Physics student impresses at semiconductor national conference


Branden wins

Physics senior Branden Burns (right) won third overall in a research poster competition at the 2014 TECHCON event in Austin, Texas.

During his sophomore year, Physics and Mathematics major Branden Burns was unsure about what to do with a degree from the department.

A year later, a research opportunity arose in Prof. Yong Chen’s lab and he was connected with the Semiconductor Research Center. Now the senior from Chicago is laser-focused on his field and career aspirations.

“I’ve mainly done my work in carbon-based nano materials,” Burns said. “I was always kind of interested in the nanotechnology side of things.”

While working in Chen’s lab, Burns was exposed to graphing layers of nano carbon. He grew that interest during an internship with the Semiconductor Research Center, a technology research consortium. His successful stint in the SRC’s STARnet program took him to the September TECHCON conference in Austin, Texas. Burns’ research poster, “Removing Metallic Samples to Yield Pure Semiconductor Carbon Nanotubes and Test Their Effectiveness,” took third place overall, besting 40 other competing students.

Burns attended the 2013 TECHCON event as an observer but he was on the researcher list this year.

Branden Burns
Branden Burns

“It was real nice to see a lot of posters around,” Burns recalled. “Even if you don’t recognize the student, you recognize the professor they are associated with. A lot of the graduate students that were Purdue alumni and they were all really nice.”

At the conference, students presented papers and participated in the poster session.  Industry experts from SRC, Intel, and Texas Instruments judged each session and recognized the best undergraduate posters with awards. 

“TECHCON brings together the brightest minds in microelectronics research to exchange news about the progress of new materials and processes created by SRC’s network of more than 100 of the top engineering universities,” said SRC President Larry Sumney. “Students and industry leaders discuss basic research at TECHCON that is intended to accelerate advancements for both private and public entities.”

Burns’ 2014 work deals with cleaning nanotubes to perform better once melded with transistors.

“This research is a new, different way to remove the impurities from carbon nanotubes before you implement them into transistors,” Burns explained. “There’s kind of a set standard people use already. This was something that was different way that not a lot of people have seen before as a way of using a thermocapillary to identify and remove metallic tubes so you can easily yield pure semiconducting nanotubes.”

Set to graduate in 2015, Burns said graduate school is on the horizon. He completed the Graduate Record Examinations in October and he hopes to eventually work in semiconductor industry. Burns also plans on maintaining his link to the SRC in graduate school.

“Getting my first taste of research was a nice first step into what I wanted to do,” Burns said. “The research gave me that aim, gave me an idea of what I want to do.”

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