Why diversity in STEM matters?

Being a hot topic Recently, diversity and gender equity in STEM has been attracting a lot of attention and there has been considerable effort in the community to raise awareness and to take action. Diversity and gender equity in STEM is crucial to economic growth as it enhances innovation and excellence. This is an undeniable fact and that is why we see huge investments in diversity recently (such as Intel’s $300 million initiative to promote diversity in technology). Surely, other Industrial giants will soon have to follow the same path and we will be witnessing a huge movement in recognition and promoting diversity and gender equity and this is truly exciting for STEM community. 

The importance of diversity to STEM is well addressed and documented and I don’t want to go into details. What I would like to highlight  here is the fact that the importance of diversity in STEM is far beyond STEM community and in fact the diversity in STEM can benefit a much larger segment including the entire nations. Many may come to this conversation from different perspectives and see this too idealistic or unreal.  But we are all living in an era of border-less communication and indisputable spread of movements is not beyond reality. Although the effort toward diversity and gender equity seem to be more or less exclusive to advanced countries at the moment, there is a huge potential for the movement to be escalated and spread globally as social media continues to play a significant role in raising awareness even in the most remote countries. 

Terrorism and poverty, the two largest global crises, stem from discrimination and inequalities. Discrimination and inequality hurt not only individuals, but also families, communities and countries in sequence. Therefore, elimination of discrimination and inequality appears fundamental in fighting against terrorism and poverty which can be provided through implementing policies that empower minorities and underrepresented groups with equal access to opportunities. Additionally, well-educated and empowered minorities can grow into leadership roles where they can develop policies which support diversity further and well into future. 

So, as we continue to support diversity and gender equity in STEM, one thing is clear:  promoting diversity in STEM not only benefits the related community but also can spread, initiate and support diversity in other communities, creating a foundation for elimination of discrimination and inequality globally leading to a much happier and safer world for the current and future generation. 

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Moore’s Law

Moore’s law has obviously nothing to do with metallurgical science but as I have dedicated this section to the role of metallurgical science in microelectronics, I thought it is worth to go through Moore’s law briefly before anything else as it is the foundation of the current high-tech advancement.

Moore’s law was initially introduced in 1965 by Gordon E. Moore, the co-founder of the Intel Corporation and Fairchild Semiconductor, through which he predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit double every two years. This means faster processing speed and smaller / lighter electronic devices over every few year time period (compare the first portable computer Osborne 1 weighing around 23 pounds and 64 KB of main memory to your smartphone right now in your hand with various functions and a possible capacity of 128 GB storage). In other words, Moore’s prediction is the basis of all amazing advancement in the last 50 years by setting the destination for microelectronic industry. To put this in perspective, imagine applying  Moore’s law to automotive industry, then now we would have cars with the capacity of 300000 miles/hour, 2000000 miles/gallon and all for the price of only 4 cents. Moore’s law not only has set the pace at which semiconductor industry develop, but also it has shaped the world we are living in today. It is the foundation of Moore’s law that is driving the way we communicate, work, study and entertain today.

However, concerns are raising  in regards to the limits of Moore’s law as we are now literally approaching those limits. The concerns stem from the fact that transistors cannot get smaller than a few nanometres physically and technically and this is where it is argued to be the limits of Moore’s law and consequently end of an era. Though, a review of research literature and industrial trend make it clear that Moore’s prediction is far beyond the number of transistors on an integrated circuit. In more general terms, it is about approaches to increase the computing power and reducing cost and if one approach is reaching its limit, other approaches will be developed. Even the recent trend of “More than Moore” (MtM) is a direct consequence of Moore’s prediction and it is not detachable from Moor’s law by nature. Currently, it appears that microelectronic industry have a high spirit to keep up the pace and I strongly believe that Moore’s law will continue to revolutionize human life with the same speed if not higher in the next decades. Best is yet to come.

Metallurgy meets Microelectronics

Have you ever inspected inside of any electronic devices? If so, you might have noticed a green board similar to the one shown in the picture with a lot of components and chips being connected to it and to each other via wires and solder bumps, etc. At first look, you might think that those connections and circuits and chips are all about electronics and electrical engineering. But in reality, multiple disciplines of engineering have to come together to make the final product function as required and metallurgy is surely one of those disciplines.

pcb

an example of printed circuit board, photo via wikimedia commons

When it comes to the reliability and performance of our electronic devices, interconnect system is a major role player. It is the job of the interconnect system to keep components in place in addition to transmitting electronic signals. Moreover, heat generation is inevitable while transmitting electronic signals. Therefore, the interconnect system has to provide heat dissipation function as well. With such critical roles to play, hence, one can conclude that a reliable functioning of our electronic devices largely depends on the interconnect system. If one component gets disconnected it can create disaster and paralyse the entire system. Providing mechanical and thermal support in addition to signal transmission however has got its route in physical and mechanical metallurgy of the interconnect materials and this is where metallurgy intervene. So watch this space if you are interested to find out more.