Mr. Endeshaw Hailu Mengistu
I developed interest in Physics because of my Indian high school Physics teacher when I was at Addis Ababa Technical School. He engraved wonderful memories by his teaching methodology. He had a unique way of introducing new topics; I still remember word by word the stories he told us about Archimede's principle and Newton's Laws of motion. The depth and breadth of Physics taught at Addis Ababa Technical School and the competitive classmates I had helped me develop a great love for Physics. By many of my classmates, solving Physics problem was considered as a fun as if going to a movie or watching a soccer game. People like Dr. Negussie Tirfessa who was one of my class mates spent astronomical hours searching for the most difficult problem and challenging every one of us to solve it the next day. To survive the challenge one had to work hard and be prepared. It was really fun.
Physics was my choice when I joined AAU Physics department as undergraduate student. I graduated in 1989 with BS degree and joined Ethiopian Standard Institute (ESI). At ESI, I had an opportunity to work with people like Dr. Challa Bekele who taught me many practical Physics concepts, measurement skills and data analysis. After working for a couple of years at ESI, I realized that it was neither rewarding nor attractive to me to advance my knowledge in Physics. The institution had blanket sanction against advanced degree in Physics. I had to find a way to advance my study and I pioneered the first self sponsorship to join AAU graduate school. However, it wasn't a smooth journey. The university officials at that time were not encouraging self sponsorship and imposed many requirements like: higher GPA, money to be deposited in a blocked account and a co-signer who had a property worth of hundreds of thousands of Birr. I think these requirements were probably intended as a way to discourage self-sponsorship for domestic applicants. The dean of the graduate school at that time was the late Dr. Demissu Gemaeda. God bless his soul. He supported and fought for me to be considered as a possible graduate school applicant.
After a long ordeal and unnecessary bureaucracy, I was given a green light to apply for graduate school. I completed my application with all required documents and collaterals. But, it was far from over. The head of AAU registrar at that time said no way and he refused to accept my application. I tried to explain to him, but he didn't buy it and physically threatened me and chased me out of his office. Today things are very different. People can go to graduate school at AAU without any hassle and I am very happy to witness that. I graduated with M.Sc. degree in 1995 and it was worth fighting for. I received an excellent education and experience which paved the way where I am today. I am very grateful to Dr. Mulugate Bekele and Dr. Fesseha Kassahun for their support while I was a graduate student at AAU Department of Physics.
I came to Clemson University, SC in August 1995 as a graduate student in Physics. I graduated with another M.Sc. degree in Physics in 1997. I worked under the supervision of Dr. GX Tessema. I was challenged by low temperature Physics experiment. Mounting tiny superconducting whisker samples using sliver epoxy requires enormous patience, good eye vision and experience. Putting sample into liquid helium without any ice formation was another challenging aspect of the experiment. I learned many experimental techniques from Dr. Tessema which I am using in my daily work today. One of the skills passed to me by Dr. Tessma was how to keep detailed lab note book and why it is important. Wherever I go, I do keep detailed lab note book. When I was at HALO LSI my note helped to resolve a dispute between two co-workers.
My inspiration for Semiconductor technology started when I was a graduate student at Addis Ababa University. I had an opportunity to do my M.Sc. Thesis research in Germany at National lab in Julich. The opportunity I had at Julich was a life changer. I would not have been where I am today with out the basic training I received there. My experience has been appreciated by many people and it was one of the major factors that helped me secure a full scholarship to study engineering at Brigham Young University (BYU).
I joined BYU Electrical Engineering Department in 1997 and graduated in April 1999 with M.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering. My area of emphasis was Semiconductor Device Physics. My project was to design, to fabricate and to characterize MEMS actuators (switches).
Currently, I am working as an engineer at Micron Technology in Boise, Idaho on NAND and on DRAM technologies research and development. Before I joined Micron, I worked at IBM and at Halo LSI. In both companies, I worked on cutting edge technologies: ASICS design, Silicon Germanium (SiGe) and MONOS flash technology developments. The challenge to produce a working technology is huge due to limitations imposed by Physics on every node of technology. It is very exciting to overcome the limitations of Physics through creative engineering to produce a working technology. Working at Micron gave me many opportunities to apply both Physics and Engineering skills that I acquired through experience and school. Halo LSI was a company that strived to make the smallest and the cheapest technology in early 2002-2004. I worked in trapped based NAND technology at Halo which at that time had three times smaller than the feature of the current NAND technology. I was one of the team members who first designed and fabricated the fastest transistor in 2001 at IBM. This project won an IEEE(EDS) Georg E. Smith Award in 2002 in Device Physics.
Studying Physics in combination with engineering has significant advantage to be an effective engineer in technology research and development. Knowledge of Physics accelerates understanding of problems, design of experiments, and prediction of experimental results and analysis of experimental data quickly with accurate scientific reasoning. The old approach of doing many experiments and choosing the one which works (shot-gun approach) is very expensive and unpredictable.
Physics has taken me along many adventurous paths so far. I don't know where it is going to take me in the future, but I am eagerly looking forward to it.
EPS-NA: Thank you Endeshaw!