Graduate Student Wins Idea to Product Competition

Graduate student Meghali Chopra with Dr. Roger BonnecazeMeghali Chopra, graduate student in Dr. Roger Bonnecaze’s lab group, won the 2016 Idea to Product (I2P) Competition for her presentation of the technology commercialization of the software tool RODEo – Recipe Optimization for Deposition and Etching.

The I2P Competition, founded and led by Dr. Steven Nichols and part of the Innovation Center at the Cockrell School of Engineering, aims to help engineering students evaluate commercialization potential of early stage technologies. Its mission is to encourage and support UT Austin professors and students to form startups and advance their discoveries and inventions using innovation vehicles.

Chopra competed against five other student teams in this year’s pitch competition. According to Nichols, it was Chopra’s “demonstration of a firm understanding of the technology and a validation of need that the technology addresses” that allowed her to surpass her competitors.

More than $1 billion is spent on etch and deposition semiconductor process development per year. Developed from her five years of doctoral research, Chopra’s software accelerates the creation of etch and deposition recipes by a factor of three, saving development costs and speeding time to market for semiconductor products by 66 percent.

“This competition was an awesome learning opportunity for me,” Chopra said. “Roger (Bonnecaze) and I have devoted the past three years to developing this technology, so it was really rewarding to be able to share our work and receive personalized feedback from veterans in our industry and technology commercialization experts.”

Chopra received $3,000 in prize money and has also received an invitation to join Austin Technology Incubator’s Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch program, a nine-week summer program designed to help UT Austin students navigate the difficulties of pursuing new ventures.

Bonnecaze, Chopra’s research supervisor, presented RODEo to the Innovation Center’s monthly stARTup Studio the day after the I2P competition. Chopra and Bonnecaze cofounded their company SandBox Semiconductor in an effort commercialize the software, hopefully accelerating process development for the global microelectronics market. Chopra plans to invest her prize money into the company.

The Idea to Product student expo is sponsored by the Marvin and Ellie Selig Excellence Fund in Entrepreneurial Studies.

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