Physics Professor Awarded Fulbright Grant

A St. Lawrence University physics professor will receive a prestigious scholarship to continue his research on the electrical resistance of semiconductors in Eastern Europe.

Daniel W. Koon, professor of physics at St. Lawrence, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to travel and research for six months in Prague, Czech Republic. This will be Koon’s second Fulbright scholarship, after receiving one in 1981 to travel and research in then West Berlin.

For the last 20 years, Koon has been measuring and mapping the resistance of silicon wafers, which is an important quality-control issue for the semiconductor industry. The measurements allow him to characterize how a specific shape and the placement of electrodes on a microchip affects how much of the specimen is sampled by the measurement, how much error will result from misaligning the electrodes and how much heating can skew results.

“These results could have very important implications in the microelectronics industry, where smaller and smaller devices drive the need for ever more compact resistance probes,” Koon said. “By making precise calculations for a variety of cross and cloverleaf-shaped specimen geometries, based on some theory developed by myself and colleagues at the Technical University of Denmark, and by confirming these in the laboratory with my colleagues at the Institute for Chemical Technology in Prague, I hope to provide a wide overview of which geometrical shapes and electrode placements provide the most accurate, most tightly focused diagnostic, as well as reducing unwanted effects.”

With the Fulbright, Koon will be able to take a full-year sabbatical while at the same time continuing his research.

Koon said first fell in love with Prague during the last month of his first Fulbright in 1982.

“Having this opportunity to conduct research with a group that perfectly complements my interests and to have the support of Fulbright to do this in one of the most enchanting cities in Europe is really a homecoming,” he said.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program provides funding for students, scholars, teachers and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools.

In anticipation of being awarded the grant, Koon has spent the last year teaching himself Czech. The cultural exchange, he said, is also central to the Fulbright program.

“Not only do I learn about the host country, I also try to present a positive but honest picture of my home country,” he said. “That's something I’ve enjoyed about my foreign sabbaticals to Costa Rica and Spain, whether trying to explain the Electoral College after the 2000 presidential election or the Obama-Hillary race in early 2008.”