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Engineering Future of the solid state electronics industry

  1. Oct 27, 2017 #1
    I'm finishing my degree in Engineering Physics (really just physics). Without a doubt my favorite area of physics is solid state physics. While I love computational and theoretical work, I don't think making a career out of it is as easy as it is in the experimental or engineering side of it. So I'm thinking of going to graduate school for electrical engineering and work on solid state electronics.

    But I'm very worried that this industry might not have that much of a future. It's not new science, and people are arguing that we are reaching a fundamental limit on the sizing of transistors, etc. I don't want to argue more about this because I want to hear from you.

    Does the semiconductor and solid state electronics industry have a lot of future? Why?

    If not, what areas of electrical engineering (that are like solid state physics) would you recommend looking into?

    Also, how easy is it to get a job in R&D? I don't want to be in academia if choose this path...


  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2017 #2


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    This is why you have a mentor/supervisor/advisor, and this person is someone who will be guiding your education more closely than when you were an undergraduate. He/she is not only supposed to know the material, but also is aware of the state of knowledge of the field, and knows what is being funded, what direction is the field heading into, etc... etc. If you go to a good school and got a good advisor, he/she will know all this and will also know what gets his/her graduates to be hired. In fact, before you select a particular area in EE and a particular advisor, talk to other more senior grad students and see if they know of such-and-such professor has produced students that got employment upon graduation. You'll be surprised how much and how far news can travel and spread.

    But also relevant here is that, when you start your research work, YOU have to do a lot of background reading and catching up yourself. You will have weekly colloquium that introduce to you various topics in your general area, you will have to start paying attention to the news coming out of your field of study, and you will have to pay closer attention to important journals. ALL of these will paint a picture of what areas are "hot", what are getting funding, and what kind of advancements might be in store. A good program will not only be aware of such trend, but it might also be setting it by their technological-front research. Many of the modern electronics that we take for granted now came out of such university research efforts.

    What I'm trying to tell you here is that, with the area that you intend to go into, you're worrying yourself way too much.

  4. Oct 28, 2017 #3
    To OP: Usual important question in this context. What country (or countries) are you considering for grad school and employment?
  5. Oct 28, 2017 #4


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    The micro-electronics industry is a multi-hundred billion dollar industry. It is part of almost everything we do. Eventually, of course, we will reach a limit when transistors can no longer be scaled to smaller sizes. But even when this occurs, we will still continue to develop and manufacture microelectronic devices. It's not as though the field will disappear when that happens, it will just be changed. We don't scale down the sizes of cars every generation, but cars are still a huge industry. So I think you can be confident that there will be careers in microelectronics for you. Go ahead and get the training in the field and you should be able to find meaningful employment.
  6. Oct 28, 2017 #5
    The US. I'm open to other places, but I am a US citizen and plan to go to grad school in the US.
  7. Oct 29, 2017 #6
    This is coming from a user, not a developer of the technology, but I think ASICs would be a good example of how chip design can and will continue even without improvements in the size of the transistors.
  8. Oct 30, 2017 #7
    Actually there is stuff beyond conventional semiconductor engineering. At my university they do research on mesoscopic transport which gives rise to spintronic or devices like 1-electron-transistors which might conquer the limits of Moore's law.

    On top of that, as being said, conventional solid state electronics is still a giant market and will continue to be so for the next decades.
  9. Oct 30, 2017 #8


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