• Micron Devices Reliability Engineer and Mother: Meet Young Professional Nidhi Agrawal

    Nidhi Agrawal with her baby
    February, 20 2022, Robert Sacks

    Please tell us something about yourself.

    I am currently working as a Device Reliability Engineer at Micron Technology Inc., USA. I graduated with a PhD in electrical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 2015. I am a married woman. I am also a mother to a beautiful daughter. I grew up in a city called Raipur, which is the capital of Chhattisgarh state in India.

    You came from India to the USA for your PhD studies. Can you tell us about this journey of yours? How did you decide to do PhD?

    Yes, I came to the US in the fall of 2011 to pursue my PhD and gain more knowledge in microelectronics device physics. My father is a PhD and Professor in Physics. Both my grandfathers were medical doctors and my maternal grandmother was also a PhD. So, I guess my genes were telling me all along to do a PhD! But jokes apart, it was indeed a journey for me. It started with getting a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Raipur. I got fascinated with the world changing effect of nanotechnology and its advancement. I decided to learn and understand how the bulky desktop computers got transformed into a laptop and how can a small phone become so smart!? So, I pursued my Master’s degree in Microelectronics at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB), India. This program got me further interested into device physics research. So instead of joining industry job, I chose to purse PhD at Penn State University under the supervision of Prof. Suman Datta.

    You secured an All India Rank of 2 in Graduate Aptitude Test of Engineering (GATE) in 2008. Can you please elaborate on that?

    GATE examination tests for the comprehensive knowledge of a candidate in various undergraduate subjects of engineering and science. It is one of the toughest exams of India that enables admissions to the premium institutes in India like Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for graduate programs. During my pre-final year of undergraduate studies, I appeared for this exam with complete preparation which paid off well. I secured 2nd position among about 30,000 candidates. This is what helped me get admission to the Microelectronics Master’s degree program at IITB.

    You said you are a reliability engineer. Can you briefly explain what your job entails?

    When a company manufactures Integrated Circuit (IC) chips for a customer, it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that each of those chips are reliable and will work within the specifications for at least 10 years of operation. There are two ways to ensure this: 1) by testing every chip for 10 years at its operating conditions which is not a practical solution, or 2) by performing accelerated stress testing for some period and then projecting the lifetime to 10 years of operating conditions. My job at Micron Technology involves the R&D of these accelerated tests on memory devices and is to ensure every upcoming technology is reliable for 10 years once in customer’s hands. 

    You have been teaching and mentoring students since a long time. Do you like teaching? What are your thoughts about academia?

    My childhood dream was to become a teacher! My first teaching experience was in my final year of undergraduate studies. I volunteered to teach at Logic Gate Studies, a coaching institute for GATE in Raipur. I taught subjects like basic electronics, digital electronics, analog circuits, mathematics, control systems and digital signal processing to a class that consisted of my juniors, peers and seniors. It was a great self-development experience. Later, in IITB and Penn State University, I was a teaching assistant for many graduate level courses and laboratories. Teaching has always been a satisfying experience for me. I believe that a teacher has great responsibility on his/her shoulders. A great teacher or mentor has a deep influence in shaping someone’s career. I hope, by becoming a volunteer of IEEE Young Professionals Program, I get the opportunity to mentor.


    Apart from work and studies, what other activities are you interested in?

    I have always appreciated art and music. In my leisure time, I love to paint. I am also a self-taught harmonica player and am trying to learn acoustic guitar now!

    When did you become an IEEE member? And how are you involved with IEEE?

    I joined IEEE as a Student Member in 2011 and am now a Member. I have published many scientific articles in various IEEE journals and presented papers in international IEEE conferences. I also volunteer as a reviewer for many IEEE journals and conferences such as IISCAS, T-ED, EDL, TCAS-I, and TCAS-II. Now, I wish to join the IEEE Young Professionals as well and contribute to its visions.

    Interview undertaken with Eddie Custovic, Editor in Chief, IMPACT by IEEE Young Professionals