Purdue online master’s degree enables engineer to master the intricacies of semiconductors

Engineer Wyatt DuVall’s job centers on machines used to manufacture semiconductors, but he wanted to learn more about semiconductors themselves to enhance his career, provide additional value for his company and better serve its customers. Purdue University’s 100% online Interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering with a major in microelectronics and semiconductors is letting him do just that

As a Principal Mechanical Design Engineer for ASML, Wyatt DuVall’s business is the machines that semiconductor manufacturers like Intel and Samsung use to make semiconductors. If someone wants  to know about the droplet generator nozzle used in lithography, a fundamental process in mass producing semiconductor chips, DuVall would be an excellent person to ask. 

What DuVall, whose bachelor’s degree was in mechanical engineering, didn’t know a lot about was the intricacies of semiconductors themselves, although DuVall’s employer, ASML, is a world-leading  provider of hardware, software and services for semiconductor manufacturing. 

“I can probably spend my entire career and never go anywhere near a (semiconductor) wafer,” DuVall said. “I don't think that's a strength. Our customers are very interested in semiconductors. That's their business. Long term, I think it's wise to have a good understanding of the semiconductor market and the technical underpinnings of the market.” 

DuVall has found a great way to close his semiconductor knowledge gap – Purdue University’s 100% online interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering with its major in microelectronics and semiconductors. 

“Nowhere else has a semiconductor program, that makes the choice pretty easy,” DuVall said. “Then, Purdue is a world-class institution. That kind of sells itself.” 

But Purdue’s program didn’t just offer what DuVall wanted academically and professionally, Purdue offered it the way he needed it. Based in San Diego, with a full-time job and recently married, he needed a master’s program he could fit in around the rest of his life. 

“The flexibility of the online program is pretty awesome,” DuVall said. “Not only can I take a course from Purdue on the West Coast, but I also can do it on my own time. I can watch the lectures at some point during the week that works for me. I can study at whatever time works for me. I can usually take the test at whatever time works for me.” 

The Purdue program, taught by the same internationally known faculty as on Purdue’s flagship West Lafayette, IN, campus, also is flexible in that offers an extensive menu of electives. This allows DuVall to focus on topics that both interest him and are valuable in his work, such as the materials science course he took. 

“Most of my courses fall in one of two categories,” DuVall said. “Either it's directly applicable to my job today and helpful now or it's informative about the industry and technologies that we work on and it will be helpful long term.” 

DuVall started work on his master’s in 2023 and he plans to finish by 2025, generally completing a course each semester and during the summer over three years. 

“On a microchip, you've got dozens of different types of components and then you have millions and billions of each of those components assembled together in useful ways,” DuVall said. “In my current role at work I’m pretty far removed from that process, so one of my goals for the program is to learn what all the different kinds of components are and how they work together in order to build a chip.” 

He sees the benefits of earning his master’s extending beyond enhancing his own knowledge and career. 

“This degree will help my company and myself navigate that market more effectively, understanding our customers' end goals and therefore better understanding their needs and how we can help meet them,” DuVall said. 

DuVall said he also is motivated by playing a part in what Purdue President Mung Chaing has called America’s “silicon moment,” including the national drive to expand domestic manufacturing, research and development of the semiconductor devices that are central to the electronic age. 

That includes Purdue’s comprehensive Semiconductors Degree Program, of which the master’s degree is a part. To learn more about the Interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering with a major in microelectronics and semiconductors from Purdue, visit the program website. 

Writer: Greg Kline

March 12, 2024