BS (UL Monroe ’13), PhD (LSU ’17)
PTD Module and Integration Device Yield Engineer, Intel, Hillsboro, OR
Dr Holden T. Smith hails from Forest, a small town in Northeast Louisiana. He attended Forest High School in Northeast Louisiana, receiving his high school diploma and an associate’s degree from Louisiana Delta Community College the same week of May 2010. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where he majored in Chemistry, with a concentration in Biochemistry, graduating in May of 2013. Holden joined the LSU Chemistry Graduate Studies Program in August of 2013. He earned his PhD Degree in only four years, graduating in December of 2017.
Under the direction of Drs Kenneth Lopata and Louis Haber, a genuine mentoring team, he learned to integrate theoretical and experimental work, including nanoparticle synthesis, characterization, and electrodynamics simulations. He thoroughly enjoyed the fluidity across that spectrum and says, “knowing both sides of the problem is very rewarding.” He notes that there are few deadlines in research and you need to motivate yourself to complete things in a timely fashion. While time management is important, Holden warns that both mind and body do need breaks; he says, “my biggest breakthroughs in tough research problems were after a period of time where I just stepped away from it all. I would come back to the problem and immediately have that ‘aha!’ moment.”
Holden recalls a memorable moment, during his graduate experience at LSU, that involved brainstorming with his labmate, Tony Karam. They were speculating about gold-silver-gold core shell-shell nanoparticles. It seemed obvious to the pair how these would be made, but strange that no one had yet reported it. They gave it a whirl and created nanoparticles that exhibit remarkable photothermal efficiency, and are potentially useful in photothermal cancer therapy. This was a turning point for Holden and Tony, and since that time, a major focus of the Haber Group has been the investigation and optimization of these new multi-shell gold and silver nanoparticles. To-date, the idea has resulted in three publications, a US patent and five conference presentations. Holden reflects that it “goes to show that you should investigate every idea, no matter how trivial it may seem.”
Looking back, Holden thinks he could have finished his PhD faster. Hindsight is 20/20; if you knew which experiments to perform and how to interpret them at the outset, research would be easy. Graduate school is a journey. Holden concedes that “alas, it was time well spent and numerous, valuable lessons were learned.”
Following Holden’s graduation from LSU in December of 2017, he was hired by Intel to work in their research and development facility in Hillsboro, OR. His official title is “PTD Module and Integration Device Yield Engineer.” He works on multi-million dollar process tools and is developing Intel’s next generation chip-making processes. He will see the processor design from conception to mass production, via the design, execution and analysis of experiments for the development and manufacturing process.
Outside of his employment with Intel, Holden will continue to collaborate with Dr Lopata, to make software he wrote during his graduate work accessible via NWChem, open source computational chemistry software. This will ultimately lead to a coupled quantum mechanics/classical electrodynamics software package that will be widely available for research and development purposes.
Holden encourages current graduate students to “Collaborate, collaborate, and collaborate!” He acknowledges that networking is also important, observing that “your research can be top notch, but if you don’t have connections, you might struggle to land a position!” Finding a job can be a daunting and disconcerting process. In a specialized field there aren’t always a lot of positions; you just need to keep your eyes and ears open – work those connections! – and keep applying.