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It's a Small, Small World

When Fatima Toor '04 of Lahore, Pakistan, joined the first class of Picker engineering students, she brought to the table a keen appreciation of math and applied sciences; what she did not bring was confidence in her ability to talk about them in public. She's different now. In the past four years, she has stood before large gatherings of engineering and physics students as well as industry managers and professional engineers and discussed her own undergraduate research, including a presentation on process optimization for negative photoresists. "I've changed dramatically," notes Toor, who received a Jean Picker Fellowship for her engineering studies at Smith.

With a double major in physics and engineering, Toor is drawn to the emerging field of nanoelectronics, a combination of nuclear quantum physics and electronics on a nanometer scale. With countless possible applications including miniature computers or tiny switches for optical networks, nanoelectronics seems to be a natural for someone who counts among her favorite films the 1980s Back to the Future sci-fi trilogy, with its dramatic and colorfully imagined technologies capable of moving humans through time and space.

After a summer internship where she conducted research in electronics optical packaging (for which she won an IBM award) in the microelectronics lab at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York, she says, "I realized how exciting the [nanoelectronics] field is." She returns to the same IBM division this summer to continue the work and then goes on this fall to start her doctoral work in electrical engineering; she has been accepted at Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science and is waiting word from four other schools.

"My dream," Toor says, "is to connect research in nanoelectronics with innovations that will make a big difference to society -- like the way the Internet revolutionized communications in our culture. I hope my work in nanoelectronics will accomplish something similar some day."

 
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