Featured Engineer

Interview with Dr. Ted Moise

Dr. Ted Moise

Dr. Ted Moise - Analog CMOS and Embedded Memory Roadmap Manager at Texas Instruments

  • Additional Title: Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff (DMTS) Emeritus at Texas Instruments
How did you get into electronics/engineering and when did you start?

I’ve always wanted to understand how things work. I enjoyed science and math in high school and especially liked physics because it helped me to describe phenomenon using mathematics.

I chose to attend Trinity College in Hartford, CT because of its strong science and engineering departments within a liberal arts environment. Although starting as a Physics major, I declared a double major with Engineering and Physics at the end of my sophomore year. While physics helped me to understand and describe nature, electrical engineering taught me some ways this knowledge has been used to help society. After my time at Trinity College, I went on to earn a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Yale University. I joined TI shortly after my time at Yale.

What have been some of your influences that have helped you get to where you are today?

A few influences come to mind. At the top of the list is my father. A mechanical engineer, he was always very precise and analytical in his descriptions. He taught me the value of being careful (I tried to rush through everything) and of striving to accomplish a task correctly the first time to avoid wasted effort.

I’m also a very competitive person, and I participated in athletics as a child and teenager. I was fortunate enough to have been coached in my early years and in high school by some very positive role models. In particular, my high school wrestling coach and science teacher provided a positive example of how to set and to achieve goals.

While an undergraduate at Trinity College, my advisors gave me opportunities to work on various research projects during the summer and individual study programs during the semester. These early lab experiences were valuable in defining my future career path. My Ph.D. advisors, Prof. Lou Guido and Prof. Richard Barker, always challenged me to drive toward concise, measurable explanations for experimental results. They also emphasized the value of having an “elevator” speech ready at all times.

At TI, I’ve worked with many outstanding engineers and leaders who have taught me about semiconductor materials, devices, integration, and manufacturing. It’s great to work in a company with so many experts who share their experience and advice!

What are your favorite hardware tools that you use?

The fabrication and measurement of advanced semiconductor devices require a large amount of capital equipment. TI’s fabrication facilities include tools necessary to implant dopants, deposit thin films, define, etch, and measure semiconductor devices. Hundreds of complex hardware tools are involved in the creation of a semiconductor device.

What are your favorite software tools that you use?

For each of the hardware tools described above, a software program is required to run the tool, collect the data and store it. Other software tools are used to integrate and analyze the data so that it can be put into a comprehendible format.

What is on your bookshelf?

An eclectic collection of books, magazines, and notebooks clutter my bookshelf. At work, Physics of Semiconductor Devices (S.M. Sze), Silicon Processing for the VLSI Era (Wolf and Tauber), The Art of Electronics (Horowitz and Hill), and Principles of Ferroelectrics and Related Materials (Lines and Glass) are handy references. For journals, I subscribe to Electron Device Letters, Transactions on Electron Devices, the IEEE Spectrum, and often read the online version of EETIMES. I’ve also found the Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen), the Innovator’s Solution (Christensen and Raynor), and the Innovator’s Manifesto (Raynor) to be very useful when thinking about the role that new technology development plays in a large company.

Outside of work, I enjoy reading history, philosophy, historical biographies and any other books that I can get my hands on. I also subscribe to The Economist, the Wilson Quarterly, and (of course) Sports Illustrated.

Tell us about your 41 patents, and the numerous paper and research you’ve presented at international industry events?

My patents are related to electronic devices, designs or techniques that reduce manufacturing costs or decrease power consumption by as much as 10 times, and I’ve presented much of this research at industry events, or in industry publications and conference journals. Most of my research is tied to the development of the world’s only 130-nanometer, ultra-low power ferroelectric memory (FRAM). Today, this technology is enabling medical, consumer and industrial products to work more efficiently and longer on a single battery charge.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with a strong group of technical inventors and problem solvers at TI. In many cases, generating the idea is only a small step toward realizing an actual commercial product.

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve?

I do have some advice for young engineers regarding persistence and a commitment to innovation. It is important to stay dedicated and never give up on the technologies or ideas that you strongly believe could advance our industry in the future.

Our biggest technical achievements with FRAM were over 10 years in the making. At various points in time, funding was reduced or cut for the program, and management questioned our direction and progress. This can sometimes stall progress or cause one to want to give up. But in my situation, our team made the decision to remain dedicated to our cause. We continued to demonstrate favorable results, even when we had to move slower or with limited resources. In the end, that persistence paid off. Management support eventually increased, and today the project that started as a research interest is now in high-volume production, playing a significant role advancing medical, consumer and industrial markets for the better.

What has been your favorite project?

Creating and manufacturing a 130nm embedded FRAM has been both my favorite and, at times, most frustrating project. The thrill of creating and implementing a new technology has been the highlight of my career. Bringing this technology into production required the full effort of a tenacious development team, an experienced development partner/customer (Ramtron International Corporation), along with a very robust and flexible manufacturing group. It’s been my distinct privilege to work within this challenging and exciting environment.

Do you have any noteworthy engineering experiences?

Most recently I was recognized by The Academy of Math, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) with the prestigious Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award for technology innovation, based on my contributions to FRAM research and development. The award recognizes researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society. I was honored to be recognized for my contributions with other esteemed colleagues in our field.

I also was one of the youngest engineers to be elected Senior Member of the Technical Staff, which is a designation I am very proud to hold. TI’s Technical Ladder recognizes and rewards employees who consistently demonstrate innovation and visionary technical leadership. Election is made by technical peers and management. Today, I remain a member of the Technical Ladder as Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff (DMTS) emeritus, and am mentoring young engineers to help them develop into their full potential.

What are you currently working on?

My focus continues to be on the use of embedded memory to extend the capabilities of analog technology. As analog chips become “smarter” and require increased functionality, the need for embedded micro-controllers and associated memory increases. I’m optimistic that our technology will play a positive role in improving people’s lives in the future.

Can you tell us more about TI?

Texas Instruments provides innovative semiconductor technologies to help our customers create the world’s most advanced electronics. This includes analog, embedded processing and wireless technologies that are enabling everything from entertainment and medical services, to automotive systems and everything in between.

What direction do you see your business heading in the next few years?

TI is focused on delivering innovation in analog, embedded processing and wireless to help advance existing markets, and drive new markets in the next decade. This includes things like energy harvesting and energy conversion, or medical and healthcare where we are looking at how our technology can improve patient care and wellness management, or enable intelligent medicine. We are also focused on technology development around cloud computing, safety and security.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work and design?

I coach recreational soccer and softball teams for my daughters. This has turned out to be a great way to become acquainted with their friends and the families in the community. I attempt to keep in shape by running one or two half marathons every year. The Texas weather also gives the family a chance to go camping a few times a year.

Is there anything you have not accomplished yet that you have your sights on accomplishing in the near future?

There are many great products on the near horizon which take advantage of FRAM. Examples include ultra-low power micro-controllers, power-management ICs, and advanced medical devices. By leveraging the ultra-low power and fast-write properties of FRAM, TI’s customers will have the advantage of extended battery life and fast, non-volatile, data logging of key system or sensor information. My goal is to expand the ways in which non-volatile memory is used within system-on-chip applications and to grow TI’s business in this area.

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