ASU hosts microelectronics workforce panel with EMD Electronics

November 20, 2023

Arizona is poised to regain its once promising position as a hub for microelectronics manufacturing, spurred by the development of multiple electronics fabrication facilities in the state.

In the wake of this rapid acceleration of semiconductor production, Arizona State University teamed with EMD Electronics, a chemical supplier for electronics manufacturing, to host a panel discussion about the future of the microelectronics sector’s workforce in Arizona.

Katherine Dei Cas, EMD’s executive vice president and global head of delivery systems and service, moderated the event at the Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU on Nov. 13.

Panel members included high-ranking women in their respective fields: Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, representing the academic sector; Belén Garijo, CEO and chair of the executive board at EMD’s parent company Merck KGaA, representing industry; and Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, representing the state’s citizen community. Four women seated onstage having a conversation. Speakers who participated in the panel included (from left) Executive Vice President and Global Head of Delivery Systems and Services at EMD Electronics Katherine Dei Cas; Merck KGaA CEO Belén Garijo; Executive Vice President of ASU Knowledge Enterprise Sally C. Morton; and President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority Sandra Watson. The discussion was part of "The Future of Arizona: Leadership in the Microelectronics Workforce" event hosted at the Omni hotel in Tempe on Nov. 13. Photo by Paula Soria/ASU Download Full Image

Addressing industry needs

The experts began the discussion by focusing on the most pressing issues facing Arizona’s workforce. Watson emphasized that the number of microelectronics jobs available is outpacing the number of available workers, a need that reskilling and retraining can help to fill.

“The educational institutions are very, very active and are ensuring that they're working with industry to understand what their future workforce needs are and then clearly developing curriculum and programs around it,” she said.

Morton agreed that understanding industry needs is crucial for educational organizations to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. She said ASU considers these needs as it explores ways to engage learners throughout their life spans, whether that involves developing ways to encourage children to consider manufacturing careers or helping adults shift careers in different sectors of business and industry.

From an industry perspective, Garijo said Merck is embracing advanced technology and determining how to incorporate its use into the workplace responsibly and efficiently. She noted that rapid technological advances can shift demand for specific job skills to other skill sets, which then impacts the kinds of opportunities available for potential employees.

“Today, we have more data scientists in our organization than sales reps,” Garijo said.

The conversation turned to ASU’s leadership of one of eight U.S. Department of Defense Microelectronics Commons hubs, which are focused on the development of technologies important to national security efforts. Morton praised the hub, named the Southwest Advanced Prototyping — or SWAP — Hub, as a major factor in putting Arizona on the radar as an up-and-coming semiconductor industry epicenter.

Morton also said the SWAP Hub, which will receive $40 million of funding in its first year, will support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as part of its microelectronics workforce development efforts.

“If you’re not involved in the SWAP Hub, we hope you will be,” she said to those in attendance. “We’d love to have you partner with us.”

Building a great work environment and resilient supply chain

Dei Cas asked Garijo how, despite having begun 355 years ago, Merck is still regarded as one of the top employers in the world by leading business publications such as Forbes magazine.

Garijo explained her philosophy on hiring focuses more on an employee’s potential and the company’s likelihood of retaining them than focusing solely on credentials and experience.

She acknowledged that new generations of workers expect opportunities for their own personal growth and to contribute to their organizations in meaningful ways.

“Getting people excited about the social impact that we make, fighting climate change and our sustainability programs — that is what really matters at this time,” Garijo said.

Watson said that in her discussions with semiconductor industry leaders, she has learned that companies’ biggest concern is finding the right workforce to succeed in their particular business sectors.

She found the second major concern is securing the supply chain, which had its weaknesses exposed due to shortages of chips manufactured in Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That also gave us an opportunity because of those challenges during the pandemic to better educate the community on the importance of this industry and the impact this industry has on all the other industries,” Watson said. “The semiconductor industry really is a foundational industry that supports every other industry out there.”

Creating an accessible environment

Morton emphasized ASU’s efforts to prepare more workers for such a vital industry by making the semiconductor field more accessible for both traditional college students and those looking to change careers.

That effort includes making relevant information available through the university’s resources, including more than 70 academic programs and research centers, and putting it on the ASU microelectronics website.

Dei Cas praised the website, noting that she had already sent the link to her EMD team and encouraged its members to consider how ASU’s offerings could improve their capabilities without needing to acquire another degree.

“It’s not about getting a degree; it’s about just learning a new skill,” Dei Cas said. "So, I think there’s a lot of difference there.”

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU professors discuss gun safety that may appeal to broad spectrum of citizens

Hundreds of academics gather at research conference about harm from firearms

November 20, 2023

Recent gun safety proposals — including requiring gun locks and community beautification efforts that can help quell violence — could possibly earn support from those on both sides of the firearms debate, according to two Arizona State University criminology and criminal justice professors.

Professors Jesenia Pizarro and Beth Huebner recently returned from the second annual conference of the Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms, held Nov. 1–3 in Chicago, where they were panelists at a workshop on how researchers can better collaborate with criminologists. Side-by-side portraits of Jesenia Pizarro and Beth Huebner, professors at ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Professor Jesenia Pizarro (left) and Professor Beth Huebner, ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Courtesy photos Download Full Image

Huebner is the Watts Endowed Professor of Public Safety and director of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Pizarro, a full professor, is secretary of the society, a national organization of mostly academics in health fields who conduct research but do not engage in advocacy. As a criminologist, Pizarro said she is a rare exception among the society’s membership.

More than 700 mostly academics attended the conference to hear 333 presentations by 299 unique presenters representing 34 states and five countries. More than 18 research disciplines were represented in the presentations, including medicine, public health, anthropology, business, economics, criminology/criminal justice, sociology, social work and engineering. 

The society organized the conference with support from the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, the Columbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence (SURGE) and ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Here is a complete list of the conference’s sponsors.

Read on to learn Pizarro’s and Huebner’s insights from the event.

Editor's note: Answers may have been edited for length or clarity.

Question: Professor Pizarro, you are the national secretary of the Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms. Tell us about its history and goals, as well as some examples of its current research.

Pizarro: The society, and by extension the conference, is rooted in a journey of overcoming obstacles. In 1996, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funds to advocate or promote gun control, which discouraged the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies from awarding research money targeted for firearm injury prevention.

In 2018, after multiple mass-shooting tragedies and increasing public demand, Congress clarified that the amendment does not prohibit federal funding of research on the causes of gun violence. Subsequently, the Firearm Injury Among Children and Teens Consortium (FACTS) was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. I was one of 25 scientists in the original consortium — and the only criminologist.

Our efforts flourished and led to the 2022 national conference, which was a collaboration between FACTS, the University of Michigan and the RAND Corporation. The society was born from that effort. The society’s goal is to sustain the annual conference, nurture researchers and contribute to evidence-based policies. It is poised to shape the future of firearm injury prevention by offering a robust platform for research, publications and global initiatives combating firearm-related harms.

Q: On Nov. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Rahimi, a Texas case about whether the government can restrict the Second Amendment right to bear arms of a person who is subject to domestic violence restraining orders. What might such a decision say about how our legal system treats firearm-related harm?

Pizarro: U.S. vs. RahimiAn amici curiae brief presented to the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Rahimi was signed by Pizarro and 110 other public health researchers and lawyers. View it at: focuses on whether the restriction of the Second Amendment rights of individuals under a domestic violence protection order is constitutional. Earlier this year, the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it is not. ... The Supreme Court decision will shape the legal stance on the Second Amendment and will have crucial implications for public safety. 

Acknowledging that I am not a legal scholar or constitutional lawyer, in my opinion, if the Supreme Court sides with the appellate court, it will signal to the country that individual rights supersede public safety and health. If the Supreme Court does not side with the circuit judges and decides to keep the federal statute as is, it will signal that they are committed to a nuanced understanding of the role of firearms in societal harms in light of the constitutional framework.

Q: You are a criminologist in an organization primarily made up of researchers from health fields such as public health, medicine, epidemiology and so on. Why do you think a wider, multidisciplinary approach is needed to help policymakers on issues related to the harms caused by firearms?

Pizarro: Firearm harms is one of those problems that are just too large to be understood and solved by a single discipline. Single-discipline approaches, while offering ease and simplicity for the professionals utilizing them, are insufficient to address the complexity and scale of firearm harms. For example, employing only a criminal-justice-centered approach would not consider trauma-informed services to survivors and primary and tertiary prevention efforts that are so necessary. ... We need everyone at the table so that the problem can be targeted via multiple angles and considering the diverse factors that contribute to these harms. 

Q: Professor Huebner, ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is one of the most highly ranked schools in the nation. What role can the school play in shaping the research agenda regarding firearms-related harms? What expertise can it bring?

Huebner: Effective interventions to reduce firearm harm require a nuanced understanding of individuals who perpetuate harm and victims of crime, as well as in-depth knowledge of crime data and the criminal justice and social services agencies that work in the community. The multidisciplinary nature of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, specifically, and that of ASU as a whole, makes the school well poised to lead in this field.

We have experts, like Professor Pizarro, who have centered their research program on the multifaceted nature of gun crime, which includes in-depth knowledge of victims of violence and the nationwide landscape of gun crime, particularly homicide trends. Professor William Terrill, who also attended the conference, works with police agencies in the Phoenix area and across the country to better understand police officer perceptions of firearm danger and ways to de-escalate violence among citizens and law enforcement.

Just as important, our faculty partners with other experts at ASU and elsewhere in the fields of public health, medicine, sociology and social work to develop interventions.

Q: Now that you’ve attended this conference, what impressions did you take with you? What opportunities do you see coming out of it for the society as an impartial voice?

Huebner: This was my first time attending the conference, and I found it to be one of the best convenings I have attended. What impressed me most was the diversity of individuals who attended. I was asked to participate in a mentoring session for early-career scholars, and I connected with some of the brightest minds in the field. I also appreciate that the group takes a public health approach and allows those who work on the front lines with victims to have a strong voice in policy change.

Individuals who work in academia often operate in silos, but it will take true collaboration to begin to address the public health emergency that is gun violence in the United States. 

Q: The Washington Post editorialized Nov. 3 that the society has made some novel suggestions for policy changes that, in part because they are new, might have a chance to be implemented. Do you agree?

Pizarro: Yes. A lot of the interventions discussed are already in place in some cities throughout the country. Take, for example, greening and beautification in communities. Cities like Flint, Michigan, and Philadelphia have implemented it, and there is documented success. In fact, The Watts College’s Design Studio for Community Solutions is currently funding a beautification effort in Maryvale (in Phoenix). I am currently working on that initiative with criminal justice (Associate) Professor Cody Telep, and we are excited about the possibilities in that community.

Huebner: Agreed. Interventions, like gun safety locks, are supported by science and are often less controversial than other programs. Yet, many gun owners don’t use them. It is important to have conferences like these to learn more about how to best communicate the science of gun safety to the broader community. Science is only beneficial if it can be translated into community action.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions