Microsystems Engineering Doctoral Students Awarded Fellowships

NASA, U.S. Department of Education and Semiconductor Research Corp. to provide support for students’ nanotechnology research

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Stephen Polly (foreground), a microsystems doctoral student, is a recent winner of a U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need Fellowship. His doctoral work with Seth Hubbard, assistant professor of physics and microsystems engineering, focuses on using the Class A Close Match Solar Simulator to test how solar cells will perform under both terrestrial and extraterrestrial conditions. He is shown here analyzing the results of a characterization test with colleagues Chelsea Plourde, research associate, and Hubbard.

Three engineering doctoral students have received national fellowships for research work in the areas of nanotechnology and nanolithography. The students, in RIT’s microsystems engineering program, have been acknowledged for their research exploring future technologies.

“These fellowships recognize several of the outstanding students that we have in the Ph.D. program,” says Professor Bruce Smith, director of the program and academic advisor to the students. “We are proud of the accomplishments and exceptional work being carried out by these individuals recognized through these prestigious awards.”

2012 doctoral fellowship awardees

The Semiconductor Research Corp. Doctoral Fellowship, given to support students who will eventually move into the growing semiconductor industry, was awarded to Burak Baylav, whose current research interests are focused on assessing the ability of scaling-interference lithography for large-field integrated-circuit applications.

“Interference lithography is a less expensive and easier way to generate high-resolution patterns with high contrast and good image fidelity, compared to extreme ultraviolet lithography and double-patterning lithography,” says Baylav, who works with Smith in RIT’s Nanolithography Research Laboratory. “However, it faces some challenges that need to be addressed in order to be used for large-field, integrated circuit manufacturing.”

Baylav has also worked on non-chemically amplified photoresist platforms based on dissolution inhibitors for a SEMATECH, a semiconductor manufacturing company, and recently completed a yearlong internship at the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre in Leuven, Belgium. He worked on computer simulations in the fields of double patterning, extreme ultraviolet lithography and assist-feature printing predictability. Originally from Antalya, in southwestern Turkey, Baylav expects to graduate in 2013. Currently, he works at RIT’s Nanolithography Research Labs and is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the RIT student chapter of the International Society for Optics and Photonics, Optical Society of America and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Michael Slocum received a three-year NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship for work in the area of nano-structured photovoltaics for space power. NASA fellowships are intended to help accelerate the development of technologies to support future space science and exploration needs of NASA, other government agencies and the commercial space sector.

Slocum’s work involves the development of quantum dot nano-structures for high-efficiency, space solar applications including radiation-tolerance.

“Long-term goals for this project are to realize an intermediate-band solar cell where the semiconducting material has an intermediate-band between the valence and conduction bands, which results in three distinct absorption bands,” says Slocum, who is from Williamsport, Pa. “The intermediate-band solar cell is an area of high interest to the solar community, because it is seen as one of the few ways to reach conversion efficiencies greater than 50 percent.”

NASA doctoral fellows perform research at their respective campuses and spend some time at NASA Centers or not-for-profit research and development laboratories. At RIT, Slocum is advised by Seth Hubbard, assistant professor of physics and microsystems engineering; at NASA he will work with Sheila Bailey, associate faculty at the International Space University and a senior scientist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio.

Stephen Polly is the recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in the Areas of National Need Fellowship. His work is in the area of nano-materials and technologies, specifically to test how solar cells perform under both terrestrial and extraterrestrial conditions, in RIT’s NanoPower Research Lab.

“My focus area is on improving the efficiency of solar cells by the addition of quantum dots,” says Polly, who is from Jamesville, N.Y. He has been working with Hubbard since he was a first-year student five years ago; he expects to graduate in 2014.

Understanding how nano-materials work might provide researchers with the ability to optimize the design of the solar cell and maximize its effectiveness, Polly says. Several of the devices he helped produce are being used on the International Space Station to gather data for its mission about how advanced solar cells, spacecraft materials and lightweight computing devices and techniques adapt to long-term exposure to the space environment.

Earliest fellowship awardees graduating or in final year of study

The microsystems program has had multiple fellowship awardees since 2009, Smith says, and the awards represent an important component of the support and guidance provided to students in the program.

“The growth of microsystems engineering at RIT is providing students and faculty expanding competitive opportunities for Ph.D. education and research,” he says. “As they progress through their studies, I’m sure this group of Ph.D. fellows will continue to make RIT proud.”

The microsystems program was established in 2002, the first of its kind in the U.S. at that time, and awarded its first degrees in 2005. Smith received a U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need grant in 2009, and funds from the grant have been distributed to four doctoral students to support research in areas considered strategic to the U.S. economy and educational institutions. Three of the earliest awardees have completed or are in the final stages of research work:

Roberta DiLeo, whose research has been published in the proceedings of the journal ACS Nano and the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, has completed her doctoral degree in microsystems engineering.

“My research has been on using nano-materials to improve the performance of lithium ion battery anodes,” says DiLeo, who is from New Castle, Pa. “I have looked at novel materials and electrode design in order to improve overall battery performance which will impact large scale applications, such as electric vehicles, as well as micro-scale applications, such as remote sensors.”

Most recently, she presented on this topic the annual meetings of the Electrochemical Society and the European Materials Research Society with academic advisor Brian Landi, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Germain Fenger is also researching nanolithography in Smith’s group, specifically on photoresist-based aberration metrology for extreme ultraviolet lithography, the next-generation lithography system for integrated circuit manufacturing.

“I am researching lithography lens aberration metrology, basically determining lens imperfections for 13.5 nanometer reflective optics. Working with Global Foundries, a semiconductor manufacturing company, new algorithms are being tested on state-of-the-art systems,” says Fenger, who expects to graduate in 2013. Last year, the doctoral candidate, from South Otselic, N.Y., was awarded the BACUS Photomask Scholarship by the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers’ Photomask International Technical Group. Fenger currently serves as the president of the RIT chapter of International Society for Optics and Photonics.

Susan Spencer was also a 2010 recipient of the Graduate Assistance in the Areas of National Need Fellowship, and her area of research is in photovoltaics with faculty advisor Christopher Collison, assistant professor of chemistry and group leader at RIT’s Nanopower Research Lab.

“I design, fabricate and test organic photovoltaic cells,” she says. “They offer a cheap, flexible, customizable alternative to the conventional silicon solar cells. I focus on the nano-morphology of the bulk hetero-junction interface between the two organic electronics that are present. By manipulating that morphology, I can better understand the quantum mechanical processes of charge transfer that turn free sunlight into electricity.” Spencer is from Rochester and expects to graduate in 2015.

In addition to the Department of Education grant, students have been awarded significant fellowships from organizations such as the National Science Foundation. One of those students, Monica Kempsell Sears, received its Graduate Research Fellowship in 2010, given to support outstanding students in foundation-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Kempsell, originally from Ketchikan, Alaska, is doing research in Smith’s nanolithography group, specifically utilizing pupil wavefront manipulation to compensate for mask topography effects and increase process yields.

“The fellowship allowance has allowed me to travel twice to the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center, in Belgium, to use their state-of-the-art facilities for my dissertation research,” says Kempsell Sears, who is currently in Belgium completing work at the center. She expects to graduate in 2013.