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ASU's role in boosting state's semiconductor initiative years in the making

ASU's role in semiconductor industry boost has been years in the making.
January 17, 2023

University involved in workforce education, bridging the 'lab to fab' gap

While the CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law less than six months ago, releasing $52 billion over five years for a push to improve national security technology, Arizona State University has been working to prepare for this opportunity.

Grace O’Sullivan, vice president of corporate engagement and strategic partnerships for ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, said that the university began thinking about its role in researching and developing semiconductor manufacturing five years ago, working with many partners along the way,

“It’s an interdisciplinary effort to make all of this work between government agencies, universities and community colleges, and these things don’t happen overnight,” she said during a webinar on Friday about the CHIPS Act, sponsored by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. She was joined on the webinar by Sean Fogarty, vice president of international business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“GPEC and ASU, under the vision of ASU President Michael Crow, have been planning this for years,” O’Sullivan said.

Arizona is going to be a major player in this initiative, thanks to a monumental investment by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which is building two gigantic chip-fabricating centers in north Phoenix.

“TSMC said they chose Arizona because of the cooperation between public and private entities, and we were proud of that and continue to work as a team,” O’Sullivan said. She was part of a state team that visited Taiwan three years ago during the pitch to attract the company here.

Part of Arizona’s preparation to build up America’s semiconductor capacity is the New Economy Initiative, a massive collaboration among the state’s three public universities, private companies and state government to bring Arizona to the frontier of high-tech industry.

Funded by the state, the New Economy Initiative’s goals are to create 40,000 new high-wage jobs by 2041, increase economic output to $6.9 billion by 2032 and double the return on the state’s investment by the same year.

ASU will be a major player in several ways, including workforce development, increasing the number of engineers and in bridging the critical “lab to fab” gap — the time lag between when technology is invented and when it’s ready to be fabricated and put into use.

One important component to that will be ASU’s MacroTechnology Works in Tempe, a unique lab and fabrication space that is open to both university researchers and community partners, from tiny ventures to big corporations.

“We’ve had a strong history in Arizona when Motorola opened its fabrication here in the 1950s. ASU acquired that fab and renovated it into the MacroTechnology Works in ASU’s research park,” O’Sullivan said, adding that the U.S. imports more than 90% of the microchips it uses.

“U.S. manufacturing capacity has eroded from 37% of the market to 12% today,” she said.

“A lot of it was because it was cheaper to make things overseas, and also the U.S. didn’t invest as heavily in these industries with incentives as much as countries in Asia did.

“We’re now trying to capture the moment on how Arizona is becoming ‘Semiconductor Central.’”

Fogarty said that Taiwan Semiconductor’s $40 billion investment is one of the largest foreign direct investments in U.S. history and will create a massive ripple effect in everything from shopping to K–12 education.

“It will create 4,500 high-wage jobs, lead to over 21,000 construction jobs and over 13,000 jobs at supplier companies,” he said.

Since July, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council has helped 22 companies relocate here, bringing 4,800 jobs.

Fogarty said the plants will have a lot of jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degrees.

“For every engineer TSMC has on staff, they probably need four to six technicians,” he said, noting that the community colleges have started to offer “boot camps” for those jobs.

The goal is economic mobility, he said.

“It’s not just PhDs and masters and bachelors we need. It’s also high school-leavers we’re hoping to help, and people in other industries who can be reskilled to take on these high-wage jobs,” he said.

ASU has leveraged its expertise at several points along this multiyear initiative, O’Sullivan said, from having faculty involved in drafting parts of the legislation to having the Kyl Center for Water Policy advise local leaders on water use by semiconductor manufacturers.

“We were just visiting with TSMC this morning to talk about talent needs,” she said.

“We want to be that epicenter of innovation and design, bringing all of our assets.”

Top image: A researcher works at the ASU MacroTechnology Works lab and fabrication space in Tempe. Photo by Samantha Chow/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Sun Devils on the frozen continent

January 17, 2023

Students in ASU study abroad program travel to Antarctica for experiential learning, memories

Back on a warmer continent, from what some are calling a “study abroad adventure of a lifetime,” 15 students and faculty from Arizona State University are putting into words what others have only experienced through imagination: icebergs the size of London; whales breaching in the Southern Ocean; penguins, hundreds of them, socializing in colonies spanning hundreds of square miles; polar plunges in frigid waters; and traversing a unique landmass almost completely covered in ice.

In one word: Antarctica.

“Just the sheer amount of wildlife we’ve seen on this trip has impressed me quite a bit,” said Joseph Black from aboard the Ocean Victory cruise ship that took the group through Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula during ASU’s 2022 Winter Break.

A biotech and bioenterprise major in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Black added, “Videos are one thing, but seeing them in person is kind of crazy.”

Victoria Cava, who is studying astrophysics and geography in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said the voyage to Antarctica was another step toward her goal to travel to all seven continents: “Eventually, at some point, and because of how closely related Antarctica and space can be ..., I wanted to see with my own eyes.”

These reactions are just what organizers of the 2022 ASU Antarctica study abroad program were hoping for — and then achieved — marking the successful completion of a program three years in the making due to pandemic delays and other logistical issues.

Learning about Antarctica by doing, experiencing

Except for a few thousand people who live there on a temporary rotating basis throughout the year, Antarctica has the unique distinction of being the only continent on planet Earth with no permanent human residents. Its remoteness, ensconced in the mystique of the vast ice sheetThick ice covers about 98% of the 5.5 million square miles that comprise the Antarctic continent ( The ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth. that covers Antarctica's land mass, lures the curious, the adventurous and the brave to the region every year — many with scientific hopes of unlocking the mysteries and rarities of the frozen continent. But rigorous research was not the main focus for ASU's 2022 Antarctica cohort this go-round.

“I’m pretty sure that this transformative learning wouldn’t occur if our students were simply here to study Antarctic wildlife and ecosystems,” said Andrew Maynard, professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, which organized the program in collaboration with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and ASU’s Global Education Office.

Emphasizing the experiential learning approach to the program, Maynard said students were instead, “challenged by, and learning from, experiences as different as engaging with other students, passengers, staff and expedition crew, to being plunged into environments they had no idea existed — all while living in close quarters with others for nearly three weeks.”

Pre-voyage study helped prepare the cohort for their experiential learning in Antarctica. In the months leading up to departure, 13 students — including three ASU Online students — immersed themselves in an interdisciplinary class called "Antarctica the Frozen Continent," created for the program by Maynard and Nicole Mayberry, assistant research professor in the School of Public Affairs at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Mayberry, who also co-led the voyage to Antarctica with Maynard, said students produced two research papers for the class that focused on topics ranging from glaciology and geology to the geopolitics of the Argentina-United Kingdom war over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands.Argentina still calls the islands the Malvinas and says it has a right to the them because it inherited the islands from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s.

On the ship that took the group to Antarctica, students also had the opportunity to engage in the Happywhale citizen science program, which cataloges and tracks whale migrations through advanced image processing. And on excursion stops in Ushuaia, Argentina, the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Island and other locations along the 23-day journey, Mayberry says the students took on the experiential assignment of identifying and taking photos of Antarctic birds they learned about in class.

An informal book club centered around the Alfred Lansing’s 1959 book “Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage” also made history a little more palpable for the group as they discussed explorer Ernest Shackleton’s famous attemptShackleton and his crew were forced to abandon Endurance after the ship got trapped in an Antarctic ice pack in 1914. The crew had to walk on foot across ice toward Antarctica in the hope of reaching land and finding rescue, which they eventually found on Elephant Island — two years later in 1916. to reach Antarctica on foot after Shackleton and his crew were forced to abandon their ice-trapped vessel Endurance, which was recently found at the bottom of the Weddell Sea — 106 years after it disappeared from the surface of the sea.

“We had a few questions that everyone kept chewing on,” said Mayberry in reference to the student-led book club gatherings on ship. “‘Could anyone else have done it besides Shackleton?’ ‘How much luck is involved?’ The conditions were absolutely terrible (for Shackleton and his crew). You read about Shackleton’s experience in this place, and then you get there and you think about how that must have felt for these people for the years they were stranded before they were rescued.”

How to get to Antarctica via ASU

The 2022 Antarctica experience marked just the second study abroadASU's first study abroad trip to Antarctica took place in 2018. trip to the frozen continent for ASU and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. But it won’t be the last. Planning is now underway for the next Antarctica study abroad expedition scheduled for December 2023, and there is more to come.

RELATED: To the end of the Earth: Sun Devils study abroad in Antarctica

Maynard says Antarctica is a flagship program that exemplifies the mission and vision of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Global Futures Laboratory to make meaningful and inclusive contributions “to building a better future for everyone and addressing some of the planet's greatest challenges.”

In 2023, the school will also host study abroad programs in Baja, California, to address emerging topics in marine conservation, and Egypt, to get perspective on the impact of global food economies on local sustainability and development. Educational travel to Hawaii, Belize and the Amazon are also in the offerings this year through the School of Sustainability.

ASU offers more than 300 global education programs in 65 different countries, ranging from one week to one year long, says Shira Burns, associate director of faculty directed programs and curriculum integration in ASU’s Global Education Office.

“Students who've returned from their programs abroad boast a higher level of excitement and commitment to their studies, full-time job offers after graduation from their internships abroad and memories to last a lifetime,” Burns said. “It gives students a chance to learn outside of the classroom, in hands-on environments for ASU credit while growing student's self-confidence and developing globally-minded citizens.”

For the recently completed Antarctica study abroad program, Burns said one participant emailed her just a few days after their return from the journey to say the program had changed their life.

“This is something we hear often from students returning from programs," Burns said. "But it really never gets old.”

Top photo courtesy Andrew Maynard

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications