In the early 1980s, the state of Illinois committed $3.5 million to modify a campus building to contain the Microelectronics Laboratory. James J. Coleman, Nick Holonyak, Jr., and Gregory E. Stillman lent their expertise on the feasibility of making the existing building suitable for microelectronics research. Meanwhile, a Microelectronics Board of Overseers, consisting of 13 senior leaders from industry, was assembled by the president of the university. In 1985, the board's chairman, Motorola's vice president for research, William Howard, advised the state and university to invest seriously in the future of microelectronics research. When the renovation plan was presented to the Board of Overseers, they suggested building a new facility.
In response to the board's recommendation, the state committed an additional $10 million -- a total of $13.5 million -- to build a new microelectronics laboratory on the UIUC campus. Construction on the Microelectronics Laboratory building began in July 1987. The building was dedicated on October 7, 1989. Governor James Thompson and university President Stanley Ikenberry attended the ceremony. The building has 8,000 sq ft of class 100 and class 1000 clean room space; is vibrationally tuned to less than 10 microinches; and is the first university facility to conform to the H6 fire and safety codes applicable to semiconductor laboratories. The Microelectronics Laboratory is equipped with facilities for nanolithography, growth of artificially structured materials (MBE and MOCVD), materials characterization, and high-speed electrical and optical device measurements.
Encouraged by state support, the faculty -- under Stillman's leadership -- presented a proposal to the National Science Foundation for an Engineering Research Center in Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics. The NSF grant, which began on May 1, 1986, provided funds to develop experimental facilities and programs for core research, education, and industry for the 1990s. The Center for Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics addresses research that is critical to the successful realization of products based on high-speed optical interconnect technologies.
Center research builds on the work begun at UIUC by John Bardeen and advanced by Nick Holonyak, Jr. Holonyak, Bardeen's first graduate student, established a solid-state electronic devices research lab at the university in 1963. Since then, the university has been a leader in academic research on gallium arsenide and other compound semiconductors. The center is the umbrella under which the university, in partnership with government and industry, has developed the essentials of faculty members, students, program monies, facilities, and leadership to continue its premier program in compound semiconductors and optoelectronic systems.
The center is located in the Microelectronics Laboratory and is a unit with department status in the College of Engineering. The center is managed by the director, Stephen Bishop, who is also the director of the Microelectronics Laboratory. Bishop assumed the directorate in August 1989 from Joseph Verdeyen.. Verdeyen served as director from January 1988 to July 1989. He followed founding director Stillman. Each director has relied on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for guidance on the center's overall research agenda. The TAC, which first met in August 1987 and has met annually since, is composed of leading managers and research practitioners from industry, academia, and government laboratories. Whether working individually with faculty members or in formal meetings with the director, the TAC assumes that the center's research plan is well matched with industry needs and long-term goals.
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