Digital transformation is the order of the day, and semiconductors and microelectronics are foundational elements of a digital strategy. The worldwide shortage of semiconductors may have been caused by pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions, but the silver lining is that it has brought into sharp focus the need for more design, engineering and manufacturing capacity in order to keep pace with the drive to put digital smarts everywhere.
The semiconductor industry needs a lot more engineers who are versed in these digital matters, and Purdue is stepping up to meet the challenge. The Purdue College of Engineering is launching a range of high-value degrees and credentials to educate and train the next generation of workforce leaders in advanced semiconductors and microelectronics. This will provide both graduate and undergraduate students with a suite of options for obtaining specialized training in the field.
The Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), in partnership with Purdue's Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering, intends to offer the new concentration - an entirely new Master of Science (MS) degree major in semiconductors and microelectronics. Depending on their interests, students can customize their coursework to focus on semiconductor devices and manufacturing, circuit design, or system design.
This will be the only interdisciplinary MS degree focused entirely on semiconductors and microelectronics that is offered at a top 10 engineering college in the country. It's a valued diploma - 26% of the workers in the semiconductor industry have graduate degrees, compared with an average of 14% for all other industries. And an additional 30% have undergraduate degrees.
At that undergraduate level, Purdue Engineering is launching a concentration for ECE students and a minor for students in other Purdue schools/departments. This will enable these students to obtain targeted training and transcripts certifying their credentials, making them highly valuable to employers. The College is also exploring a “project-based” option for the MS degree - letting students complete a substantial design project in microelectronics and semiconductors as part of the curriculum, to become even more workforce-ready.
It's estimated that there will be 50,000+ openings for engineers in the semiconductor field in this decade. These engineers play a variety of roles in the semiconductor industry, from advanced research and development to designing, verifying, fabricating and testing semiconductor chips. They also create the increasingly sophisticated electronic design automation (EDA) tools used to design and verify the complex chips of today containing (tens of) billions of transistors.
The U.S. government, recognizing the pressing need, passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in the summer of 2021. Part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (S.1260), CHIPS for America includes $52 billion in investments for domestic semiconductor research, design and manufacture.
“Students will learn the manufacturing and design of chips, and the entire supply chain: the chemical engineering of gas reaction, the mechanical engineering of tool development and packaging, the material engineering of new manufacturing materials, and the industrial engineering of supply chain and logistics optimization,” said Mung Chiang, Purdue's executive vice president for strategic initiatives and the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering. “Now is the silicon moment for America, and Purdue is proud to play essential roles.”