Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Churamani Gaire

Dr. Churamani Gaire, from Syangja, Nepal,  shares fond memories of the school days, teachers and mentors. He also shares his experience in joining the semiconductor industry as he is currently working as Principal Process Engineer at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  It is our pleasure to have him in my frame of reference.

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in an economically subaltern farming family in Kuwakot-8, Syangja. I went to local school (Now Bhanu Higher Secondary School, Chaughera, Syangja), where I learned Nepali and English alphabets from my teachers Durga Pangeni and Hari Bdr Ale, respectively. I completed high school from Keware (Now Bal Siddha Higher Secondary School), Syangja. I then continued my undergraduates at Prithvi Narayan College, Pokhara and Masters in Physics at Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. Having to answer this question makes me a bit nostalgic of all the fond memories.
My research interest is in the nanotechnology. My professional profile is in LinkedIn:
My research activities are disseminated in various journals and conference proceedings and are available for public consumption:
How did you decide to study physics? Did anyone, in particular, influence you?
I was shy as a child and did not know what I was up to. Growing up, I used to carve tops and toy cars out of wood and play. By high school time, it was clear to me that I was more into mathematics and physical sciences than other subjects. I was privileged to have great teachers like Bhoj Raj Gurung and Babu Ram Sharma in High School, Namo Narayan Yadav, Pabitra Mani Poudel and Binay Kumar Jha in Undergraduates; Devendra Raj Mishra and Shekhar Gurung in my Masters. I have the highest regard to Babu Ram Sharma, Binay Kumar Jha and Shekhar Gurung for their support I got during my high school and college times. While I recall these great names today, it is Guru-Purnima, and I salute these great teachers and mentors on this occasion.
What strategies did you use to be successful in college? Please give out some tips on how to become a successful student in Nepal?
My strategy was to attend all the classes, go through the subject material more than once, note down the areas of weakness and focus on those items in the next iteration of study. In my opinion, one has to develop his/her own style. There is no universally applicable strategy per se. However, my biggest tip to the Nepalese students would be to not waste their time by going to political pep-rallies and become puppets of political parties.
Could you also describe your academic and research journey in USA? What are the challenges for Nepalese students?
I started my graduate study from University at Albany in theoretical physics. I later transferred to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), due to a better match to my academic interest. I conducted my graduate research in nanoscale growth and characterization of semiconducting materials. After my graduation, I continued my research at RPI and developed strategy to grow near single crystal semiconductor material starting from amorphous substrate suitable for low-cost energy application. 
As regard to the challenges, it's the initial first few months when one is trying to adjust with so many new things: new place, new education system and some language barrier. Back in the country, our focus was more on theoretical than experimental physics. So, if you want to pursue theoretical physics in USA, I think you can immediately choose a research group and start contributing towards your graduate dissertation. However, if you want to pursue experimental physics, it takes one-to-two semesters before you can contribute towards your graduate dissertation. Again, it varies from person to person. I believe that Nepalese graduates are capable of competing with international graduates.
Could you please suggest the practical applications of your research outcomes? Do you have a favorite research paper (written by yourself or somebody else)?
My research was about nano-heteroepitaxial growth of near single crystal semiconductor material starting from amorphous substrate. This is applicable in substrate fabrication for low-costing solar cells. I use epitaxial growth method in my current job to create individual transistor units used in computer chips. My publications done during my graduate school are in the public domain and are available for your viewing pleasure as I mentioned earlier. Instead of me saying which of my articles I like, I will leave that option to the public to judge. However, I shall say some of my papers are cited more than the others by the researchers in the field.
How is your experience in joining the Industry? Was there any culture shock for an academician? Or shall a PhD holder expect any difference?
Definitely there is a bit of culture shock. I find rather interesting differences in academia and high-tech industry. Industry has more stringent requirements for deadlines. Your decisions can make immediate financial impact on the order of 10s of millions of dollars. To this end, I would say both the risk and reward are much higher in the high tech industry. And whether you have a PhD or not does not make much difference in the industry, your abilities are judged through whether you can solve problems efficiently and precisely and deliver the solution or not. Nevertheless, the rigorous training process that you have gone through during your PhD definitely prepares you for the rigorousness required in the industry.
A general perception is that industry experience is very demanding. Could you please give us a snapshot of your one day in office?
Yes, you are correct that the industry is very demanding due to short shelf-life of technology. One has to constantly update the new things that are in the market, and stay up to date with the technology challenges and solutions.
I work in semiconductor foundry and own a critical process responsible for transistor performance. On my typical day, I have to fulfill three kinds of major responsibilities and generally attend/prepare for 5-6 meetings a day to:
  • Ensure that there are no problems in my process step from both process and hardware aspects. If there are problems, resolve immediately.
  • Ensure that internal and external customer demands are met. Internal customers include integration and device team who are constantly looking for new processes and recipes to improve the overall flow. The external customers are real customers who I have to engage time to time and ensure they are comfortable working with us.
  • Ensure that we offer improved process to our internal and external customers. We constantly conduct experiments to improve our process. We analyze/interpret data and feed-forward the learning to next cycle, a process we call “continuous improvement process”. 
What have you found to be the toughest aspect of being a physicist, if any?
The job hunting was the toughest part as a physicist.
Which of the skills are strongly recommended for the job hunters in this field?
In my opinion, strong communication skill, data analysis/interpretation and decision making ability are some of the key items recruiters are looking in new hires.
Sir, since I am not a professional interviewer, would you like to add anything else? Thank you for your time!
I am afraid your questions are more professional than my answers. I commend you for your effort. And I wish you for your continuous success as blogger in the future. Thanks very much.