Photovoltaics and Semiconductors

Track Information

TYPICAL STUDENT BACKGROUNDS

Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and related disciplines


DEGREE EARNED

Master of Science (MS) in Applied Physics or Chemistry


TRACK TIMELINE

6 months coursework + 9 months paid internship


PRIORITY DEADLINE

Summer Term: February 15*


Track Description

Situated at the intersection of chemistry, physics and chemical engineering, the semiconductor (microelectronics) industry enables a greener, smarter, and more connected economy. The field has significant implications in society’s ability to support technology innovations and address the global energy crisis through applications in microprocessors, photovoltaics, LEDs and power transistors. For students who love to stay connected, semiconductor technology has driven advancements in the internet, 5G and IoT. And for the tech geeks who love smart technology – iPhone, Fitbit, self-driving cars- this field is ripe with opportunities. The continued success of this vast, interdisciplinary, and sophisticated yet innovative industry is deemed critical to long term US national competitiveness, which translates into impactful and well-paid job opportunities for those who choose to join this sector.

Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of this track, students are recruited from multiple backgrounds including physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science and electrical engineering (in no order of preference

Alumni from the Semiconductor & Photovoltaic track hold a range of titles and positions in industry. To learn more about the career paths of alumni, check out our partner list and alumni bios or contact us.

*This program will continue to accept applications after February 15. Applicants should reach out to Recruitment Director, Lynde Ritzow at lynde@uoregon.edu to determine enrollment availability. All programs begin coursework during the summer rather than fall term.

young scientists


Common Industrial and National Lab Job Titles

Students who complete the photovoltaics and semiconductors track work in a wide variety of engineering roles within the semiconductor and solar sectors, as well as peripheral sectors such as battery development and defense applications. Alumni from this track develop skills which have been successfully transferred to a wide variety of engineering and management roles in manufacturing, hardware development, materials research, supply chain, analytics, battery development, and research and development. A selection of roles is highlighted below. 


Process Engineer: Combines process knowledge and experimentation methods to maintain and improve the quality of a processing step, as well as trouble shoot when necessary. Example: Owns the plasma etch toolset at a semiconductor manufacturing company, meaning they are accountable for etch tools use and up time, while also in charge of conducting experiments to continuously improve process yield and throughput of the etch process.

Yield or Quality Engineer: Collaborates with process engineers to identify and correct manufacturing steps leading to yield problems by combining process flow knowledge and data. Example: In semiconductor manufacturing, evaluates data to identify a yield limitation in the process flow, such as 10% of water have failures in the center of their devices. Works with tool owners of each manufacturing step (process engineer) to determine the root cause of problem and implement necessary process changes across all processes to address the problem.
 

 

Application engineer: Demonstrates the value of major capital equipment (>$1M) to customers by showing them how the equipment can solve their problems and provides technical support after sale. Example: Works for an electron microscopy company that serves semiconductor customers with defect analysis through demonstrating, supporting and optimizing sample extraction, sample preparation and visualization techniques that allow the customer to achieve clearer results and better efficiency.  

Application Development Engineer: Similar to an application engineer, this role is differentiated by its primary focus on developing and testing new recipes to solve emerging problems in the industry. Example: Works for a reactive ion etch (RIE) tool supplier to develop recipes that can create exceptionally deep and narrow trenches on semiconductor wafers, imperative for the next technology node development.

Product Engineer: Develops new products based on the emerging needs and trends in the industry. Example: Develops the next-gen commercial inkjet printheads by redesigning the thin-film stack and geometry of the firing chamber to increase the firing consistency and precision of ink droplets.

Student and Alumni Success Metrics

98%

Students who have completed 9-month paid internships since 1998

$58,200

Average annualized internship compensation in 2020

90%

Graduates who are employed in their field within three months


Timeline

Summer and Fall Terms
Over the summer and fall terms, students complete core coursework, electives and professional development (the equivalent of six applied physics classes, plus professional development).
Between the summer and fall term, students have the opportunity to interview with company partners during the program’s Annual Networking event. The majority of internships are lined up during this event with internships typically beginning in the winter term.

Winter, Spring, and Summer Terms
The majority of students fulfill their internship component through employment beginning in January and ending in September. In this scenario, students enroll in 10 internship credits per quarter during the winter, spring and summer terms.

The majority of photovoltaics and semiconductor students complete their master’s degree in 15 months.


Curriculum

Overview
Students in the Semiconductor and Photovoltaic track complete a total of 55 credits broken down as follows:

  • Core courses: There are four required, core courses for a total of 16 credits.
  • Elective courses: Students select and complete two elective courses for a total of 8 credits.
  • Professional development: All students complete a one-credit professional development course.
  • Internship: The culmination of the curriculum is three terms of internship credits for a total of 30 credits.

Details about the curriculum are provided in the sections below.

Graded Coursework (Summer and Fall Terms)
Students develop critical hands-on technical skills and foundational knowledge through curricula specifically informed by industry.

  • PHYS677M/CH677M: Semiconductor Device Physics (4 Credits, Graded)
    In this course students will learn what "motivates" electrons to move around in solids and across interfaces. Application of that knowledge is used to predict and control the flow of electrons in semiconductor devices, enabling technical feats such as converting sunlight into electricity, producing powerful lasers, and performing lightning fast calculations and data transmissions.
     
  • PHYS678M/CH678M: Semiconductor Processing Technologies (4 Credits, Graded)
    Through the application of both physics and chemistry concepts, students learn how to build billions of nanometer-scale devices on a silicon wafer using versatile processes such as etching, doping, thin film deposition, and photolithography. The technology also enables the fabrication of advanced MEMS, photonics, and microfluidic devices.
     
  • CH610: Introduction to Semiconductor Processing Lab (4 Credits, Graded)
    Students practice applying what they have learned from the processing technologies course in lab and design experiments to characterize and optimize essential processes of wafer cleaning, thin film growth/deposition, plasma and wet etching, doping, and photolithography. They also learn metrology techniques such as interferometry and profilometry.
     
  • PHYS679M/CH679M: Device Integration and Characterization Lab (4 Credits, Graded)
    In this project-based course, students integrate and apply their learnings from previous coursework to projects where they design and carry out complete process flows to build functional solar cells and transistors from a piece of bare silicon. Some projects such as laser diode fabrication and characterization involve collaboration with other tracks (optical materials & devices). Additionally, experts in the industry will give guest talks that connect what students are learning to what they may be doing in future careers.
     
  • Electives:  PHYS or CHEM related discipline Graduate Electives (8 credits, Graded)
    Students further specialize or broaden their knowledge through 8 credits of elective coursework. Popular electives amongst semiconductor/PV students include: Design of Experiments, Electron Microscopy, Introduction to Surface Analysis and Electron Probe Microanalysis. Students may also opt to complete their elective requirements at institutions outside of UO. If this option is of interest, please reach out to Lynde Ritzow at lynde@uoregon.edu

Professional Development (Summer Term)
No matter how long you’ve been out in the world, working well with other people is the key to success in all facets of industry – regardless of the sector. Hands-on training in communication, leadership and teamwork are program differentiators that have led to 20+ years of success in launching the careers of students. Through a 1-credit course, activities infused throughout the technical coursework, and workshops, students gain the know-how to accelerate their careers.

  • CH610: Professional Communication in Science (1 Credit, Pass/No Pass)
    Students learn and apply foundational skills critical for career progression of scientists and engineers. Core elements include: composing a competitive resume; sharing impactful answers during behavioral and technical interviews; and building a strong professional network.

Internship (Typically Winter, Spring and Summer terms)
Students complete paid, master’s level internships as part of their degree requirements.

  • PHYS 601/CH601: Internship (Total of 30 credits at 10 credits/term. Pass/No Pass)
    Within an industrial or national lab setting, students gain hands on experience in the application of their knowledge. Each term, students write a review paper (to be approved by their supervisor) to demonstrate advancement of technical knowledge. Additionally, at least one formal evaluation hosted between the student, partner supervisor and UO instructor will be conducted (typically at the 4-6 month mark of the internship).

Facilities

The Knight Campus serves as a home base for instruction, personal belonging storage and lounging for students in the photovoltaics and semiconductor track. Hands-on lab training occurs in the Lewis Integrative Science Building where students have a dedicated lab space that allows them to gain the hands-on skills necessary to be successful in industry and national labs.

While on campus, students in the semiconductor/PV track will use a dedicated 1500+ sqft microdevice fabrication lab space equipped with $1.5M worth of wafer processing and characterization tools for core course learning and have access to more than $20M worth of advanced characterization instruments (SEM-FIB, TEM, ToF-SIMS, XPS, EPMA, etc.) in CAMCOR (camcor.uoregon.edu) and additional equipment and cleanroom space in the Knight Campus.

Information on additional core facilities, such as CAMCOR, that students access through core or elective coursework can be found on the Facilities page.


Instructors

The program has multiple subject-matter experts who serve as instructors of record. Recent instructors include:

Dr. Fuding Lin, Manager of Semiconductor & Photovoltaic Track, Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program
Dr. Benjamín Alemán, Associate Professor, Dept of Physics University of Oregon
Dr. Mark Lonergan, Department Head, Professor, Dept of Chemistry, University of Oregon


Applying

Due to the highly interdisciplinary nature of this track, we welcome applicants from a variety of backgrounds (in no order of preference) including physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science and electrical engineering. Competitive applicants have previous research experience or project-based coursework experience and strong performance in upper division undergraduate course work. Prior experience in photovoltaics and semiconductors is not necessary. Please note that these are recommendations; we are happy to answer questions about your competitiveness for this program.

In recognition of the financial impact of the pandemic and the program's commitment to accessible education, we are waiving the application fee for all domestic applicants applying for Summer2021 by the priority deadline (February 15). Full application instructions should be reviewed prior to beginning an application.

This track will continue to accept applications after February 15. Applicants should reach out to Recruitment Director, Lynde Ritzow at lynde@uoregon.edu to determine enrollment availability. All programs begin coursework during the summer rather than fall term.

 

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