely predominantly on event-related potentials (ERP) that are elicited as a function of a user's uncertainty regarding stimulus events, in either an acoustic or a visual oddball recognition task. The P300-based BCI system enables users to communicate messages from a set of choices by selecting a target character or icon that conveys a desired intent or action. However, repeated data measurements are required to enhance the low signal-to-noise ratio of the elicited ERPs embedded in electroencephalography (EEG) data, in order to improve the accuracy of the target character estimation process. As a result, BCIs have relatively slower speeds when compared to other commercial assistive communication devices, and this limits BCI adoption by their target user population. The goal of this research is to develop algorithms that take into account the physical limitations of the target BCI population to improve the efficiency of ERP-based spellers for real-world communication.

In this work, it is hypothesised that building adaptive capabilities into the BCI framework can potentially give the BCI system the flexibility to improve performance by adjusting system parameters in response to changing user inputs. The research in this work addresses three potential areas for improvement within the P300 speller framework: information optimisation, target character estimation and error correction. The visual interface and its operation control the method by which the ERPs are elicited through the presentation of stimulus events. The parameters of the stimulus presentation paradigm can be modified to modulate and enhance the elicited ERPs. A new stimulus presentation paradigm is developed in order to maximise the information content that is presented to the user by tuning stimulus paradigm parameters to positively affect performance. Internally, the BCI system determines the amount of data to collect and the method by which these data are processed to estimate the user's target character. Algorithms that exploit language information are developed to enhance the target character estimation process and to correct erroneous BCI selections. In addition, a new model-based method to predict BCI performance is developed, an approach which is independent of stimulus presentation paradigm and accounts for dynamic data collection. The studies presented in this work provide evidence that the proposed methods for incorporating adaptive strategies in the three areas have the potential to significantly improve BCI communication rates, and the proposed method for predicting BCI performance provides a reliable means to pre-assess BCI performance without extensive online testing.

Meals and Refreshments

Two meals and afternoon hors d’oeuvres will be served, and an open beer and wine bar will be available during the cocktail hour and dinner.

Full conference attendance will provide

  • Catered lunch buffet
  • Snacks and coffee through the day and between presentation sessions
  • Cocktail reception during the poster session
  • Catered dinner buffet and dessert

Transportation and Parking

We expect that you'll use your campus transportation arrangements, as the location is directly across from the engineering complex. Paid parking is avaible in the Bryan Center lot (PG4).


Contact Amy Kostrewa or Tony Strimple if you have any specific needs or concerns about conference attendance.