John Alptekin discovered his interest in material chemistry while pursuing his other lifelong passion: music.
It was early in his undergraduate studies at UNT, and John -- an avid trumpet-player who spent two years in the Green Brigade Marching Band -- was working as a cleaning technician in an instrument repair shop.
"I would disassemble brass instruments and put them through this very chemically involved cleaning process," he says. "Seeing how you can apply chemistry to something totally unrelated got me interested in materials science. Everything we make has some component of chemistry to it."
He completed his bachelor's degree in Chemistry with a double minor in Biology and Music in 2019.
Earning a Ph.D. wasn't originally part of the plan, but that changed in his junior year when Chemistry professor Oliver Chyan sent a department-wide email inviting undergraduates to apply for positions in his Interfacial Electrochemistry and Materials Research lab.
"I looked into his work, and it was really cool," John says. "It was more like applied chemistry, and all the work was related to the semiconductor industry and materials science."
John worked in Chyan's lab for the next year, when he was awarded the J.L. Carrico Award, UNT's oldest and most prestigious award for outstanding performance by a senior Chemistry major.
Chyan then extended another invitation that would change the trajectory of John's life.
"He said, 'I really like the work you're doing. I think you would be an excellent Ph.D. student.' He addressed a lot of my concerns about grad school. My preconceived notion was that it was going to be very expensive, but he told me about the funded teaching and research positions that let you study while earning the money you need for school and life outside of school."
With Chyan as his faculty advisor, John excelled in the Chemistry doctoral program. His research focused on the semiconductor industry, specifically processes in the later part of manufacturing known as packaging, when developers put the final touches on a device before it's shipped out to the consumer.
"We looked at ways to implement steps in the packaging process to increase the reliability of these devices -- make them last longer and prevent degradation due to corrosion."
In 2022, John received the College of Science's Dean's Doctoral Summer Research Stipend, which enabled him to continue his research through the summer.
His research was integral to UNT's projects with Intel and NXP Semiconductors, corporate leaders in the semiconductor industry. He was a member of the technology transfer team for UNT's patented MIR-IR wafer characterization metrology, which was licensed to Intel in the largest technology transfer award in UNT history, and he was a key technology driver for the UNT/NXP pilot production and technology transfer based on patent-pending anti-corrosion technology.
He has led or collaborated on discoveries and inventions that have the potential for practical application in the microelectronics industry, including next-generation copper-to-copper direct bonding packaging. He also co-wrote two high impact proposals for research relating to microelectronics that received a total of almost $400,000 in funding from the Semiconductor Research Corporation and NXP.
After graduation, John will begin a new role as a process development engineer at Texas Instruments, where he'll work with a specific component used for digital light processing in digital projectors.
Reflecting on his time at UNT, John says he's learned that goals give you something to work toward, but the journey is worth savoring.
"There's always going to be work to do. There's always going to be some deadline," he says. "If you live from accomplishment to accomplishment, you have these huge gaps where you're missing out on life. It's important to take the time to appreciate where you are right now."
The College of Science's commencement ceremony will be taking place in the UNT Coliseum at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2023.
For more information about UNT Commencement, please visit https://www.unt.edu/commencement/
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