Adding Semiconductor Engineering Degree Programs at Purdue

Patrick Haspel

Jun 15, 2022 / 5 min read

With chip and engineering talent shortages in the news lately, the spotlight is shining brightly on the semiconductor industry. The growth prevalence of remote everything, spurred during the pandemic, has highlighted how integral chips are to making our smart everything world possible. Semiconductor devices have touched a broad array of items, from household appliances to cars and industrial equipment. While demand is up for chips, the talent needed to design and develop them is in short supply.

Doing its part to build the engineering talent pipeline, Purdue University collaborates closely with industry. One of its longtime collaborators is Synopsys, which recently introduced a new initiative, “Synopsys Academic & Research Alliances” (SARA), to offer a variety of academic programs to support universities and research institutions. In this blog post, I’ll highlight some of our most recent joint efforts with Purdue to foster the next generation of semiconductor engineers:

  • The new professorship established in the name of Synopsys in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • New semiconductor engineering certificates, concentrations, and degree programs featuring Synopsys electronic design automation (EDA) technologies, training materials, as well as support in setting up methodologies and flows
  • The Center for Secure Microelectronics Ecosystem, of which Synopsys is the founding EDA member

Read on to learn how this example of industry/academic collaboration can be a model for engineering education and workforce development.

Engineering students in a classroom

Nurturing the Next Generation of Semiconductor Engineers Through New Degree Programs

Purdue’s College of Engineering is launching the nation’s largest and most comprehensive set of degrees and credentials in semiconductors and microelectronics. Available for undergraduate and graduate students, the Semiconductor Degrees Program is designed to facilitate a quick ramp-up of skilled talent in the field. The courses will incorporate Synopsys EDA software as part of the hands-on instruction. Synopsys experts will also help set up flows based on research goals, so the students and professors can focus on the research at hand.

In addition, the introductory freshman course, “Semiconductors 101,” will have opportunities for guest lecturers from industry. Students who meet the requirements will have guaranteed internship or co-op experiences following completion of this course, which leads to semiconductor certificates, concentrations, and minors.

In addition to including concentrations in semiconductors within the school’s traditional master of science (M.S.) degrees, one highlight of the program is an innovative interdisciplinary M.S. degree focused exclusively on semiconductor and microelectronics, with pathways involving Electrical and Computer, Materials, Mechanical, Chemical, Industrial, and Environmental Engineering, just to name a few. Students will be able to learn about chip design and manufacturing as well as the whole semiconductor supply chain.

“We are going to equip students with all of the skills and abilities they need to succeed in this space,” said Dimitrios Peroulis, Purdue’s Michael and Katherine Birck Head and Reilly Professor, Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The program will serve students at various stages: for example, we’ll train students on campus as well as upskill working professionals who prefer to sharpen their skills online to be more relevant in this industry and to become leaders in this area.”

The Semiconductor Degrees Program is guided by a leadership board of industry senior executives, including Synopsys Chairman and CEO Aart de Geus, who notes in his endorsement of the program, “For three and a half decades, Synopsys has provided innovative design automation technology and products that catalyze the potential of semiconductor chips. Today, an exciting new era of microelectronics characterized by both scale and systemic complexity is beginning, and Purdue’s new degrees and credentials will equip students with the practical skills needed in this new age. This initiative leads the way with the kind of comprehensive, innovative program that design automation and semiconductor companies, as well as the electronics ecosystem, critically need.”

Honoring Longstanding Collaboration with Synopsys Professorship

Jiao Dan Headshot | Synopsys

Another exciting moment in our longstanding relationship with Purdue is the recent naming of the Synopsys Professor in the university’s Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Initially a five-year term, with the option for renewal, the professorship has been awarded to Dan Jiao, a professor on the school’s faculty. Jiao, who was elevated to an IEEE Fellow in 2016, has a broad selection of research interests: computational electromagnetics, applied electromagnetics, high-frequency VSLI circuit design and analysis, high-performance VLSI CAD, fast and high-capacity numerical methods, scattering and antenna analysis, microwave and millimeter wave circuits, and bioelectromagnetics.

“As Synopsys has been a critical partner to Purdue ECE in the education of our students, we’re pleased to celebrate and deepen this relationship by bestowing the honor of the Synopsys Professorship,” said Peroulis. “Providing a named professorship is a very rigorous process, with reviews conducted at various levels. We look at true leaders in their field—faculty members who can make a difference through research, education, and/or engagement in the larger community.”

Securing the Microelectronics Ecosystem

In 2021, Purdue launched the Center for Secure Microelectronics Ecosystem (CSME), with support from Synopsys, TSMC, and the U.S. Department of Defense- (DoD-) funded Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement Microelectronics Workforce Development program (SCALE). The goal of this unique global partnership is to ensure a secure supply of semiconductor chips and related products and tools based on a zero-trust model. While CSME provides advanced training to SCALE participants, SCALE will support CSME through graduate traineeships. Ultimately, this collaboration is intended to help train the next generation of engineers and support the R&D that is needed to meet the demands of next-generation electronic applications.

Tens of thousands of engineers will be needed in the coming years to continue driving the innovations needed for our smart, connected world. To effectively keep the talent flowing, said Peroulis, universities need to develop educational programs that scale, deliver top quality, and are comprehensive. He explained: “At Purdue, we focus on the talent issue at the highest level. Our programs have the scale and quality to address this challenge. Under the leadership of Dr. Mung Chiang, our College of Engineering is ranked 4th by U.S. News & World Report, with a comprehensive suite of schools, divisions, degrees and programs.”

Peroulis continued, “We anticipate more partnerships and opportunities in workforce development. The challenge is huge, the world is moving very quickly, and meeting the needs of educating engineers is not trivial. Partnerships can address the issue. While it’s hard to predict what will happen in the future, we’re going to be at the forefront.”

Indeed, the challenge of nurturing the next generation of engineering talent also presents Synopsys with an opportunity. As chips become more complex and applications more demanding, there’s clearly a need to accelerate what we’ve been doing to support engineering education. We can also strive to become more efficient and sophisticated in our academic and research alliances to ensure that new engineers have what they need to make a meaningful impact when they join the workforce.

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