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Connecting-the-dots, phase change memory and producing new scientists Campus life

When it comes to potential and possibilities, sometimes all the dots really do connect. And over a few days last week, covering three separate, and seemingly different, events I had the chance to see that happen.

The “dots” started to come together at the recent Freescale Symposium, sponsored by Freescale Semiconductors and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. Presenter, Ken Hansen, VP and chief technology officer with the company, stated that much of the work in transitioning mechanical systems to more efficient electronic devices—from vehicles to smart grids—is being done at colleges and universities, like RIT.

For example, remote sensors are being embedded in vehicles that help prevent collisions by relaying information about dangers ahead to the vehicles behind, Hansen said. And new ‘memory technologies’ are being developed, including phase change memory, that have the greatest potential to significantly move the industry forward, he added.

Ken Hansen, VP & chief technology officer for Freescale Semiconductors, addresses symposium guests about next generation technologies at RIT.

Hold that thought—we’ll revisit advanced technologies and phase change memory in a moment.

The next day, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County spoke as part of the annual Campus Week of Dialogue about the need to re-vamp the culture of science and technology.

“No one is really surprised that 20-25 percent of blacks and hispanics who start in STEM programs, graduate in these areas,” Hrabowski said. People always look at the gaps between whites and under-represented groups as the focus of graduates in STEM programs, but Hrabowski pointed out a broader issue: “Well over half, 60 percent-plus, of all students who start in science and engineering, regardless of race, don’t make it, they change their major,” he added. “And it is not simply because they don’t have an interest in those areas. All the research will tell you that it is because they didn’t do well.”

So, as much as there is a need for breakthrough technologies, there is an even greater need for the scientists who will produce these breakthroughs. As Hrabowski said later in his presentation, “It takes researchers to produce researchers.”

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski was the keynote speaker during the Campus Week of Dialogue

Which brings us back to connecting-the-dots, phase change memory and to a gathering that took place in microelectronic engineering later that same day as RIT student Archana Devasia was about to defend her doctoral thesis “Towards Integrating Chalcogenide-Based Phase Change Memory with Silicon Microelectronics.”

Devasia sat among engineering faculty (Sean Rommel, Michael Jackson, Santosh Kurinec, Lynn Fuller and Elaine Lewis) all prominent educators and researchers in the engineering field. They’ve encouraged Devasia, and others like her, and introduced several undergraduates that day to visiting, international researchers, Dr. Kris Campbell, an associate professor at Boise State University and Dr. Simone Raoux, a scientist at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. Campbell, Raoux and Kurinec all served as advisors for Devasia as she worked on her Ph.D. They attended her formal defense later that day.

(Left to right) Dr. Simone Raoux (IBM), Dr. Kris Campbell (Boise State) and Archana Devasia (RIT Ph.D. student)

Hansen talked about potential and industries hungry for better ways of providing robust storage and better performance in microprocessers for electronic devices. Hrabowski made the case for preparing young people for careers in STEM disciplines to impact the advancement of these technologies, and in turn the competitiveness of the U.S.

And for Archana Devasia, here’s a student not only surviving but, thriving in a demanding (and in demand) tech field. …..Dot, dot, dot!…..

Top two photos by Sue Weisler University News, third photo by Elizabeth Lamark, ETC Photo


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