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Liao Receives 2010 TSMC Outstanding Student Research Award

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By Darlene Naolhu, ECE ILLINOIS
September 6, 2010

  • ECE graduate student Albert Liao was recently awarded a 2010 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) Outstanding Student Research Award.
  • Liao is the first Illinois student to receive this honor and was one of 13 finalists to receive an award.
  • Liao's research focuses primarily on energy dissipation in carbon nanotubes, which can be used to create transistors and interconnects.

ECE graduate student Albert Liao recently received a 2010 TSMC Outstanding Student Research Award for his work on carbon nanotubes.
ECE graduate student Albert Liao recently received a 2010 TSMC Outstanding Student Research Award for his work on carbon nanotubes.

ECE graduate student Albert Liao was recently awarded a 2010 Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) Outstanding Student Research Award at the fourth TSMC awards ceremony held in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Liao is the first Illinois student to receive this honor and was one of 13 finalists to receive an award after placing third in the Physics and Chemistry of Electronic Materials category. Included in his award was a cash prize of $2000.

The TSMC Outstanding Student Research Award recognizes research on semiconductors and renewable energy carried out by graduate students from elite universities around the world. This year, over 200 research papers were submitted, and from those, only a select few qualified to present before a panel of judges. After extensive review, judges then selected Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards within each of the four research categories of Circuit Design Technologies; Electronic Device, Processing, and Patterning Technologies; Green Electronics; and Physics and Chemistry of Electronic Materials.

“All of the students in the competition were from some very good quality universities, so it really felt good to be considered one of them,” said Liao. “After winning it, there really is a sense of school pride.”

 “An international competition with pretty high visibility comes with prestige, so it’s a big cookie in the cookie jar,” said Liao. “The awards ceremony was pretty spectacular. There were some pretty important people there from within TSMC, and everything at the ceremony was very Oscar-like.”

Liao, who is currently researching under ECE Assistant Professor Eric Pop, first heard of the TSMC Outstanding Student Research Award through an announcement made by the ECE Department. With recommendation from Pop, Liao decided to enter the competition.

Liao’s research focuses primarily on energy dissipation in carbon nanotubes, which can be used to create transistors and interconnects. Moreover, his is one of the first studies worldwide that looks specifically at carbon nanotube reliability. Liao has made significant progress to really understand how long carbon nanotubes last, when they break, how they break, and how to prevent them from breaking. His research could lead to major advances in the semiconductor industry.

Eric  Pop
Eric Pop

“Albert has a good sense of the research community he belongs to, and is very good at staying on top of the latest research,” said Pop. “His personality and interests are also well matched with his ability to communicate results, which makes him a key contributor to many of our collaborations.”

During his stay in Taiwan, Liao had the opportunity to tour the TSMC facilities and meet other students in the competition.

“These events are great for networking. You just never know who’s going to turn out to be the next big star. The more people you meet, the more chances you have of meeting really brilliant people,” said Liao.

Liao received his bachelor’s from Illinois in physics in 2007 and his master’s from ECE in 2008. He is currently pursuing his PhD and hopes to continue research in the future. He is a recipient of the IBM Fellowship award and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) Hans J. Coufal Fellowship award. He has also contributed to seven journal publications and 12 conference presentations, and has mentored several undergraduates within the Promoting Undergraduate Research in ECE (P.U.R.E) program.

“Coming in as an undergrad I didn’t really have any clear expectations or career goals. But as time went on and I saw what was out there, things really started to narrow down and now it’s a bit more clearly defined,” said Liao. “As long as I’m in research, I’ll be happy.”

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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