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September 2002

Release Date: September 19, 2002

Physics Prof Receives Grant for Semiconductor Research at ASU

Dr. Toni D. Sauncy, an assistant professor of physics at Angelo State University, has received a three-year $59,629 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to involve students in the evaluation of "novel" materials for potential use in the semiconductor and microelectronics industry.

The grant was funded through the NSF's Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Program. The physics research, which marks the first time ASU has received a NSF grant through the RUI Program, will be done in collaboration with researchers at Southwest Texas State University and Tarleton State University.

Under the collaborative agreement, Southwest Texas State University students working under Dr. Carlos Guitierrez will develop various materials that might be used for insulating layers in microelectronic devices. Students at ASU under Sauncy and at Tarleton State under Dr. Dan Marble will then assess the electrical and optical properties of the materials.

"As microelectronic devices get smaller and smaller," Sauncy said, "a problem arises with electrical insulation because the distance that can be occupied by these insulators is on the order of a few atomic layers. This requires developing and using materials with very special electrical properties."

In addition to evaluating potential insulating materials, another major objective of this and other RUI grants is to involve undergraduate students in cutting-edge advanced research with the potential to directly impact the regional economy, in this case through the Texas microelectronics industry, Sauncy said.

The program is a good example of how basic scientific research can evolve into applied research of value specifically to industry and more generally to a state's economy.

In addition to the research findings, the project will help prepare students for internships in the microelectronics industry, strengthen the workforce pool of educated master's and bachelor's degree graduates in this critical high tech industry and encourage more students to consider pursuing research in various materials-related doctoral programs, Sauncy said.

The RUI grant will fund the ASU research through June of 2005.

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