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UA prof nationally recognized

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Adam Thorsness, a chemical engineering doctoral candidate, adjusts a thermocouple used for measuring temperatures in a chemical reactor in his lab at the Electrical and Computer Engineering building on Friday morning.
By Jessica Lee
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
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Muscat named to magazine's list of top U.S. scientists

When most people hop on the Internet, snap a digital photo or answer their cell phone, the technological implications of the devices are the last thing on their minds.

But behind every new electronic toy is a group of researchers made up of people like UA chemical and environmental engineering associate professor Anthony Muscat, who pushes the realm of what is technologically possible.

Muscat was recently recognized as a 2003 Chemicals and Materials Policy Leader by Scientific American magazine for his work on microchip technology.

Muscat is a pioneer in the field of semiconductor research, developing manufacturing techniques that will enable microelectronic devices to be smaller, cheaper and faster.

Not only is Muscat furthering the capabilities of computer parts to meet the technological needs of society, but his research also has an environmental component.

In the past year, Muscat and his team developed a microchip cleaning process using supercritical carbon dioxide as a more environmentally sensitive substitute for other chemicals.

"It is nice to be recognized. This brings attention to what we are doing, not only to advance technology but also to lower the impact to the environment," Muscat said. "We use the environment as design constraint within our research."

Anthony Muscat
chemical and environmental engineering associate professor

Additional techniques developed by the research team include a method that decreases the amount of pollutants released during the chip-etching process and reduces the quantity of hazardous chemicals needed to manufacture microchips.

Muscat feels that his six-student research team also deserves recognition for the research. "They partly share in it because it would not have happened without them," Muscat said.

"The fact that the work I am doing as a graduate student is on a level that is recognized means it isn't just you that thinks what you do is important," said Sarah Perry, a chemical engineering graduate student.

Adam Thorsness, an electrical and environmental engineering doctoral candidate, has worked with Muscat for the last five years.

"Dr. Muscat cares about the students in a way that is different than you might think. He's not the type to just pump research out. Rather, he interacts with the students to make us more marketable when we graduate. He really does consider the adviser aspect rather than just be worried about crunching out research," Thorsness said.

For Diana Perry, her experience on the research team offers a unique experience. As an undergraduate student in chemical engineering, Perry now has her own research project and is developing general research skills.

"I have learned more with this than in 50 percent of my classes," she said. "Dr. Muscat is a professor who is a good listener. He is very understanding and has given me good advice."

Gerardo Montano, a chemical engineering doctoral student who also works with Muscat, was excited to hear the recognition.

"I was surprised he was selected, not because he didn't deserve it, but because there are so many good scientists out there. This means we are doing something right. This research will have a large impact," Montano said.

Muscat's research group is part of the UA Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Benign Microchip Manufacturing, a multi-university center whose focus is on environmentally friendly manufacturing in the semiconductor industry.

The center is funded through the National Science Foundation and the Semiconductor Research Corporation. Companies within the private sector also support Muscat's research.

Companies such as IBM, Texas Instruments and Intel incorporate the fundamental science principles developed in semiconductor research labs like that of Muscat in order to manufacture microchips for their various products. The technology being developed by Muscat's research team will not hit the market for several years.

"The work we are doing tries to be very forward-looking so we can have the greatest impact on industry. Something that has a two-to four-year time horizon has the highest possible chance of being used," Muscat said.

The Scientific American 50 was released in the December 2003 edition.

According to Scientific American, the 50 Leaders of the Year are selected by the magazine's editorial board to "recognize the singular accomplishments of those who have contributed to the advancement of technology in the realms of science, engineering, commerce and public policy."

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