James Ranney
Undergrad: University of Oregon, Eugene, OR - Chemistry
Track: PV/Semiconductor
Internship: FEI
Currently at FEI



During my final years of undergraduate at the University of Oregon I was faced with the difficult question of what I wanted to do after college. I had spent the last three years doing research in a chemistry lab as an undergraduate with the intention of applying to a PhD program after graduating. As senior year rolled around and I was forced to address this question with more seriousness, I began to realize that I was having doubts about the path I had been following. I knew I was still committed to expanding my education, but I was also interested in seeing what applied science looked like “in the real world.” The prospect of entering a PhD program which could take anywhere from 4-6 years, without any idea of what a science career outside of academia actually looked like, made me a little uneasy. After discussing these uncertainties with my research professor he recommended the Master’s program to me. After doing a little research I realized this program was exactly what I had been looking for. A master’s degree in a year, plus paid exposure to the industry side of science. For me, it was the perfect balance of continuing my education while still getting an idea of what a career in science was like.

The summer curriculum was certainly very challenging, however it was a perfect environment for such an accelerated course. In short, it is an impossible amount of work for a single person, but fortunately you are not alone. The teamwork and networking experience that this program provides is perhaps one of the most valuable and unique aspects it has to offer. The lecture and lab experience are obviously an integral part of any science education, but I don’t know of any other programs that stress the professional development and interpersonal career skills as much as this program. For 10 weeks you will spend almost your entire day with a group of strangers who you will rely on and who will rely on you. At the very least, it will teach you to find a way to get along with people you don’t always see eye to eye with (and there will be some of that), and at its best you will form bonds with some of the brightest and most driven people who are all about to be the next generation of employees in the industries you will likely find your career in. The summer will be difficult and it will also be one of the most exciting and interesting terms of your academic career. It is difficult to describe the summer as it is a bit of a paradox; every day will be long, full, and difficult, but it will be over faster than you can imagine. My advice about the summer is if the rigor has you worried, make your choice not on how intelligent believe yourself to be, but on how hard you are capable of working.

Now that I am mid-way through my internship at FEI I realize that the interpersonal skills and the self-motivated work ethic that the program forces you to embrace are arguably more important on a day to day basis than the specifics of manufacturing processes and the theory behind them. The program puts a focus on this because it is the only element that will exist regardless of where your internship takes you. In this way the program prepared me very well for my internship, even though the day to day specifics of my job could not be taught, especially for the diversity of internships available to students in the program.

The exact path of my education and career is still not perfectly clear to me, as I expect it will continue to be for some time, but this Master’s program has given me some invaluable tools to make more informed decisions about that path and the ability to follow it. Higher education into the world of semiconductor manufacturing, invaluable work experience in a field relevant to my interests, insight into careers in science, understanding about how your degree impacts your career, and a strong network of individuals starting their careers in dozens of industries both closely related to and very far removed from my current position. If you want to gain the same type of insight while making life-long friends and connections, expand your education and practical career experience, all while earning a paycheck with only a 1 year commitment, I highly recommend this program.