Please tell us about yourself

When Tushar Sharma moved from India to Calgary in 2013, he described the change as a bit of a shock. Whether it was from the sweltering sun in Delhi, or the cold in Alberta, Sharma says he felt he was in a haze. Although the culture in Calgary was very different from the fast-paced life in Delhi, the people he met were incredibly welcoming and they adopted him into their community. As such, the initial shock turned to a smooth transition from his academic life in India to the University of Calgary.

Sharma was a Masters student in 2013 but was fast-tracked into the PhD program. Now a PhD candidate, Sharma is researching high-efficiency power amplifier design for cellular infrastructure in iRadio Labs at University of Calgary with previous ASTech Award winner Dr. Fadhel Ghannouchi.

Power amplifiers are devices located in the transmitters of cellular towers that boost the signals. Currently these power amplifiers faces challenges in efficiency and bandwidth. Sharma’s PhD work focuses on waveform shaping for high efficiency RF power amplifiers.

“We are on the edge of moving towards 5G and we will need higher data rates, increasing complexity of these RF systems,” says Sharma. “I am focusing on green solutions that will tackle these problems.”

Sharma is bouncing back and forth between Phoenix, Arizona and the University of Calgary to help create an industry collaboration between the university and the leading semiconductor technology company NXP Semi-conductors.

Let’s get social with Tushar regarding his intern experience at NXP Semiconductors.

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How does your research benefit the community?

His Ph.D. studies, which focused on wireless communications and amplifiers, enabled him to further apply his knowledge to help people, this time by connecting individual users of ham radios in India to communicate during emergency situations when traditional communication methods fail. He serves as a steering committee member for the MTT-S Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT) to find new and innovative ways to apply his knowledge and expertise in service of humanity (Figure 1).
“We have done a significant amount of humanitarian work over the past year, in both the developing and underdeveloped world, with the objective of using low-cost microwave technology in humanitarian activities such as disaster readiness and health care,” says Sharma. “With the success in parts of Japan, India, and Canada, we now aim to launch communities of practice on adhoc wireless/celluar networks in Latin America.”

Tushar also developed an amateur radio astronomy project, called Radio Jove, that enabled students to use radio receivers and antennas to receive emissions from the sun, track, and report solar activity. His innovative education outreach model received an award in 2014 from the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation, the United Nations International Space Weather Initiative, the Stanford Solar Center and the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA).

Tell us about yourself and your internship experience at NXP Semiconductors. Where are you interning in, and what does your day to day role look like?    

I am Tushar Sharma, Ph.D. Candidate at iRadio Laboratory, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, Canada. I am currently interning as a Research and Development RF Design Engineer at NXP Semiconductors in Chandler, Arizona, United States.  My team in Chandler is known for the state-of-arts RF Power amplifier solutions for the communications market. We are a part of Advanced Design Technology team. NXP is driving innovation in the securely connected vehicle, end-to-end security & privacy, and smart connected solutions markets.

The day starts at 8 am, I live nearby and take Uber for work. Once in office, we are a team of young enthusiastic people who are motivated to deliver cutting edge RF solutions to the customer demands. I am fortunate to be a part of Advanced Design Group team in Chandler as we focus on the development of new concepts and technology solutions for wireless base stations infrastructure. My manager Damon Holmes is also an alumni of the University of Calgary and he is always supportive in discussing new ideas and concepts which can be implemented by our team to make our products more efficient. Our group meets every Thursday to brainstorm new ideas and discuss as a team the roadmap for execution. Lunch here is so much of fun, I think I am gaining some weight. Getting a chance to try different cuisines including Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Indian is just blissful.

As the day progresses, work gets exciting and intense. To end the day on a lighter note we play Table Tennis (ping pong) for a couple of hours and relax in swimming pools in late evenings. We are having a real fun time with the young graduates in coolest Advanced Design Technology team.

How did you get a chance to intern at NXP Semiconductors?

In the year 2015, I attended International Microwave Symposium (IMS) which was held in Phoenix.

IMS brings the best brains in the field of RF and Microwaves from all around the world. I attended a workshop on Waveform Engineering which Freescale (now NXP) hosted in the conference. When I visited their exhibition booth, I met two senior personalities Mr. Jeff Jones (Director, Advanced Design Technology) and Mr. Damon Holmes (Manager, Advanced Design Systems). This provided me the first insight about NXP, since there were Base stations RF solutions opportunities available for students for internship, so I applied. With the support of my supervisor Prof Fadhel Ghannouchi, Mr. Jeff Jones, and Mr. Damon Holmes, I was given an offer letter for the intern position in the month of November 2015.

How did the graduate school provide you with necessary skills required for this internship?

I will call attending a Graduate school as my Re-Birth personally, technically and professionally.  When I look back to those past two years of hard work, late night assignment submissions or the candidacy exam I feel that it has been a beautiful journey where I got a chance to enhance my technical skillset, subject knowledge and more than anything my leadership skills. The basic fundamentals, coursework which I learned as a part of my studies equipped me with the appropriate skillset to analyze, build logical understanding and come up with solutions to existing problems. When I started my school, my focus was centric to brainstorming and analyzing the problems. Deriving solutions were really challenging at the beginning, but with the course of time, I developed skills to come up with innovative strategies to the technical problems assigned to me. Also, one of the utmost learning requirement for any student in a graduate school should be to enhance interpersonal skills along with technical expertise. This industry internship changed my perception about the industry and ignited a myriad of thoughts in my mind. We are living in an era of “Disruptive Innovations”, therefore it’s very important to understand the industry demands, their methodologies of tackling problems and learning work ethics as a part of professional development process.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned during your internship?

It’s a well-known fact that there exists a bridge between academic research and industry demands. The academic research, on one hand, is confined in dimensions because of limited resource level, but on the other hand, the industry research is “demand driven” where engineers work together as a team to customize a product according to consumer demands. The internship immersed me with simulations on software tools used in the industry along with the advanced research tools like Active Load Pull System, Probe Station, Pulsed measurements, calibration techniques, and measurements. In the past two months, I have witnessed the importance of team work, sincerity, and discipline in work culture. I realized the value of work ethics, code of conduct, internal collaborations, documentation and technical grasping level. In this ultramodern and competitive world, we not only need a focused research but an efficient R&D.

My internship has been a treasure with so many cool findings. In the start, my manager arranged a meeting with different experts and senior members in the NXP Advanced Design Group. I was given the task to find answers for some complex problems which one stumbles upon in daily life but there is no specific answer available to those problems. With notable mentors, I made considerate progress in grasping those complex concepts.  I realized the importance of developing an independent and flexible thought process, which is unbiased and legit. With academic research, we sometimes tend to bias ourselves in few areas which we need to overcome.

How has your internship experience changed your career aspirations? 

This is a very important question for me. Before my internship started, my interests of choosing career path used to swing between academics and industry. After spending my quality time at my internship, I think I am not that bad to survive in the industry. My aspirations are very complex and I need more time to introspect and reach to a final answer of what I want to do in my life. But as of now what I believe is that I have to be awesome in any type of work assigned to me either by my manager or my supervisor. Certainly, my perception after this exposure has changed my thinking and working style. The lessons learned will surely help me to advance myself in both technical and professional life.

Why is an Internship experience important in a graduate career?

As I described earlier, our exposure to the field of industry and next generation technologies is limited in the school environment. Furthermore, being in Calgary where the market demands to revolve around Oil and Gas industry, the exposure to the communication and semiconductor industry is quite narrow. I feel lucky to have an amazing supervisor and a proficient lab environment to explore research possibilities. As the name suggest “Transformative”, I am looking forward to bring a positive change in my life. We need to keep updating, upgrading and transforming our knowledge and skills for a more productive and innovative future.

Who is your graduate supervisor what is your graduate research on and how is your internship project similar and different?

My graduate supervisor is Professor Fadhel Ghannouchi, the Director of iRadio Laboratories. He has been a great mentor who has been motivating me to bring best out of me.  He is very downright to new collaborations and opportunities for his students. With his support, I was able to attend the International Microwave Symposium 2015 where I met my current manager. Dr. Ghannouchi is really supportive of my efforts and we wish to build a long term relation with the NXP Semiconductors and iRadio Labs at the University of Calgary. I am also thankful Mr. Joe Staudinger an awesome mentor who guided me through in my internship at NXP.

My graduate research is focused on the Design of High-Efficiency Broadband Power amplifiers for Wireless Communications.  My research by far focuses on the bandwidth extension techniques for the advanced power amplifiers in order to reduce the hardware complexities in RF systems for SMART technologies. When I talk about SMART technologies, I coin it as something which is S-Simplified, M-Manageable, A-Accessible, and R- Robust T– Technologies. My internship is synchronic to the overall area of research. I have been assigned a different research problem which is like an extension and which broadens my research at the University of Calgary into new spheres which can provide more effective industry-oriented solutions.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience and motivate our Young Professionals?

Yes, this is one of the best summers I have had. I got the opportunity to explore places like San Diego, Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Flagstaff and many other scenic spots. A couple of friends dropped by from Calgary and we had the time of our lives. I’m a voyager and when traveling is an art of work then what else can I ask for?! I wish to advise all Young Professionals to not miss out on any opportunity they get. You may never know how it can change your life and your future plans. Also, never miss out on the fun with the work. IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques society has provided me with necessary exposure to moving out and look beyond the horizons. Just enjoy research and try to be awesome in whatever you wish to pursue.