Industry-academic partnership advances semiconductor innovation in Phoenix
Above: Bertan Bakkaloglu and Dale Rogers, ON Semiconductor Endowed Professors of Engineering and Business, are two years into five-year endowed professorships from leading semiconductor-based solutions supplier ON Semiconductor. Together, Bakkaloglu and Dale are addressing pressing engineering and supply chain challenges as well as attracting and retaining top local business and engineering talent. Photographer: Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU
Industry and academic partnerships are critical to strengthening innovation, talent and economic development in the Phoenix metro area.
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council reports a widening gap between the number of jobs in the region in microelectronics fields, including in the semiconductor industry, and active candidates with the skills needed to fill them. The report also notes the importance of attracting experienced early career professionals needed for the industry to continue to innovate.
Arizona State University, the nation’s leading university for innovation, and ON Semiconductor, the Phoenix-based global semiconductor supplier, recognize the need for a skilled and talented workforce, and have partnered to ensure the pipeline of engineering and business professionals and technological development remains strong.
ASU offers a deep well of expertise in semiconductor technology among the faculty of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the nations’ second- and third-ranked undergraduate and graduate supply chain and logistics programs, respectively, in the W. P. Carey School of Business. ON Semiconductor offers a portfolio of products to help engineers solve electronic design problems and boasts a reliable world-class supply chain.
“Hubs of innovation and talent generation will feed the local companies and draw others in,” says Hans Stork, senior vice president of research and development at ON Semiconductor. “This in turn drives the economy and spurs further reinvestment.”
ON Semiconductor committed $2 million to ASU for the ON Semiconductor Endowed Professorships in 2017. The five-year award supports two professors’ efforts to help address pressing engineering and supply chain challenges as well as attract and retain top local talent.
The faculty members selected for the endowed professorships are expanding the frontiers of research in these fields and growing the next generation of semiconductor industry professionals.
Engineering the future of the semiconductor industry
Bakkaloglu works in the areas of analog, mixed-signal and power-management integrated circuits, fields that are playing an increasing part in the revenue streams of semiconductor companies in metro Phoenix. These are technologies integrated onto semiconductor “chips” that enable our increasingly sophisticated electronics to function.
“Most semiconductor companies are expanding their business in these areas, and a majority of our research group’s graduates are securing jobs at these companies,” Bakkaloglu says. “We also have active research programs with semiconductor companies that are increasing their competitiveness.”
The professorship funding has supported a doctoral student in Bakkaloglu’s lab and the purchase of a programmable electronic load and current probe, which he and his team use to expand characterization and testing for semiconductor technology research.
Bakkaloglu’s electrical engineering graduate students are also helping to research power management integrated circuits and other efficient power delivery technology used in smartphones and automotive sensors.
“With feedback from industry experts, we provide realistic and innovative solutions that target a wide range of applications,” says Bhushan Talele, an electrical engineering graduate student. “My current graduate research gives me a holistic view and approach to solve the problems at hand. This will be the most vital aspect for an industrial or academic research role in my future.”
Through his graduate course on advanced analog integrated circuits, Bakkaloglu helps about 200 students each academic year to develop skills in high demand by the semiconductor industry. He also offers a 45-hour online version of the course, which has attracted more than 180 students in the first two years of the program.
Bakkaloglu applies his extensive industry experience in his teachings, which is evident to ON Semiconductor as the company interacts with his students through internships and industry meetings.
“We can tell from how well-grounded his students are and the understanding they show pertaining to the needs of industry,” Stork says.
Over the past two years, Bakkaloglu has graduated five doctoral students, four master’s degree students and guided dozens of non-thesis graduate students in research pursuits. Most of them are now working in the Phoenix area.
Bakkaloglu recently earned major grants for semiconductor research from industry and is looking to expand his analog and power management research through additional funding from the Semiconductor Research Corporation.
“I am very interested in an active research collaboration with ON Semiconductor with funded graduate students working on analog design problems specifically important for the company’s strategic growth areas,” Bakkaloglu says.
Shaping strategies for semiconductor supply chain challenges
Today’s tumultuous economy has made studying supply chain management especially important to minimize disruptions to the global supply chain.
“We’ve got lots of folks scrambling to figure out where to source goods that are currently manufactured in China and now they need to change the shape of supply chains,” Professor Dale Rogers says. “That’s all very relevant for the semiconductor industry.”
Rogers’ expertise in reverse logistics, sustainable supply chain management, supply chain finance and secondary markets combined with the partnership with ON Semiconductor have given him an edge in innovating supply chain strategies.
Along with AVNET Professor of Supply Chain Management Elliot Rabinovich, Rogers leads the Internet Edge Supply Chain Lab at ASU. There, the research team examines supply chain management at the intersection of the internet and physical systems.
“We’re working directly on innovations in the tech sector that apply to the supply chain,” Rogers says. “We’ve worked on a ‘warehouse of the future’ project to figure out what technologies are being brought inside the warehouse and warehouse networks.”
Rogers has expanded the supply chain curriculum at ASU and developed programs to increase access to supply chain education, including the formation of a stackable master’s degree in supply chain to support Massachusetts Institute of Technology MicroMasters students in finishing their studies at ASU.
He has also worked with ON Semiconductor to host competitions in which undergraduate and graduate students formulate solutions and present their cases for supply chain business challenges pitched by the company.
“We have formed a holistic partnership with Professor Rogers and the W.P. Carey Business School at ASU,” says Brent Wilson, senior vice president of global supply chain and procurement organizations at ON Semiconductor. “We participate in curriculum development, sponsor and judge team competitions on case problem solving and employ a pipeline of interns from the supply chain department, of which several become full-time employees every year. ON Semiconductor is happy to partner with a college that is focused on solving the problems of the future in the supply chain space.”
Around the world, Rogers is enhancing supply chain talent through the Frontier Economies Logistics Lab, which develops innovative supply chain strategies and solutions to improve quality of life and reduce poverty in remote economies.
Through his involvement with ASU’s international development programs, Rogers helped to start the MiniMasters certificate in global supply chain management program to support more than 350 Chemonics International employees, many of whom live and work in Africa, to become next-generation supply chain leaders.
As Bakkaloglu and Rogers continue their work, ON Semiconductor looks forward to generating ideas and discussions with professors and students, and engaging with a “refreshing source of academic enthusiasm.”
“The professorships have generated increased interaction between ASU and ON Semiconductor, and not just with the two professors,” Stork says. “Multiple faculty have come to our Phoenix site to give seminars, and we have toured labs and reviewed work in progress at ASU. This has led to a better grasp of the capabilities of ASU and developed a network of contacts, allowing us to find a match quicker when the need arises. We also have gained valuable insights and recommendations on hiring student interns and graduates.”
Jackie Terry, program manager, corporate social responsibility at ON Semiconductor, contributed to this story.
Supporting student success
Arizona State University and ON Semiconductor have a long history of collaboration dating back to 1999, with numerous initiatives to foster academic and industrial advancement. In addition to supporting faculty through the ON Semiconductor Endowed Professorships, the company has funded scholarships for W. P. Carey School of Business students and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students to pursue opportunities in supply chain and electrical engineering.
Richard Rigby, an electrical engineering undergraduate student, received the ON Semiconductor Engineering Scholarship in the 2018–2019 academic year, allowing him to continue his education and avoid debt. The support has inspired him to pay it forward.
“I am grateful that I have been able to just focus on school and on improving my educational experience,” Rigby says. “In the future, I plan to give back to students in similar ways, which will give more of them the ability to increase their power through education.”
Samuel Perez was one of the first recipients of the ON Semiconductor Engineering Scholarship in fall 2016 when he was a junior studying electrical engineering. The two years of support he received was more than a scholarship — it felt more like mentorship to him.
“I remember having conversations with [then ON Semiconductor University Relations Program Manager] Kayla Snyder about different paths, like getting an MBA or going into power electronics, and she mentioned how valuable that would be for semiconductor companies,” Perez says.
The encouragement they provided is what he remembers most, now that he has graduated and embarked on his professional career.
“It was all about them encouraging me to pursue whatever I’m passionate about,” Perez says. “That helped me more than anything.”
ON Semiconductor often hires ASU students as interns, where they learn valuable skills and apply their education to real-world challenges.
Syona Singh is a supply chain management student at ASU who interned at ON Semiconductor over the summer. She says the experience allowed her to apply theoretical knowledge and explore her passion for the field.
“I now know how to relate my classroom knowledge to a corporate setting,” Singh says. “Working alongside senior executives and knowing they had confidence in my work and abilities was truly a morale and confidence booster.”
ASU supply chain management senior Ryan Dong started interning at ON Semiconductor in May and has earned valuable hands-on experience.
“I am able to work with supply chain concepts that I first learned only months ago,” Dong says. “I have been able to build relationships with the internal teams at ON as well as external vendors, gaining great experience and communication skills in the process.”
Beyond hands-on experience, ON Semiconductor conducts several activities to get to know ASU undergraduate and graduate students through tailgates with executives, on-campus information sessions with student organizations, professional development events and lunch mixers with hiring managers.
The company also has an increased presence on campus with ON Semiconductor Day. At the event, company executives have breakfast with engineering and business students and professors. ON Semiconductor representatives also play “Jeopardy!” games with engineering students and host supply chain competitions with business students.
The relationship pays off with an influx in talent come hiring season. In 2018, ON Semiconductor hired 77 interns from ASU out of a total 233 intern hires across the U.S. Out of 27 new college graduate hires out of ASU, 19 were recent interns.