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Graduate student's tech business earns a boost in award funding

A burgeoning tech business, started by an electrical and computer engineering graduate student at The Ohio State University, is blossoming under a boost in funding from government defense agencies.

Ramy Tantawy became the co-founder and CEO of SenseICs as a Ph.D. candidate at the ElectroScience Laboratory with ECE Professor Waleed Khalil's Circuit Laboratory for Advanced Sensors and Systems (C.L.A.S.S.) group. His company provides integrated circuit designs focused on next-generation imaging and radio frequency (RF) sensors and systems. 

Tantawy touched upon balancing academics with his business pursuits while helping to highlight a new graduate course he participated in under ECE Professor Sanjay Krishna called “Empowering the Entrepreneurial Engineer.”

Since then, SenseICs earned two funding awards. The first, a $1 million two-year U.S. Army Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research Award, and the second a $200,000 one-year Air Force Research Laboratory’s Design Challenge Award. 

Shane Smith, a research scientist and Ohio State ECE alumnus at ESL, serves as co-founder and president of SenseICs. He offers more than 20 years of experience developing and maintaining electronic systems for integrated circuit research and high energy physics experiments. 

Tantawy said the point of SenseICs is to rethink what is possible in the front-end of imaging and RF circuits and how information is ultimately translated through human perception. The focus is on pursuing real-time technology. 

“Software approaches using artificial intelligence and machine learning are quite limited when prompt action is required using existing hardware,” he said. “SenseICs seeks to advance context adaptive IC technology by reducing the latency of autonomous system decisions. This will revolutionize user experience and raw performance in both consumer electronics and sensitive government applications.”

The ARL award funds the proposal of an intelligent High Dynamic Range (HDR) Infra-Red (IR) imager with a Read-Out Integrated Circuit (ROIC) hybridized to a III-V or II-VI focal plane array (FPA) of photodetectors. 

“The specialized front-end analog-digital technology enables a new generation of smart infrared imaging technology, with on-the-fly adaptive reconfigurability and a power efficient image processing back-end,” Tantawy said.

For the AFRL award, SenseICs will envision and demonstrate a broadband power amplifier (PA) design for secure 5G network applications. 

“The proposed novel wide-band MMIC PA provides a turnkey 5G solution while ensuring protection from cybersecurity threats,” Tantawy said.

Prior to founding SenseICs, Tantawy spent over 15 years designing CMOS mixed-signal circuits in monolithic CMOS imagers, hybridized IR ROICs, and RF front-end transceivers. He authored and co-authored over 5 patents, and 12 conference and journal papers. 

For current and future ECE students looking to pursue a similar research and entrepreneurial path, Tantawy suggests Ohio State courses like ECE 5022 (RFIC), ECE 7022 (Advanced RFIC), ECE 5021 (Analog IC II), ECE 5020 (Mixed signal VLSI), ECE 7023 (High-speed interface Circuits and systems), ECE 5023 (Fundamentals of Integrated Data Converters), ECE 5227 (Fundamentals of PMIC for VLSI Systems), ECE 5194.10 (IR detectors and systems), ECE 5194.13 (Empowering the Entrepreneurial Engineer)  

Story by Ryan Horns | ECE/IMR Communications Specialist | Horns.1@osu.edu