Featured Engineer

Interview with Prof. Santosh Kurinec

Prof. Santosh Kurinec

Interview with Santosh Kurinec - Professor of Electrical & Microelectronic Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, NY

Who are you, what do you do?

I am Santosh Kurinec, Professor of Electrical & Microelectronic Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), NY. I served as the Department Head of Microelectronic Engineering from 2001-2009 after which I took an academic year sabbatical at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY as a visiting scholar. I received Ph.D. degree in Physics from University of Delhi, India. After my doctorate, I worked as Scientist at National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi where I helped develop a polysiliconphotovoltaics program.

I came to the US as an international participant to the Training in Alternative Energy Program at University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. I became a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at University of Florida, and then joined the newly created joint college of engineering between Florida State University/Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, FL as Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering. I joined RIT as an Associate Professor in 1988.

Educated in physics, I conducted my doctoral work on magnetic materials for electrical engineering applications, attained post-doctoral experience in material science for solar photovoltaics and integrated circuits. I consider myself as an engineer who works at the intersection of physics, materials science & electrical engineering. I am a Fellow of IEEE, Member, American Physical Society, NY State Academy of Sciences, and an IEEE Electron Device Society Distinguished Lecturer.

I teach courses on semiconductor devices, integrated circuit fabrication, photovoltaics, and quantum physics and devices. My current research areas are memory devices, advanced materials for semiconductor devices and silicon photovoltaic devices.

Why did you choose Electrical & Microelectronic Engineering and when did you start?

As I mentioned above, I did my education in Physics (BS, MS, and PhD). My PhD research was on the development of high permeability ferrite ceramic material for electrical engineering applications. That enabled my transition from physics to applied materials science for electrical & electronic engineering applications. It essentially involved understanding of materials at atomic level, using fundamental physics and chemistry and then engineering them for desired electronic properties.

Can you tell us about your work at Rochester Institute of Technology?

Rochester Institute of Technology established a unique program in Microelectronic Engineering about three decades ago. This program has educated engineers who have been driving the semiconductor technology worldwide. The program has the largest cleanroom facility dedicated to undergraduate education that houses advanced photolithographic facilities, furnaces, ion implantation, deposition/etch tools, characterization, simulations and electrical test facilities and supports PhD and industrial research. I advise undergraduate and graduate students on their research in this facility. My research focusses on developing resistive memory devices, solar cells, engineering thin dielectrics and metallization for semiconductor devices/systems.

One of your research interests is Electronic and Magnetic materials for Micro/Nanodevices, can you please tell us more about it?

Behavior of electrons in solids gives rise to a vast range of electronic properties such as conductivity, permittivity, magnetic permeability and optical properties. Tailoring these properties through materials engineering is the key to modern devices such as integrated circuits for processing, memory, sensing and communications. Imagine tailoring conductivity by ~ 20 orders of magnitude in various layers on silicon in a volume of about half a micron sided cube! That is what has been realized in modern MOSFETs.

What are your contributions to Engineering Education?

I believe my dedication towards infusing excitement and potential of research into undergraduate teaching has been my major contribution for which I received the IEEE 2012 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. It has helped engaging students and preparing them as top quality microelectronic engineers currently driving the semiconductor industry.

What was your most challenging publication?

I could write several publications that were challenging. My earlier publications as a graduate student were difficult to accomplish as in those times we relied on using typewriting, hand drawn figures and physically mailing the manuscripts overseas. It would take months before any feedback could be received.

Amongst recent papers, I would like to list three papers here – one experimental,one theoretical and one educational that I consider most challenging. The first one is

1. Study of Boron diffusion in MgO in CoFeB|MgO film Stacks using Parallel Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy, Sankha S. Mukherjee,David MacMahon,Feiming Bai, Chih-Ling Lee,Santosh K. Kurinec, Applied Physics Letters, 94, 082110, 2009.

In this paper, we could actually investigate boron movement at atomic scales through an innovative experimental design for applications in magnetic random access memory.All the co-authors brought their complementary strengths to the paper.

The second one is

2. Modeling Quantum Efficiency of Ultraviolet 6H-SiC Photodiodes, Alexander Panferov and Santosh Kurinec, IEEE Trans. Electron Devices, vol. 58, no. 11, 2011, pp. 3976-3982, Article DOI: 10.1109/TED.2011.2165720.

This paper was one of the most rigorously reviewed papers and I have very high regards for the IEEE review process, the reviewers and my co-author Alexander Panferov.

The third paper was created while teaching a course on photovoltaics

Teaching Solar Cell I-V Characteristics through SPICE Modeling, ArchanaDevasia and Santosh Kurinec, Am. J. Phys, Vol 79, No. 12, December, 2011, pp 1232-1239.doi.org/10.1119/1.3636525

This paper was challenging as it was unconventional writing in a physics journal using electrical engineering concepts but turned out to be very useful for my students and has been well cited by outside educators. I commend the work done by my former Ph.D. student ArchanaDevasia.

You have plenty of awards, which one you are most proud of and why?

We normally value our most recent and bigger awards. But when I look back, what put me on the track I am today, was when I won the National Science Talent Award by competing in the National Science Talent Search Scholarship program in India when I was in high school. The contest included completion of a research project, written exam in math & sciences and an interview. The award consisted of substantial scholarship up to the doctoral level provided the student continued to show academic excellence. I was one of the 300 candidates awarded out of tens of thousands contesting nationwide. To my family, with very modest resources, it was like winning a jackpot. My parents always valued education and strongly believed women should be encouraged in achieving their professional dreams. I participated in five summer internships at leading research institutions during my BS and MS education which includedBhabha Atomic Research Center and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research where I could work on advanced techniques such as neutron scattering and nuclear magnetic resonance.

I strongly advocate that similar programs should also be establishedin the US and worldwide.

Receiving the IEEE Fellow award was exciting and rewarding indeed. IEEE is the world’s largest professional association with a core purpose to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.IEEE Fellow is a distinction reserved those engineers who had demonstrated outstanding proficiency and had achieved distinction in their profession. It made me very proud of my students. It is working with them that led to my accomplishments.

What are you currently working on?

I have three major research thrusts at the moment– the first one is to develop novel ferroelectric memristivedeviceand its application in neuromorphic systems. Neuromorphic computing is an interdisciplinary field that aspires to create physical architecture and design principles based on biological nervous systems for applications such as vision systems, auditory systems and autonomous robots. My second project is dedicated to developing copper metallization for solar cells. We are investigating alternative printing processes for copper on silicon solar cells forming good electrical contacts while keeping power conversion efficiency high. The third project involves creating devices on 2D semiconductor films.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

I like watching good movies, shows, theatre, musicals and read select books. I admire performance of actors, eloquence of script writers and art & technology of cinematography. My favorite authors have been from Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Ayn Rand, to Malcom Gladwell, NassimTaleb and Christopher Hitchens.

I like to watch sports that bring people and nations together while stretching human capabilities to super heights. I enjoy reading proverbs in different languages as they reflect integrated wisdom and humor of their culture and times. In addition, I like to cook and travel whenever time permits.

Few years from now, what direction do you see yourself?

I would like to continue to engage in cutting edge research, write books (text and reference) and work for promoting science & engineering education.

As a professor, what words of encouragement would you give to your students?

Have passion and curiosity in what you study. Grades will follow.Your passion and performance will lead you to progress and perfection.

Is there anything you’d like to say to young people to encourage them to pursue Engineering?

Engineers build things and they will always be in demand. Engineers will drive the Internet revolution connecting billions of people generating immense data, andhelp in solving pending challenges of health, energy and environment. Engineers connect science with society and being an engineer is a very fulfilling career.

At present times, popular media often distort the image of scientists and engineers trying to depict them as ‘entertaining, sometimes crazy people’. I grew up watching Apollo flights, Star Trek and MacGyver series and got to respect science & engineering tremendously.

I will tell young students – take on engineering because it is creative, challenging and exciting and not because it is easy, cool and entertaining.

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