The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Minority Leaders Research Collaborative Program (ML-RCP) has awarded a two-year, $150,000 award to Ethan Ahn, an assistant professor of the UTSA Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Ahn, UTSA’s inaugural recipient of the ML-RCP award, will use the money to fund his research to develop a new class of semiconducting materials for high temperature applications, and to develop the next generation of minority researchers.
The Air Force Research Laboratory ML-RCP fosters partnerships with academia while engaging students from diverse backgrounds in research that supports the nation’s air, space and cyberspace technology needs. The funding will be particularly impactful at UTSA, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) where 57% of the student population identifies as Hispanic.
“I’m very proud to be the first UTSA recipient of this award,” said Ahn, who is based in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design. “And I’m proud for UTSA and the opportunities this will create for students.”
Ahn’s project, “Phase change alloys and memory devices for high-temperature applications,” is focused on enhancing the makeup of semiconducting materials to withstand high temperature and speed applications, such as those used in automobiles and other important sectors of the industry, as well as the military. His work also aims to help mitigate the nation-wide semiconductor chip shortage.
But above all else, he aspires to support minority student researchers through his work. Ahn, who notes two mentors along his own journey, wants to serve as an inspiration as well to underrepresented UTSA students interested in establishing careers in the field.
He credits Supriyo Datta, his undergraduate research advisor at Purdue University, for leading him toward the study of nanoelectronics. Ahn’s calling to become a professor was inspired by his doctoral thesis advisor at Stanford University, Philip Wong.
Ahn plans to focus on engaging underrepresented undergraduate, master’s degree-seeking and doctoral students in his work. The ML-RCP award opens the opportunity for future collaborations with UTSA that will advance this goal.
“That’s the whole point,” Ahn said. “This will help generate the next generation of tech force of minority students.”
According to the Air Force Research Laboratory, the ML-RCP is the single largest Department of the Air Force endeavor with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. UTSA’s recent classification as a Tier One research university and its designation as a HSI places it in a unique position to advance diversity in STEM.