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Siahmakoun Opens New Microscopic Adventures
January 13, 2014
Azad Siahmakoun, PhD, gets excited about the littlest of things.
The associate dean of faculty/professor of physics and optical engineering loves teaching Rose-Hulman students how to build mechanical devices on silicon that are so microscopic that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. He is in his 11th year of teaching Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) courses in a cleanroom facility that offers an advantage to his students.
The Micro-Nanoscale Devices and Systems (MiNDS) facility, recently relocated in Myers Hall, “is a very unusual resource that’s available to undergraduates,” says Siahmakoun, adding that he makes sure the facility is highlighted on campus tours. “University cleanrooms are usually reserved for research and graduate-level projects. Having this facility helps us recruit quality students.”
Siahmakoun’s MEMS courses attract students majoring in engineering physics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering. These students explore the design, fabrication, and testing of solid-state MEMS, which dominate the sensor field.
“MEMS is one of those courses that bring many different fields together across the campus,” Siahmakoun says. “Students work in multidisciplinary teams.”
Siahmakoun believes MEMS will be the next wave in high-tech manufacturing, and students with experience in this area will have a distinct career advantage.
“The beauty of MEMS devices is that the power consumption is small, the weight is small, and we’re using cheap metals,” he says. “I’m excited about the idea that an entire optical system could be reduced to a single silicon chip.”
As much as he loves introducing students to microdevices, Siahmakoun says his primary role is training students to think like scientists and engineers.
“Technical fields are not fields where you can do memorization,” he says. “You need to know how to set up a problem, how to approach it, how to break it down, and how to get final results and a solution.”
Later, he adds, “My style is to teach the fundamentals and ask the student to dig a little deeper to see more. Under the surface of fundamental knowledge there is a great deal of depth for students to discover and learn. As you dig deeper and deeper, your chances of discovery and innovation get higher and higher.”
Azad Siahmakoun, PhD
Associate Dean of Faculty/Director of Graduate Studies
Professor of Physics and Optical Engineering
Director of Micro-Nanoscale Devices and Systems Facility
Years at Rose-Hulman: 26
Teaches: Optical Engineering, Physics, Nanotechnology, and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS)
Awards: Board of Trustees’ Outstanding Scholar Award
Classic Assignment: Uses a simple pendulum to explain complex systems like modulating electric currents, weather forecasting, and fractal geometry.