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NSF grant to support new materials physics master’s degree at SWT;$350,000 awarded to SWT’s physics and technology programs

Date of release: 09/12/00

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — A new National Science Foundation grant will aid Southwest Texas State University in the formation of a new master’s degree program in materials physics. In August 2000, the NSF’s Division of Materials Research awarded a $350,000 three-year grant to SWT. Heading the grant project are principal investigator Heather Galloway and co-investigators Carlos Gutierrez and Wilhelmus Geerts. All are faculty members in the Physics Department.

“The SWT students who will graduate from this new Materials Physics Program will receive focused education that will prepare them to assume technical semiconductor industry positions and help alleviate the present dire Central Texas and national workforce shortages in many of these areas,” Gutierrez said.

To gain guidance for creating and implementing the new curricula, the Materials Physics Program will partner with local industries, including Advanced Micro Devices, Applied Materials, DuPont Photomasks, International Sematech, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Philips Semiconductor, Semiconductor Research Corporation and SONY Semiconductor.

A key component will include the development of a research internship to give students “hands on” laboratory experience, which will prepare them for follow-up internships in partnering industries and advance student preparation for industry careers.

Some intern projects will also serve to link research at SWT with development work at partnering companies. These sponsoring companies will also provide various materials, tools/instruments and industry-experienced guest lecturers to enhance the materials physics educational experience.

“This provides benefits to the university, the industry partner and to the student,” said Galloway.

The award will help SWT develop new integrated lecture-laboratory courses that target topics relevant to the semiconductor integrated circuit industry. The curriculum will be versatile enough to other technology trades such as the magnetic storage (hard drive), the microelectromechanical systems and the thin film transistor display industries.

This new program effort will be linked with similar innovations in the SWT Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technology programs to produce highly marketable SWT materials physics, engineering technology and manufacturing engineering graduates.

The new award will pave the way for the Department of Physics and the Department of Technology as they move towards joint occupancy of a $37 million building to be completed in 2002.

The award will also promote interaction between SWT and Austin Community College for improving curriculum transfer options for ACC students into the Materials Physics Program and create an efficient transfer option from SWT’s master’s degree program to doctoral programs at partnering universities like Texas Tech.

“The applied nature of the new SWT Materials Physics Program is targeted to help broaden the overall semiconductor industry related educational resources available in the Central Texas region,” said Geerts.