Systems student scoops award

An engineering doctorate student at Livingston’s Institute for Systems Level Integration (iSLI) has won the Elektra Award for Student Engineer of the Year


Carol Marsh, an engineering doctorate student at Livingston’s Institute for Systems Level Integration (iSLI) has won the Elektra Award for Student Engineer of the Year.



The Elektra Awards recognise achievements in product technology and business by individuals and firms across the European electronics industry.



Marsh is studying for an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in System Level Integration at iSLI and is currently in her third year of research. The EngD programme is the flagship doctoral qualification of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).



Marsh is sponsored by Edinburgh-based Algotronix, a supplier of technical due diligence on semiconductor companies and a vendor of silicon IP (intellectual property). With the aid of iSLI and Dr Tom Kean, managing director of Algotronix, Marsh produced research primarily relating to the electronic tagging of integrated circuits, IP cores and FPGA (field-programmable gate array) designs.



Marsh’s designs focus on the detection of fraudulent activity and provide reliable product and version identification. She has been developing Algotronix’ DesignTag product, a very small, low power IP core which functions as an ‘active’ tag for a larger design. The DesignTag communicates through the chip package with an external ‘reader’ using small changes in chip temperature as a signalling mechanism. She has also researched cryptography and used this knowledge to enhance Algotronix’ Security IP Cores.


The research is important because currently accepted methods of inking IC packages can be easily abused. More deeply embedded identification such as chip metallisation requires destructive testing to confirm identity. Furthermore, FPGA designers or IP core vendors cannot mark the package of the chip or easily customise the metal layers of their product.



The circuits Marsh has designed are particularly challenging because they must perform what is essentially an analogue communications function using only digital logic. A security tag is only useful if its resource requirements are minimal compared with the design it protects placing difficult research and design constraints on the tag circuit designer.



Marsh, an active member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) council, said: ‘I hope that in winning this award it will encourage other people and especially women that it’s never too late to return to education.’