By Adrienne Sylver
Not everyone can identify a transformational event in their life. But Felipe Diaz-Cruz is blessed with two life-changing moments, both while studying at FIU, where he eventually earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
“Two professors changed the game,” says Diaz-Cruz. “They saw something in me and gave me so many opportunities. Nothing that happened later would have happened if I hadn’t come to FIU and met them.”
Diaz-Cruz, now a rising star at Texas Instruments (TI) in Dallas, Texas, refers to Gustavo Roig, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Shekhar Bhansali, professor and head of the Bio-MEMS and Microsystems Lab/ Group at the FIU.
Colombian-born Diaz-Cruz came to the university because of its international flavor and outstanding electrical engineering program.
“I had Dr. Roig for a course in electrical circuits, which is one of the first electrical engineering courses in our major. I was very curious and driven and always went to his office hours and asked questions,” Diaz-Cruz recalled. Roig invited the undergraduate to his lab, where he taught him how to work with microsensor and circuit components.
Later, in Bhansali’s lab, Diaz-Cruz gained experience with microchips used in the medical field, particularly as wearable and implanted devices to diagnose and treat disease.
“Several of Dr. Bhansali’s graduate researchers were working on developing biosensors that could detect stress hormones and I was able to observe them and learn from them. Eventually I made adjustments to the sensors and started freelance work. »
The knowledge he gained in the lab led him to a summer undergraduate research position at Duke University, which allowed him to further immerse himself in the world of microfabrication.
His work also resulted in a published paper, conference presentations, and, in a roundabout way, his work at Texas Instruments. Challenged by Bhansali to develop sensors small enough to be portable and replace the large machines used to perform the tests, Diaz-Cruz looked to existing TI circuit boards as a starting point.
“Through the wonders of the internet, our group was able to connect with one of TI’s printed circuit board developers,” says Diaz-Cruz. “He was in one of TI’s design centers in Italy and here he took the time to sit down with students and teach us how circuit boards worked and help us automate the process.”
Diaz-Cruz and his group successfully scaled the system from the size of an old PC to that of a home phone.
Diaz-Cruz gave a presentation on the biosensor project at the 2014 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers conference. An IT engineer noticed he was using company technology and invited Diaz-Cruz to a job interview there. A few days later, he received an offer to join Texas Instruments’ Leadership Development Rotation Program (LDRP).
“There’s a misconception that TI is all about calculators,” Diaz-Cruz says. “But only 2% of our business is calculators. We mainly deal in microchips.
Learn around the world
After earning her master’s degree, Diaz-Cruz moved to Dallas. He spent a year and a half there from the LDRP, working in a factory as an implanter engineer, a group that deals with the many aspects of implanting impurities into silicone to alter its electrical properties, vital for the performance.
Then he moved to Malaysia, where he worked as a product test engineer at an IT assembly and test plant in Kuala Lumpur. As part of his work, he also traveled to Japan, Singapore, Thailand and other countries.
The third year brought him back to Dallas as an analog technology development engineer, where he joined a TI team located in Bangalore, India, and collaborated with them to develop improvements to the enterprise device simulation infrastructure.
He also completed the MBA program at the University of Texas at Dallas. Each step of her journey has taught her new skills and allowed her to work with a diverse group of employees from around the world.
When it was time for Diaz-Cruz to choose an area of focus for his next career move at TI, he chose process integration because it merged everything that interested him most, deep technical from the early development of a product to its reliability. and manufacturing.
“Everyone is familiar with microchips because they are commonly used in everyday objects, including automobiles, personal, industrial and scientific equipment,” he explains. “Being able to contribute and feel like you’re doing something good for the world is important to me.”
TI noticed the young engineer from FIU. He was recently elected to the TI Tech Ladder, a level that recognizes his contributions and leadership to the business and gives him a new opportunity to grow as a leader and mentor.
“Only about 8% of IT engineers are on the technology ladder,” he says.
He hopes to rise through the ranks to the elite level.
Because mentors have played such an important role in her life, Diaz-Cruz encourages students to reach out.
“Create connections with professors and graduate students. Just talk and ask questions. And don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Join a lab or group, even if it’s not paid work.
Throughout college, he worked in bars and restaurants to pay for his living expenses.
Diaz-Cruz’s curiosity was something that impressed Bhansali.
“The desire to seek information beyond the obvious is rather rare and the mark of a future leader,” Bhansali says of his former student. “He was willing to go further, rather than just accepting the performance range of a chip, for example. He wanted to know why the range was what it was and why it couldn’t be different.
FIU’s research labs, according to Bhansali, are the perfect opportunity for students to discover their strengths and passions in a team environment, which leads to career success.
Today, when he’s not working, Diaz-Cruz enjoys exercising and spending time with his partner Stephanie and their two sons, ages 3 and 1. They are expecting a third child in September.
“Children are a surprise box,” he says. “We love going for walks, going to the pool and playing with our dog, Zoe.”
To keep his Colombian heritage alive, he works with his children on their Spanish. He also coaches his eldest son’s football team.