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SCALE: A 'Low Stress' Option for High Achiever Hana Wong

Hana Wong on the job during her internship at NASA

It’s said that if you need something done, ask a busy person. Meet student Hana Wong, who must have to fight off requests. Wong is a participant in SCALE (Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement), the premier U.S. program for semiconductor workforce development in the defense sector. Led by Purdue University, SCALE is funded by the Department of Defense and managed by Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane).

Now a junior at Purdue, Wong began her electrical engineering major by successfully managing 18 credit hours per semester in her first year. Since then she has worked for NASA and General Electric, and for 2023, she has secured opportunities to apply her SCALE acumen in two more choice internships — the first at Tesla this spring, then a summer stint at Intel.

In her “free” time during school, she has worked up to three jobs at once, including shifts as a Boiler Ambassador and a Protect Purdue Ambassador during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s also a member of the Purdue Society of Women Engineers and EPICS, Purdue’s Engineering Projects In Community Service program.

When one of Wong’s professors encouraged her to join the SCALE program, she didn’t hesitate. It turned out to be a good way for this ambitious, high-speed intellectual to unwind. “It was very, very low stress,” Wong recalls of her initial SCALE experience. “We learned on our own about design and we collaborated with other universities to hear how they design stuff.”

Every Friday, Wong attended a SCALE meeting about radiation hardening — “rad-hard” techniques. Highly specialized rad-hard skills are in demand because radiation hardening makes electronic components such as semiconductors resistant to damage or malfunction from exposure to high levels of radiation, especially for environments in outer space.

“Basically, we’re protecting components that go up into space, like transistors and computer chips, from the effects of cosmic radiation,” Wong says. “So, we’re seeing how components can be manufactured to be less vulnerable to radiation.”

Wong first learned of rad-hard techniques when she worked at NASA as an attitude control systems intern in the summer of 2021. “I talked to people at NASA about the SCALE program and they were like, ‘Oh, that’s super cool.’ They definitely encouraged me to pursue microelectronics and radiation hardening techniques because there’s definitely a need for it.”

After her time at Tesla this spring, Wong will spend her summer at Intel in a job she says her SCALE experience helped her land. She’ll be part of an engineering group.

“In that group we’ll be designing system-on-chips that make up a lot of Intel’s products,” Wong says. “I’ll be doing verification for different components, different modules and the chips themselves, validating design and basically automating design tasks to make sure that we can produce chips as fast as possible.”

“Overall, SCALE has been really beneficial in not only allowing me to do research, which is a great part and an integral part of microelectronics and radiation-hardening techniques, but also connected me with companies in the industry that actually do that work,” she says. “I’m already set for the spring, the summer, and then looking forward. I definitely would love to pursue a career in microelectronics.”