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Embedding Theory And Practice Of Technology Group Management In An Interdisciplinary Science/Engineering Graduate Program

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

EM Program Trend and Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.531.1 - 11.531.10



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Paper Authors


Ron Foster University of Arkansas

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Ron Foster is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, and has served as Director of the Innovation Incubator (a NSF Partnership for Innovation sponsored activity) at the University since 2001. He worked for both Texas Instruments and Honeywell, and was engineering manager of both design and manufacturing of sensors. He received a BA Physics in 1977 and MS Physics in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.

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Ken Vickers University of Arkansas

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Ken Vickers is a Research Professor in Physics at the University of Arkansas, and has served as Director of the interdisciplinary Microelectronics-Photonics Graduate Program since April 1998. He worked for Texas Instruments from 1977 through March 1998 in integrated circuit fabrication engineering, and has authored thirty issued patents. He received BS and MS degrees in Physics from the University of Arkansas in 1976 and 1978 respectively.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Embedding Theory and Practice of Technology Group Management in an Interdisciplinary Science/Engineering Graduate Program Background

In 1998 there was a positive atmosphere in support of interdisciplinary graduate programs at the University of Arkansas by the central administration, with leadership being provided by the new Chancellor, Dr. John White. One interdisciplinary graduate program had already been created in Environmental Dynamics, although that program only spanned departments within the Fulbright College of Arts and Scientists.

Faculty in multiple science and engineering departments were working in many research areas in micro technology, and there were strong developmental areas in several fields of nanotechnology. The primary research thrusts in these areas, along with the associated educational coursework, were in electronically and photonically active materials, the devices that could be made from these materials and the high performance subsystems that could be made through a combination of these materials and devices.

This research was by its very nature interdisciplinary, with the separation between science and engineering blurring at the micro scale and disappearing at the nanoscale. This created natural partnerships across departmental boundaries between individual faculty members and small research groups. What was lacking to the faculty working in these turbulent boundaries between traditional departmental emphases was a method by which their students could optimize their curriculum in support of their career preparation. Their students had no method to take career- based coursework from different departments – and still be granted a degree at the end of their educational path as a graduate student.

In 1998 a position was created using a combination of National Science Foundation (NSF) and University funds to hire a technical manager from industry to establish and promote an interdisciplinary graduate program in support of the research faculty in this area. Ken Vickers was hired into this position after twenty years at Texas Instruments in integrated circuit process and equipment engineering. The charge was to incorporate industrial management methods into both the program’s internal management, and into the student curriculum using both formal and informal methods.

The stated goal of this experimental approach to graduate education was to create a MS/PhD program that emulated an industrial work group environment in a traditional academic setting. The approach was to define to the student participants that they now not only had individual achievement goals, but also had a group goal to assure that every graduate student achieved the highest level of career preparation of which he or she was capable.

The interdisciplinary science/engineering graduate program in Microelectronics-Photonics (microEP) was created at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 1998 under Vickers’ guidance to merge traditional graduate research and educational excellence with specific training in operational effectiveness methods, intra and entrepreneurial skills, and teaming and group

Foster, R., & Vickers, K. (2006, June), Embedding Theory And Practice Of Technology Group Management In An Interdisciplinary Science/Engineering Graduate Program Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--978

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