James E. Morris

James E. Morris

Professor
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Portland State University
Fulbright-Nokia Fellowship in Aalto School of Science and Technology (former Helsinki University of Technology TKK)

My first visit to TKK was in late 1996, as Opponent in a PhD defense. It was bitterly cold, and I never saw the sun. However, since I did my PhD in Saskatoon, Canada, I am no stranger to either -40° (F or C) or short days. On my next visit, in 2000, I arrived with the benefit of one hour’s sleep on my transatlantic flight, just in time to give my half-day conference short course one hour later. My recollections of that trip include a marvelous day visiting Suomenlinna, a belated discovery that Helsinki restaurants are all closed on Midsummer Eve, and the combination of high temperatures, high humidity, and short nights in my (student) accommodations. But the most enduring memory has been of Professor Jorma Kivilahti’s hospitality and friendship during both visits, and of his laboratory’s research capabilities and accomplishments with Nokia. So when I read about the Nokia-Fulbright Fellowship as I began planning my sabbatical leave from Portland State University (PSU), I leapt at the chance to work in the lab, now part of the Department of Electronics, and submitted my application for January-June, 2009. I assume that you, the reader, are familiar with Murphy’s Laws, which came into full force when I received both the Nokia-Fulbright appointment and an Emerson Fellowship at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand, (the city of my birth,) for late February to early April! (The northern and southern hemispheres’ academic schedules do not mesh at all!) Fortunately, the Fulbright Center in Helsinki agreed, with some reservations, to move my Fellowship tenure to April-September.

As a result, I arrived on the TKK campus in early April, with just a few patches of snow remaining on the ground, and about a week before everything suddenly started to turn green. The subsequent summer months were idyllic, with no sign of 2000’s humidity, which I’ve probably exaggerated anyway. I had a newly renovated apartment 200 meters from my office (and the bus stop), with brand new furnishings and equipment. I did a LOT of walking around Helsinki’s sights, and some (but not enough) around the TKK Espoo campus, especially after my wife arrived to join me. In planning the sabbatical, we had agreed that she needed to remain with her teaching position in Portland, and visit for two months over the summer. Our youngest daughter also came for a brief ten day vacation from her PhD research at UC-Irvine and position in the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office.

My six months really broke down into four roughly equal six-week periods of completely different types of activity. Arriving in April, and nearing the end of semester, the priority was to complete the teaching program laid out in the Fellowship proposal. The “undergraduate” lectures in Electronics Packaging, which would be senior/MS level in the USA, were part of a regular course on Reliability, whereas the “graduate” lectures to the PhD students tended to be more like research seminars with a Nanotechnology bias, albeit also with a final exam. During this first six week period, I also presented a short talk to the local Chapter of the IEEE Components, Packaging, and Manufacturing Technology (CPMT) Society, and (a highlight) acted as a PhD defense Opponent for the second time. The pomp and ceremony of the whole procedure has a great appeal, since it contrasts sharply with the prevalent view in the USA where many graduates even choose to skip their graduation ceremonies. I have remained in professional contact with Petri Savolainen, 1996’s successful candidate, and hope to similarly maintain ties with 2009’s, Tommi Reinikainen, both from Nokia.

In the second period, attention was transferred to research. Materials were identified and ordered for the research program planned for the last of these six week spells, but the primary focus was on the writing and submission of the 7th Framework EU research proposal initiated when I wrote the pre-proposal at Chalmers University the previous fall. The pre-proposal was accepted, so we moved on to the group effort of writing the full proposal, which involves collaboration between Greenwich, Chalmers, Dresden, and TKK, (all places I had spent three months or more on the sabbatical,) the Western Norway Research Institute (WNRI), Shanghai University, and industrial partners, to develop carbon nanotube through-silicon vias, the innovative technology which will permit 3D integrated circuit integration by chip-stacking. TKK is responsible within the consortium for the reliability testing of this innovative system. Being based in Europe, of course made it a lot easier (and cheaper) to get to one of my “regular” conferences, the International Spring Seminar on Electronics technology (ISSE) in Brno, but it was also harder (and more expensive) to get to another back in the USA, which did however provide an excuse for a quick family visit. Other research related activities included a meeting at the University of Tallinn to discuss another EU project with Greenwich on microwave epoxy cure, and a presentation on completed work at the Norwegian CPMT Chapter workshop at WNRI.

Given some of the travel above, it seems odd to identify the next six weeks as the “travel period,” but the difference was that my wife had arrived to go along too, so there were some vacation days included. There were quick trips to Tallinn and St Petersburg, with no work-related activity at all, and a visit to Oslo and the fiords before seminar presentations in Goteborg and Stockholm, but the big trip was to the IEEE NANO conference in Genoa, with its ups and downs. The ups were the art works of Milan and Florence, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa; the down came with the theft of my wife’s bag on the Milan-Genoa train. This was also the time for us to see some of Finland, with sightseeing included in trips to present workshops in Tampere and Oulu, and a quick trip to Porvoo.

Then, with my wife and daughter returned to the USA, it was time to get down to the two research projects we had planned. The first of these involved the mechanical strain cycling of metal-polymer composites used in place of solder for electronic interconnections, with the goal of confirming modeling done at Oulu and reported at that 2000 conference. The results have been interesting, although somewhat perplexing, and have been accepted for conference presentation in May. Sini Niiranen is continuing the work at TKK with Dr Toni Mattila, with specimens now being studied here at PSU. The other study is of epoxy adhesion to nanostructured surfaces, an important issue for the microelectronics industry, with specimen preparation by the University of Helsinki, also under Toni’s guidance. The goal now is to secure funding for the collaborative continuation of both projects, with a PSU-TKK exchange of students.

As always, the end of my stay started to approach faster as it got closer, and it was over too soon. Other activities worth mentioning included three PSU PhD dissertation defenses attended remotely, visits to VTT and Nokia research labs, and the ceremony to open the 2009-2010 academic year, which I think was the first formal event of Aalto University. The Fulbright Center was always hospitable and helpful, especially encouraging the inter-country travel program and the university visits within Finland, and I am very grateful to Terhi Mölsä and Sami Krogerus for their help. I met both Fulbright alumni and new arrivals at various events, but for a perpetual novice the highlight has to be the golf outing! I also need to thank Professor Mervi Paulasto, who took over the Laboratory when Jorma retired, and “inherited” me; I appreciated her support throughout my stay, along with Pia Holmberg’s practical day-to-day assistance.

So what was on the agenda that didn’t get done? I never made it to Turku, but maybe next trip! I was supposed to write a book, and the start I needed to make “next week” kept on receding into the future. I also needed to get some experience with electronics package simulations; I did get to load software for that one, but got no further. And while the summer was clearly more comfortable than the winter would have been, I definitely missed a lot of the Finnish cultural experience as a result, e.g. never had a sauna! But I did buy a lot of Finnish CD’s, including a few NOT heavy metal, and am still working my way through them!