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Semiconductor Researchers Honor Late Colleague’s Legacy at Meeting of UA-Based Center

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From left: Anna Karecki, Xiangyu Bi, ERC Industrial Advisory Board chairman Reed Content, and ERC founding director Farhang Shadman.

Semiconductor Researchers Honor Late Colleague’s Legacy at Meeting of UA-Based Center

April 18, 2016
At its annual meeting, the Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing presented the 2016 Simon Karecki Award to an ASU researcher.

Semiconductor manufacturing requires a sterile environment. However, the atmosphere at a recent gathering of researchers in the field at the University of Arizona was anything but.

At the 2016 annual meeting of the UA-based SRC Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing, or ERC, student and faculty researchers and industry officials from across the nation gathered to share their latest findings and present the Simon Karecki Award, named for an ERC graduate student researcher from MIT who died in 2001.

Each year the ERC presents the award to a promising young researcher in environmentally sustainable manufacturing from its more than 12 participating universities.

This is the 15th year that Anna Karecki, Simon’s mother, has traveled from New York to Tucson to personally present the award.

“This was Simon’s family,” she said to the group. “With this award I hope to encourage these brilliant young people, who are so passionate about their work, like Simon was.”

The 2016 Simon Karecki Award was given to Xiangyu Bi, a doctoral student in civil, environmental and sustainable energy at Arizona State University. The Karecki Award Board selected Bi for maintaining an excellent academic record while working on several research projects and teaching lab courses. He has been recognized by several other groups, including the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization.

In Memory of a Prolific and Pioneering Researcher

Simon Karecki immigrated to the United States from Poland at age 8 with his parents. He graduated at the top of his class at Regis High School in New York City and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Yale University and master’s and doctoral degrees in the field from MIT.

Just 28 when he died in a car accident, Karecki had authored nearly 40 published research papers and conference presentations. His research on environmentally benign chemistries for etching processes in semiconductor fabrication helped make possible some of the techniques used by the industry today.

Karecki’s adviser was Rafael Reif, then an MIT professor and associate director of the ERC and now MIT’s president. Reif worked with ERC founding director Farhang Shadman, UA Regents’ Professor in chemical and environmental engineering, to set up an award in Karecki’s memory.

Previous recipients of the Simon Karecki Award include several researchers from the University of Arizona as well as UCLA, Stanford, MIT and Cornell.

Simon’s parents have kept in touch with many of them. Just as the 2016 Karecki Award was being presented, Anna received a message on her smartphone from last year’s recipient, Jack Chen of UCLA, thanking her for her ongoing support of student researchers.

The Simon Karecki Fellowship Fund is administered by the ERC and the SRC Education Alliance, a subsidiary of the Semiconductor Research Corp, the world’s leading university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies.

Two Decades Advancing Clean Technologies

This year is the UA-based research consortium’s 20th anniversary.

“It is rare for a research center like ours to survive beyond initial funding from federal agencies,” said ERC director Shadman. “I think one of the reasons we’ve lasted as long as we have is that we have been very responsive to the needs of the semiconductor industry.”

Today, the ERC is totally privately supported. Member companies include Intel Corp., Global Foundries Inc., IBM Corp., Texas Instruments, Applied Materials, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Samsung Electronics Co., among others.

During lunch, at a table with Anna Karecki and researchers from Intel and the University of Texas at Dallas, Shadman reflected on the center’s close-knit community.

“People at an organization like this often come and go,” he said. “But researchers with our center remain in close contact, and they have become like family. They have enriched the ERC experience and legacy through their professional accomplishments as well as long-lasting personal friendships.”

The center’s many recent projects include a study on toxicity of nanoparticles that are widely used in semiconductor manufacturing. UA professor of chemical and environmental engineering Reyes Sierra, a presenter at the meeting, leads the center’s work in this area. Her team’s published article on their findings was a top-downloaded research paper in 2015.