Morgan State University Expands Research Capabilities with Addition of Two Newly State-Funded Research Centers
Center for Research and Education in Microelectronics to Advance Scientific Activity in Semiconductor Fabrication While National Center for the Elimination of Educational Disparities to Assess Learning Inequities in Public Education
Baltimore — With the release of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s FY24 budget, Morgan State University has secured an additional $6.8 million in state funding to support the launch of two new research centers that will develop and drive innovation in the design and fabrication of semiconductors and address the challenges facing public school education. Morgan’s Center for Research and Education in Microelectronics and the National Center for the Elimination of Educational Disparities (NCEED) will receive $3.1 million and $3.7 million respectively in annual state appropriations, beginning July 1. The University will now operate a total of nine state-funded research centers with five having been launched over the past five years. Once fully operational, both centers will have the capacity to employ up to 25 new faculty members.
“We appreciate the State of Maryland’s continued support of Morgan State University and its mission of educating and preparing our graduates to lead the world, while leveraging the cutting-edge research being conducted on our campus to address the challenges facing our community, state, and nation,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan. “The investment made into much-needed research centers will go a long way in strengthening our state and further advancing Maryland as a destination for innovation.”
Housed within the School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Center for Research and Education in Microelectronics will use its funding to support education and research centered on the design and fabrication of microchips. In addition, the center will focus on training and workforce development in semiconductor manufacturing, preparing students to become the industry’s next generation of professionals. The microchips, also referred to as integrated circuits (ICs), are an essential component of everyday life and can be commonly found in electronic devices, smartphones, radios, TVs, computers, video games, military equipment, and advanced medical diagnostic equipment.
The center will augment its equipment base with a new state-of-the-art “clean room” and tools designed to assist with research initiatives that focus on the design, manufacturing, packaging, and testing of semiconductors. Chip manufacturing is a complex process that require sterile environments meeting ISO 14644-1 Class 4-6 specifications. To accommodate this complex fabrication process, Morgan is renovating approximately 3,600-square-feet of laboratory space.
“The research and training that will be done in this new center will provide our students with both theoretical knowledge and practical exposure to the technologies used for producing computer chips,” says Willie E. May, Ph.D., vice president of research and economic development and professor of chemistry at Morgan State. “Our goal is to prepare them for jobs in one of the most critical areas for U.S. international competitiveness and financial well-being.”
According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, U.S. companies account for 48% of the world’s chip sales, but only 12% of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing, a decrease from 37% in 1990. Currently, 75% of the world’s modern chip manufacturing is centralized in East Asia, with China projected to dominate the chip production market by 2030. Studies also show African Americans make up 4.5% of all semiconductor engineers in the country. To address this critical crisis, President Biden passed the Chips and Science Act which includes investments in HBCUs, allowing them to expand their research capabilities to include training and workforce development on semiconductor fabrication.
“The fabrication, design, and utilization of semiconductors ‘CHIPS’ impacts everything from social media to National Defense,” said Michael Spencer, Ph.D., professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Morgan and inaugural director for the center. “The goal of the recently funded center is to strengthen and diversify a talented pool of workers. With up-to-date equipment and additional learning resources, we are positioned to provide our students with the necessary skills needed to compete globally.”
To attract potential students, the University will expand outreach to local community colleges and continuing education students offering workforce development opportunities to learn hands-on experience that will allow them to enter the semiconductor industry. The projects will be developed in partnership with local industries to give students a rich and practical experience.
Eliminating Educational Disparities in Baltimore and Beyond
The U.S. public education system has struggled with tackling persistent disparities in educational outcomes based on students’ racial and socioeconomic status. This was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a trend in resignations among educators. Morgan’s National Center for the Elimination of Educational Disparities (NCEED) will look to address these issues head-on by identifying obstacles impeding successful learning outcomes of African American, Hispanic, and low-income children in public schools in Maryland and across the United States.
Housed within the School of Education & Urban Studies, NCEED will leverage its annual state funding to study the needs of underserved communities and create solutions to underachievement, low attendance rates, high drop-out rates, and inadequate preparation for college and career so that students achieve their full potential, regardless of socio-economic status.
“The goal is for NCEED to be the kind of center in which the research is practitioner-driven,” said Glenda Prime, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education and Urban Studies and professor of Education. “School leaders and superintendents want school to work for all kids, but they face enormous challenges that are systemic and structural. The work of NCEED will be to help them chart a road map towards more equitable school outcomes.”
Recent studies reveal about 41% of U.S. K-12 public school students are Black or Latino, but only 16% of teachers are of the same race. As a result, students of all backgrounds may be missing opportunities and benefits of a racially diverse teacher workforce. Through outreach and collaboration with school systems, families, and communities, NCEED researchers will be able to build a knowledge base that will support the design and development of interventions that are aligned with the student experience and specific educational needs of Black, Latinx, and low-income children. This data will also assist with teacher preparation, urban school leadership, guidance and counseling, and social and emotional well-being.
NCEED will also play a role in preparing educators for the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a set of policies and dedicated funding that is intended to transform Maryland’s early childhood, elementary, and secondary education system to the levels of high–performing systems around the world. The goal of the Blueprint is to improve the quality and equity of Maryland’s education system. The policies in the Blueprint for Maryland’s future are based on the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.
This past fall, NCEED held its first symposium designed to build a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the work of eliminating disparities in educational outcomes.
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified high research (R2) institution offering more than 140 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, and the only university to have its entire campus designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.
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