Can Stanford University help solve the global semiconductor crisis?

With the U.S. poised to invest $50 billion in chip technologies, researchers prepare to create an infrastructure to accelerate how lab discoveries become practical technologies.

Found in virtually every gadget powered by batteries or electricity, so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted, is that bedrock of our technological era, the semiconductor chip.

But last year, when automotive assembly lines stalled for lack of chips to build everything from anti-lock brakes to automatic door locks, public officials began to recognize the crisis that research and industrial scientists had seen coming.

“The world isn’t just facing production shortages for the chips we rely on today,” said Stanford electrical engineering Professor H.-S. Philip Wong

. “We aren’t moving fast enough to create the next generation of semiconductors that we’ll need to broaden educational and economic opportunities, conserve energy and natural resources, and provide better and fairer access to technology.”

That sense of urgency and excitement suffused a recent virtual conference
hosted by Stanford’s SystemX Alliance
, which has, in various incarnations over the last 40 years, brought academic and industrial researchers together to develop new chip technologies and systems built on them. Prominent leaders of companies and academia presented visions for future generations of semiconductor technologies that will meet the insatiable demands for broadly accessible, energy-efficient computing. In many ways, Wong said, what we are seeing is less a crisis, but rather a huge opportunity.

The June event – Future Directions of Semiconductor Technology – was held as the Senate passed, and the House of Representatives is poised to take up, a bill that President Joe Biden is eager to sign that will invest roughly $50 billion in new fabs, or semiconductor fabrication plants, as well as fund research into developing new chip technologies and applications.

The bipartisan consensus to boost the chip sector, which first emerged during the previous administration, gathered force as the auto plant shutdowns caught lawmakers’ attention and the Biden administration began to define infrastructure as silicon and circuitry as well as concrete and steel.

Wong said Stanford could help lead on an initiative that will emerge from this chip stimulus act – creating a national “lab to fab” infrastructure to reduce the friction that hampers translation of academic discoveries into practical technologies. Until now, the U.S. has relied on startups to commercialize discoveries, but as electronic systems become ever more complex, the costs and time of this scale-up process are impeding innovation.

“Fragments of lab-to-fab translation processes exist in other places around the world, but they are conspicuously absent in the United States,” Wong said.

Jennifer Dionne
, Stanford’s senior associate vice provost for research platforms and shared facilities, said an interdisciplinary research culture is critical to creating lab-to-fab pathways, and in that arena, Stanford excels. She is helping Stanford bring together not just the facilities but researchers from across the university to foster the collaborations that lead to fresh ideas. “Solving society’s challenges requires outstanding facilities that bridge departmental and school boundaries and enable the university to fulfill its missions of research, education and the translation of discoveries into beneficial products and technologies,” said Dionne, who is also an associate professor of materials science and engineering.

Training the PhD students whose ideas will help propel semiconductor technologies forward is another important area where Stanford can contribute, says Debbie Senesky
, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and, by courtesy, of electrical engineering. Senesky recently stepped in to lead [email protected]

, which is part of a network of facilities funded by the National Science Foundation to expose students to the tools of discovery. In that role, Senesky sets the research agenda for this next generation of chip experts.

“Our facilities serve as a spectacular sandbox for education and outreach on advanced concepts in nanotechnology,” Senesky said. “Students actively learn via hands-on training on the most advanced scientific tools. Students can deposit, etch and see atoms using our nanofabrication and nanocharacterization tools, setting them up for careers in Silicon Valley and beyond. Also, students at the K-12 level get exposed to nanotechnology from the activities in our facilities.”

Wong wants researchers across campus to realize that this next phase of semiconductor discovery will transcend electrical engineering and involve every discipline that can imagine new ways to build on foundational semiconductor technology to further its own research.

For example, Stanford SystemX Alliance recently teamed up with the Precourt Institute for Energy on a Pioneering Project Grant to seed ideas

on energy-efficient computing, aiming to solve the demand side of the worldwide energy challenge. Wong said other Stanford educators are looking for ways to raise the profile of semiconductor research among aspiring STEM students.

Electrical engineering Professor Boris Murmann
is working with the professional society, IEEE, to democratize chip design
such that one day even a high school student will be able to design a chip and build a system she can sell on the internet. Professor Priyanka Raina
was already pilot testing just such a democratization initiative for graduate students and senior undergraduates in her EE272B

class at Stanford. For the students in the class, it was their first experience designing a chip. Raina, assistant professor of electrical engineering and, by courtesy, of computer science, now hopes to help with translating these design skills for college-bound high school learners.

“Stanford is being presented with an opportunity to make a big impact on society at a global scale and in a field that the world already associates with us,” Wong said. “And it isn’t just chips as they used to be. I spent the last few weeks learning from people here who are working on a technology called biofilms to process data using bacteria. Others are experimenting with DNA systems that can store a trillion gigabytes of data. The funding agencies are wide open to new ideas.”

A team of engineers design an accurate wearable calorie burn counter

A system made with two inexpensive sensors proves to be more accurate than smartwatches for measuring calories burned during activity.

Engineers from Stanford University have developed a new calorie burn measurement system that is small, inexpensive and accurate. Also, people can make it themselves.

Whereas smartwatches and smartphones tend to be off by about 40 to 80 percent

when it comes to counting calories burned during an activity, this system averages 13 percent error.

“We built a compact system that we evaluated with a diverse group of participants to represent the U.S. population and found that it does very well, with about one third the error of smartwatches,” said Patrick Slade, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Stanford who is lead author of a paper about this work, published

July 13 in Nature Communications.

A crucial piece of this research was understanding a basic shortcoming of other wearable calorie counters: that they rely on wrist motion or heart rate, even though neither is especially indicative of energy expenditure. (Consider how a cup of coffee can increase heart rate.) The researchers hypothesized that leg motion would be more telling – and their experiments confirmed that idea.

There are laboratory-grade systems that can accurately estimate how much energy a person burns during physical activity by measuring the rate of exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen in breath. Such setups are used to assess health and athletic performance, but they involve bulky, uncomfortable equipment and can be expensive. This new wearable system only requires two small sensors on the leg, a battery and a portable microcontroller (a small computer), and costs about $100 to make. The list of components
and code

for making the system are both available.

“This is a big advance because, up till now, it takes two to six minutes and a gas mask to accurately estimate how much energy a person is burning,” said Scott Delp

, the James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering, who is co-author of the paper. “With Patrick’s new tool, we can estimate how much energy is burned with each step as an Olympic athlete races toward the finish line to get a measure of what is fueling their peak performance. We can also compute the energy spent by a patient recovering from cardiac surgery to better manage their exercise.”
Looking to the legs

How people burn calories is complicated, but the researchers had a hunch that sensors on the legs would be a simple way to gain insight into this process.

“An issue with traditional smartwatches is they only get information from the movement of your wrist and heart rate,” said Mykel Kochenderfer

, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford who is a co-author of the paper. “The fact that Patrick’s device has a lower error rate makes sense because it detects motion of your legs and most of your energy is being expended by your legs.”

The system the researchers designed is intentionally simple. It consists of two small sensors – one on the thigh and one on the shank of one leg – run by a microcontroller on the hip, which could easily be replaced by a smartphone. These sensors are called “inertial measurement units” and measure the acceleration and rotation of the leg as it’s moving. They are purposely lightweight, portable and low cost so that they could be easily integrated in different forms, including clothing, such as smart pants.

To test the system against similar technologies, the researchers had study participants wear it while also wearing two smartwatches and a heart rate monitor. With all of these sensors attached, participants performed a variety of activities, including various speeds of walking, running, biking, stair climbing and transitioning between walking and running. When all of the wearables were compared to the calorie burn measurements captured by a laboratory-grade system, the researchers found that their leg-based system was the most accurate.

By further testing the system on over a dozen participants across a range of ages and weights, the researchers gathered a wealth of data that Slade used to further refine the machine learning model that calculates the calorie burn estimates. This model takes in the information about leg movement from the sensors and computes – using what it has learned from previous data – how much energy the user is burning at each moment in time. And, whereas current state-of-the-art systems require about six minutes of data from a person hooked up to a mask in a lab setting, this free-range alternative can function with only seconds of activity.

“A lot of the steps that you take every day happen in short bouts of 20 seconds or less,” said Slade, who mentioned doing chores as one example of short-burst activity that often gets overlooked. “Being able to capture these brief activities or dynamic changes between activities is really challenging and no other system can currently do that.”
An open design

Simplicity and affordability were important to this team, as was making the design openly available, because they hope this technology can support people in understanding and looking after their health.

“We’re open-sourcing everything in the hopes that people will take it and run with it and make products that can improve the lives of the public,” said Kochenderfer.

They also believe that the simplicity, affordability and portability of this system could support better health policy and new avenues for research in human performance. The research group led by Steve Collins
, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of this paper, is already using a similar system to study the energy expended with wearable robotic systems that enhance performance


“One of the most exciting things is that we can track dynamically changing activities, and this precise information will let us provide better policies to recommend how people should exercise or manage their weight,” said Slade.

“It opens a whole new set of research studies that we can do on human performance,” said Delp, who is also a professor of bioengineering and of mechanical engineering. “How much energy you’re burning when you’re walking, when you’re running, when you’re exerting yourself on a bike – all those things are fundamental. When we have a new tool like this it opens a new door to discovering new things about human performance.”

Social Policy & Sociology

Course Information

BSocSc (Hons) (NFQ Level 8)

Undergraduate Full Time

CAO Code: DN750
CAO Points Range 2019: 330
Length of Course: 3 Years
Average Intake: 100

Leaving Certificate:
O6/H7 in English, Irish, Mathematics and three other recognised subjects

Click below for equivalent entry requirements information for:

Why is this course for me?

The Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSc) at University College Dublin is the premier honours degree of its kind in Ireland. It is the standard qualification for those working in policy making and social services and recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. If you are interested in exploring how societies, communities and families work and wish to make a difference to the world, affect cultural change, contribute to public service or corporate responsibility, then this course is for you.

Career & Graduate Study Opportunities

The BSocSc provides a strong foundation for both postgraduate study and a wide range of careers in government, social services, NGOs, education, media, including new and online media (who are increasingly expressing an active interest in recruiting social sciences graduates) and business. Alumni include Orlaith Blaney (Marketing and Advertising, former CEO McCannBlue Dublin), Frances Fitzgerald (TD), Ali Hewson (Humanitarian) and Sr Stanislaus Kennedy (Humanitarian & Founder, Focus Ireland).

What Will I Study

The course explores key social issues affecting societies in the European Union, the USA and East Asia: poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental illness, social stratification, criminal justice, globalisation, gender equality, sexualities and reproductive health, childhood and children’s services, and tax and welfare systems. You will learn about how policy makers, in Ireland and across the world, have responded to these societal challenges. A strong emphasis is placed on studying qualitative and quantitative research methods. You will attend lectures and seminars and engage in project-based learning, instruction, and independent study with experienced academic staff and with input from policy-makers and industry.

First Year

You will undertake compulsory modules in social policy and sociology. Students are not expected to have any prior knowledge of these disciplines; the first year modules will provide you with a comprehensive introduction.

Second & Third Year

Alongside compulsory modules in social policy and sociology you will select optional modules from one of three career orientated pathways, which will refine and develop your skills:

There are three Pathways available to you as follows;

1. Social Work and Social Professions

This pathway provides you with a strong foundation for professional social work or social service careers, in addition to careers in Counselling, Social Care Management, and the Probation Service.

2. Society and Public Service

You will be introduced to social policy topics covering a wide range of social and public services and modules in public sociology. This pathway prepares you for a wide range of Master’s programmes and employment in public services, NGOs, community development, youth work, social enterprise and public policy advocacy.

3. Work, Organisations and People

You will combine social policy and sociology with modules from organisational psychology and industrial relations. This pathway prepares you for study in a wide range of human organisation orientated Master’s programmes and for employment in business and personnel management, industrial relations, marketing and corporate responsibility and governance.

For detailed information on subject content click here.

International Study Opportunities

The School offers international study opportunities in universities both in Europe and further afield including

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Japan
  • Hong Kong
  • Canada
  • Malta


“The only course I applied for after the leaving certificate was BSocSc Social Policy & Sociology in UCD. I knew from the start I wanted to be a social worker, so I chose the Social Work and Social Professions pathway in my second year. Overall this is a career orientated degree and I’ve found the course really interesting and engaging so far. I feel like it has helped me see the social world in a new way. Since my first year, I’ve been volunteering with Childline, and through that experience, I have been offered a place on UCD’s Professional Masters in Social Work when I complete my course.”

Jayson Pope, Student

Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Course Information

BSc(Hons) (NFQ Level 8)

Undergraduate Full Time

CAO Code: DN700
CAO Points Range 2019: 388
Length of Course: 4 Years
Average Intake: 500

Leaving Certificate:
Leaving Cert Subject Entry Requirements O6/H7 in English, Irish, Mathematics and three other recognised subjects.

If you obtain less than 03/H7 in Leaving Certificate mathematics you must pass a “Level
0” UCD Mathematics module during Trimester 1 of your first year before taking the core module
“Introduction to Quantitative Economics” in Trimester 2.

Click below for equivalent entry requirements information for:

Why is this course for me?

PPE provides a broad and deep understanding of how a society works, and indeed how international society works. It examines the complex economic and political forces in play, the problems of measuring and assessing the health of society, and the principles of justice that should guide political decision-making to improve society. PPE will teach students how to read beyond media headlines, and where to find more information about the hot policy questions of the day, in national and international contexts.

Career & Graduate Study Opportunities

PPE programmes are scattered throughout many of the top universities in the world, attracting the best and most ambitious students and educating cohorts of politicians, civil servants, journalists and managers. All three disciplines share a commitment to rigour and problem-solving that will develop useful skills for any career–skills such as research, analysis, written expression and interpreting data.

Graduates may pursue a specialist Master’s degree in Philosophy, Politics or Economics or progress to various interdisciplinary Master’s degrees in related subjects.

What Will I Study

The PPE provides a thorough grounding in all three disciplines that are core to the social sciences. The programme is quite structured at first, but allows more choice and more specialisation with each successive year. This programme provides both a well-rounded education in philosophy, politics and economics, and every opportunity for you to determine for yourself which subject or combination of subjects you would like to specialise in.

First Year

Students are introduced to: political science and political theory, to micro and macro-economics, and to ethics and critical thinking. Students will take the core module Introducing PPE. They will also learn about researching and writing essays.

Second Year

Students will study the relationship between individuals and the state, how to analyse and work with economic data, and the philosophical principles underlying the social sciences.

Third Year

Students continue to deepen their understanding of all three disciplines, while paying more attention to the overlaps between them, such as political economy and critical theory. Students may apply to study abroad in third year.

Fourth Year

There is much more choice among specialised option modules in the final year. Students also have the option of continuing in the three-discipline version, or of concentrating on only two disciplines.


Generally, assessment will be by take-home essay and by exam-based essay in Philosophy and Politics, and by project and a combination of mid-term and end-of-term assignments in economics. Innovative online assessment will also be used throughout. There will be an option to write a final-year research project.

For detailed information on subject content click here.

International Study Opportunities

A number of semester-long study opportunities will be established with other PPE universities the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.


“I chose to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) because I really enjoyed studying economics and always knew that it was an area that I wanted to pursue. I also had an interest in the current political climate and current affairs. I was attracted to PPE as it offers a high degree of flexibility and the degree is also held in high regard internationally. The skills I am learning will be beneficial to future employers who will be interested in employing critical thinkers and graduates who can apply their knowledge to many fields. I am learning how to form a sound argument and developing excellent research skills from philosophy, while gaining analytical and problem-solving skills from Economics and the study of Politics is expanding my communication and teamwork abilities.”

Rebecca, Troy Student


Course Information

BSc (Hons) (NFQ Level 8) or BA (Hons) (NFQ Level 8)

Full Time – Undergraduate Studies

CAO Code: DN700 BSc Social Sciences
CAO Points Range 2019: 388
Length of Course: 4 Years
Average Intake: 500

CAO Code: DN520 BA Jount Honours
CAO Points Range 2019: 336
Length of Course: 3 Years
Average Intake: 420

Leaving Certificate:
DN700 – O6/H7 in English, Irish, Mathematics and three other recognised subjects

DN520 – English, Irish, a third Language, Three other recognised subjects

Click below for equivalent entry requirements information for:

Why is this course for me?

If you are interested in people, you will be interested in sociology. It is relevant for understanding almost every aspect of our lives. We are all part of society, we are connected with each other and we are affected by the people around us. In the same way, we shape the social context for others as well. Sociology provides you with the mindset and the research tools to observe the social world, make connections, understand differences, norms, cultures or inequalities.

Career & Graduate Study Opportunities

Sociology gives an excellent foundation for a diverse set of careers in areas such as;

  • Social research & Policy Analysis
  • Journalism
  • Media
  • Community Development
  • Youth Work
  • Civil Service
  • Social Data Science
  • Business.

It also leads to a wide range of graduate study opportunities in the social sciences, law and business. The School of Sociology offers a general MSc or MA in Sociology, MSc in Social Data Analytics, MSc in Comparative Social Change, MSc in Demographic and Population Analytics and an MA in Race, Migration and Decolonial Studies.

What Will I Study

Sociology seeks to explain how people relate with each other, how hidden structures play an important role in everyday life and how society shapes the way individuals behave. It is about why individuals organise themselves into groups such as families, communities, social classes, social networks, religions, genders, neighbourhoods or nations. But it is also about how these groups come about, what they mean and how they change over time. An essential part of your studies will be the acquisition of a sociological toolkit that includes both theoretical approaches and research methods to study society.

First Year

The first year includes a general Introduction to Sociology, the Foundations of Sociological Thinking, a view on Contemporary Ireland and the basics of Research Methods and Design. All first year social sciences students also study the core module, Societal Challenges in the Twenty First Century, plus another subject, plus an Elective module.

Second Year

The second year involves training in Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods and modules in areas such as Gender, Sociological Theory, Analytical Sociology, Animals and Human Society and more.

Third Year

The third year provides the opportunity for an Internship or Study Abroad. We also offer a range of experiential learning modules including Broadcasting Sociology or Volunteering & Community Experiences. There are also range of substantive modules in areas such as Migration, Historical Sociology, Lying & Deception and more.

Fourth Year

During the fourth year, students select either an Advanced Quantitative or Advanced Qualitative Research Project module. There are also further specialised modules, such as War & Violence, Sociology of Nations or Punishment & Social Control, plus Elective modules.

For detailed information on subject content click here.

How Will I Study

Study Sociology (BSc Social Sciences)


Click To View The BSc Social Sciences Course Combination Grid

Study Sociology (BA Joint Honours)


Click To View The BA Arts Course Combination Grid 

International Study Opportunities

Sociology students at UCD can avail of international exchange opportunities in universities in Europe and around the world. Currently, Erasmus opportunities exist in:

  • Belgium
  • England
  • France
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • USA
  • Australia
  • China
  • South Korea.

Students studying Sociology with German or Italian will study abroad for their third year.


“I’ve always had a keen interest in people and learning about how society shapes our perspectives and influences our behaviour. That’s why I really enjoy studying sociology in UCD; I gain an understanding into my keen interest. Within lectures, my mind has been broadened by modules on gender and societal patterns. My lecturers make themselves available and are so encouraging: creating an open atmosphere in classes that allows for a great learning environment. The research skills and other transferable skills I have gained within my course are essential for my future career opportunities.”

Chloe Mazhandu, Student