NIU semiconductor lab receives $1.5 million in federal funding


Colin Kempsell

Rep. Lauren Underwood removes personal protective equipment used to keep the lab sterile after her tour Friday of the space. (Colin Kempsell | Northern Star)

By Colin Kempsell

DeKALB – NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology received $1.5 million in federal funds to convert its cleanroom lab into a fabrication lab for microchip research, design and prototyping.

The college’s microchip fabrication lab, located in the NIU Engineering Building, will be bolstered in part by a Department of Education-backed grant secured by Rep. Lauren Underwood.

“It’s very helpful that we have this funding,” said Charan Akula, a second-year electrical engineering graduate student. “For being in our field, it’s a great tool to have.”

The new funding will give NIU engineering students the opportunity to research 5G and advanced sensor chip technologies, according to a university news release.

NIU students and faculty gave Underwood a tour of the facility Friday, showing the semiconductor fabrication equipment that will allow the college to research microchip development.

“Their (the students’) excitement about this grant and the new technology that’s coming in only enhances their ability to do this important research,” Underwood said.

Donald Peterson, dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, credited the college’s recent strategic plan for the hands-on learning experience the funding will provide.

“This would not be happening if it weren’t for the successes of the students and faculty,” Peterson said. “It’s really a strong testament to them and their accomplishments.”

Semiconductor manufacturing has become an important resource in recent years, as shortages of microchips during the COVID-19 pandemic led to high prices amid low supply, according to the Associated Press.

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