Science & Tech

Texas A&M Blazes Trail In Semiconductor Education And Training

Texas A&M Engineering and the Texas A&M Semiconductor Institute will soon launch multiple programs and initiatives to bolster the semiconductor industry.
By Texas A&M University College of Engineering April 17, 2024

Artist's rendering of a CPU
A forthcoming master’s degree and certificate programs add to efforts already underway at The Texas A&M University System in the field of semiconductor research and training.

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From powering mobile phones to safeguarding national defense, semiconductors have become increasingly vital in today’s world. The growing demand for skilled professionals calls for semiconductor training.

Starting in fall 2025, Texas A&M University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will introduce a new Master of Science program focused on microelectronics and semiconductors. This program will blend digital and analog integrated circuit design with semiconductor manufacturing, ensuring students are proficient in both areas and can collaborate effectively between design and fabrication processes. The development of this program is made possible by a $1 million gift from Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

Before its launch, the program must receive approval from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board and undergo authorization within Texas A&M University.

“We at the Texas A&M System recognize the importance of a highly educated workforce that understands microelectronics and semiconductors,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “I think you will see Aggies leading the way as the country increases the amount of domestic semiconductor manufacturing.”

The new degree is in addition to the semiconductor efforts already underway within The Texas A&M University System. The Texas A&M System is at the forefront of semiconductor research and training, establishing the Texas A&M Semiconductor Institute in May 2023 to focus on the need for trained semiconductor professionals and coordinate efforts in response to federal and state CHIPS initiatives. The institute, in conjunction with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), is committed to collaborating with semiconductor companies, coordinating system member research and fostering workforce training.

Also, beginning in fall 2024, electrical and computer engineering will offer three certificates to address the state and national need for trained experts in the field of semiconductors. The certificates are in response to the 2022 U.S. Congress CHIPS and Science Act, a strategic approach for the country to be a leader in domestic manufacturing, create more employment opportunities, fortify supply chains and accelerate future research directions.

“As the demand for semiconductor expertise rises, we remain committed to training the next generation of skilled professionals in this critical sector,” said Dr. Robert H. Bishop, vice chancellor and dean of engineering and director of TEES. “Through collaboration with industry partners and the Texas A&M Semiconductor Institute, we are poised to make significant strides in semiconductor research and education.”

The certificates include digital integrated circuit design, semiconductor manufacturing and electromagnetic fields and microwave circuit design.

The digital integrated circuit design certificate will be for graduate students in electrical and computer engineering and focus on the design stage of digital integrated circuits (IC). These are circuits designed to perform specific tasks, like signal processing and machine learning computing. After the design stage, the corresponding IC chips are fabricated by the manufacturer.

The semiconductor manufacturing certificate will focus on manufacturing semiconductor chip products and will be offered to electrical and computer engineering undergraduate and graduate students. Students will learn the process by which devices or chips are created, including photolithography (layering transistors and metal wires on silicon wafers), assembly and packaging.

The electromagnetic fields and microwave circuit design certificate will be for any engineering or science graduate student who wants to focus on high-frequency circuit analysis, design and implementation.

“We have proposed new certificates related to semiconductors given the growth of the industry as well as insufficient workforce development,” said Dr. Jiang Hu, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department.

The Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering will offer a safety in semiconductor processing certificate, which will be available to all engineering and science graduate students. 

This certificate will be integrated with the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center. The center’s primary role is to spearhead the integration of safety principles into chemical, oil and gas processing and, now, semiconductor manufacturing and energy transition.

This certificate program gives engineers a new tool to add to their existing portfolio so they can learn how to safely deal with chemicals and processes in the semiconductor manufacturing sector,” said Dr. Sreeram Vaddiraju, an associate professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering.

The electrical and computer engineering and chemical engineering departments also have two additional certificates in the planning stages: chip design verification and analog chip design.

The integration of the Master of Science degree, certificates and training programs in microelectronics and semiconductor manufacturing serves to bolster the entire spectrum of semiconductor companies in Texas, including GlobalWafers, Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, NXP, Maxim, Silicon Labs, Cypress and more.

This article originally appeared on the College of Engineering website.

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