Tiffany Nakama Fukuhara

Tiffany Nakama Fukuhara

Track: PV/Semiconductor
Undergrad: Willamette University, Salem, OR - Chemistry
Internship: Thermo Fisher Scientific
Current Job Title: Yield Engineer at Intel

What about the program intrigued you and why did you choose this path?
Looking back at my undergraduate career, I remember having my end-of-the-semester meetings with my advisor, during which he would always ask me what my post-graduate plans were. He would lay out my options, such as attending graduate school, starting an entry-level chemist job, or something completely unrelated, but none of these paths necessarily stood out to me. I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree at some point, but there were many things to consider, such as the length of programs, cost, etc. In my senior year, however, I heard of the Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program through info sessions led by alumni from my university. In conjunction with a couple of one-on-one informational meetings with Lynde, I had two main takeaways that made me decide to pursue the program:

  1. I loved that I could finish my on-campus coursework within 3-6 months, and then get paid as a full-time intern at a company in the semiconductor industry to help kickstart my career.
  2. I had the sense that I would receive exceptionally strong support from the KCGIP faculty throughout the program.

Now that I have graduated from the program, I can confidently say that both of those points held up. Speaking to the first point, one of the main things that sets KCGIP apart from other graduate programs is its structure. You are able to first build a strong knowledge of semiconductors through both lectures and hands-on fabrication labs, and then apply that knowledge to your internship in the semiconductor industry. It was a great way to get my foot in the door.

Speaking to the second point, I actually underestimated how strong of support I would receive. During the summer you are able to take professional development classes and receive individual attention from TAs, Stacey York (the program director), and your track lead for optimizing your resume and interviewing skills, which I found invaluable. Then, when job hunting after your internship, the KCGIP staff are able to connect you to other alumni who are currently hiring engineers and will notify graduates of any job opportunities they know of. I love how much I have been able to expand my network within my field in such a short time.

What was the intensive summer like for you?
The summer was difficult to say the least – jam-packed with class in the morning, lab in the afternoon, and professional development on Fridays, but I had great classmates with whom I was able to collaborate. While the summer session was intense, I had both the faculty and my own peers as a support system. All in all, I met so many people with so many different backgrounds in all four tracks and am happy to have formed connections with them.

Where did you do your internship?  Without giving away proprietary info, what was your internship like?  What were you responsible for?  What was a typical day like?
I interned as an Applications Development Engineer in the Materials Science division at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Hillsboro, OR. The MS division develops electron microscopy/spectroscopy instruments and software, and I was part of the team focused on developing software that automates transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image acquisition. In my internship, I was assigned two main projects. The first was to perform weekly PQA tests for our team’s software. This entailed both performing and creating reports for the test on a weekly basis to validate new application features, report bugs when appropriate, and summarize the current status of the software. As a secondary project, I characterized the image drift behavior in TEM systems due to sample holder insertion and studied the effect of drift correction methods on metrology by creating automated recipes for acquisition of 800+ images, recording image shift, and performing metrology on semiconductor sample features.

Did you feel the program prepared you for the internship?  In what ways?
While my internship did not require me to use any of the specific fabrication lab skills I gained over summer (simply due to the nature of the work), I still feel that the program was valuable in giving me the foundational knowledge required to understand what role my company had in the semiconductor industry. For example, why was it important to develop automated TEM imaging software? Who were our customers and why did they need our software? Understanding the applications of semiconductors in the real world gave me the context needed to grasp the motivation behind the work I did.

How did your internship prepare you for your current position/career path?  
What I really enjoyed about my internship is that I was able to familiarize myself with the industry, both in the sense of seeing real-world applications of semiconductors from a business perspective and understanding the day-to-day structure of a full-time engineer position. Being able to attend meetings with my team members, join employee resource groups, and contribute my own work to the company made it a worthwhile and fulfilling experience.

What is your current job like?  
I am currently a Technology Development Yield Engineer at Intel in Hillsboro, OR. Intel manufactures semiconductor devices used as computer processors in laptops and related electronic devices. The various yield groups within the company work to maximize the output of devices on a given wafer. My role is as a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) tool owner who works with fabrication lab technicians and applications engineers to maintain tool health and ensure that instrumentation is operational.

How have you evolved in your career since you started?  What do you enjoy about what you do and what makes it a good fit for you?  If you ended up going a different direction, did your experience in the program help you figure that out?
As a recent graduate of the program, I am still learning so much! My career is still budding, but I love how the program was able to propel me into a future of success. I very much look forward to expanding my skill set and further establishing myself in the semiconductor industry.