MSCA-funded postdoctoral research in Singapore - Interview with Global Fellow Dr Orazio Aiello

The MSCA Global Fellowships support the international career of researchers by giving them the opportunity to conduct a research project in a host institution located in a so-called ‘Third Country’. The Fellow will spend between 12 and 24 months conducting postdoctoral research at the Third Country institution, for example in Singapore. This is followed by a mandatory return phase of 12 months to be spend at a host institution in an EU Member State or Associated Country.

The 2020 Call for Application is open with a deadline of 9 September 2020

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Dr Aiello, you have just completed your research stay as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Global Fellow at NUS in Singapore. Can you tell us a little about the research you conducted during your stay?

I am currently leading a MSCA IF-GF project named ULPIoT: Ultra-Low Power and Highly-Scalable Interfaces for the Internet of Things H2020-MSCA-IF-2015. The project is a joint collaboration between the National University of Singapore where I have spent two years of my MSCA working with Prof. Massimo Alioto, and the Politecnico di Torino in Italy where I work with Prof. Paolo Crovetti.

ULPIo[1]T is intended to unify the design methodology of analog and digital Integrated Circuits (ICs). The possibility to exploit the digital (automated) design flow even for analog building blocks can dramatically reduce the design effort of any system-on-chip that face with analog signal. This is in order to address the fundamental challenges of size shrinking, reduction of design effort and energy-efficiency for the incoming Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

What motivated you to spend your MSCA fellowship in Singapore?

Singapore is a world-renowned technology ecosystem and a fast-growing economy. Furthermore, the National University of Singapore is a leading global university. In particular, the easy access to the silicon wafer production makes its Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department a covet destination for researchers in the field of ICs from all over the world. Apart from that, my project has matched the aims of the NUS supervisor, Prof. Massimo Alioto and his Green IC group. ULPIoT fulfilled the strict quality requirements requested to work in such a competitive scenario in order to reach a win-win collaboration.

A good fit between the applicant and his host institution is very important for a successful application. Can you describe to us the key steps in preparing the joint application?

Yes, you are totally right. I guess that my project has been highly valuated by the MSCA reviewers because it is complementary to the research areas of energy-scalable and ultra-low voltage circuits and system of the NUS ECE Department. The first step in preparing a joint application is to find enthusiastic persons to pursue excellence in science. Having contacted by mail Prof. Alioto, he appreciated my ideas, and he immediately supported my MSCA application. Based on that, I started to write my proposal. As MSCA is a very competitive (and prestigious!) funding scheme, any minor detail can have an impact on the final result. The first time I applied for the MSCA, my score was not enough to be funded. Learning from my mistakes, and improving the proposal I was very proud to receive a positive result to my application the following year. As is well-known, the main criterion for a successful MSCA application is the scientific excellence of the proposed project.I also believe that the scientific reputation of the persons involved in the projects (i.e. Prof. Massimo Alioto for NUS in Singapore and Prof. Paolo Crovetti for Politecnico di Torino in Italy) plays a role in making a project highly valuable, showing its resilience against up-coming problems.

What about the financial aspect of the fellowship? Did NUS have to pay a salary to you?

My salary has been paid by the Politecnico di Torino in Italy with the funds I got from European Commission as an MSCA IF Global Fellow. Other funds for my travel expenses (i.e. participation at international conference) have been transferred to NUS. A minimum allowance and the health insurance have been kindly provided by NUS.

How has your research stay outside of Europe benefited your career development?

As an MSCA Individual and Global Fellow, I have gained an international reputation in the field of innovative, low power and highly scalable Integrated Circuits design. Interacting daily with top academics and getting access to the top conferences in the field of analog and digital ICs has increased my visibility as a scientist. My project’s breakthroughs have been reported by the international scientific press. A complete review can be found here: https://sites.google.com/view/ulpiot/press

And how do you think has NUS as your host institution benefited from your research stay?

Since ULPIoT perfectly matches with the research activities of the ECE Department at NUS, a constructive synergy between Singapore and Europe has been built on the basis of shared research interests.

What are your plans for the future?

I have another year to be spent back in Europe to complete my MSCA. Then, I have still not decided.

Thank you Orazio and good luck for your future career!


[1] For more details and the latest ULPIoT outcomes please visit the official web-site: https://sites.google.com/view/ulpiot/home