Diane Hickey-Davis, referred to by friends as “Dr. Diamond,” incorporates thin film diamond for global semiconductor companies. Pictured here in front of a Class 1000 clean room, she is holding a patterned diamond-on-silicon wafer designed for advanced computing. With a passion for conveying her love of engineering and science to others, she also leads demonstrations for Nanodays at Northwestern University and Sisters-for-Science, participates in robotics competitions and leads sessions at science camps with hands-on nanotechnology demonstrations for kids. In fact, she even met her husband, Mike Davis, a.k.a. “the science guy of Chicago,” at a NSF Nanotechnology Outreach Conference. Hickey-Davis says their 2-year-old son Giovanni is already exhibiting the signs of an engineer.
’96, chemical engineering
’04, M.S.,‘07 Ph.D., materials science and engineering, University of Florida
General manager, Semiconductor Business Unit
Advanced Diamond Technologies, Chicago
Early years . . . my father, brother, two uncles and grandfather are engineers – it’s in my blood; my mother worked for a scientific instrument company – I was the only 5-year-old who had “infrared spectrophotometer” in her vocabulary.
Typical day . . . I make, study and sell diamond, which is an amazing material – it has a very low coefficient of friction meaning it is slippery. Man-made diamonds, like those that are mined, are made of carbon. The material we make is a polycrystalline thin-film, which is many diamond crystals grown together from carbon in a gas, similar to the way that ice crystals form on a windshield using the water vapor in the air.
Current projects . . . working with a world-famous scientist to incorporate thin film diamond into a project for the renewable energy industry; coordinating testing for a thermal diamond product that could increase the heat transfer rate in electronic devices to increase efficiency; introducing a new product – an all-diamond probe – into the force microscopy industry.
My Auburn Engineering . . . taught me to estimate a reasonable answer range before I begin work on the solution, to be reasonable with my significant digits and include error in my answers. Almost daily, I ask for the thickness of a thin-film being produced with data taken using a profilometer and software – and read by a human. Any engineer knows that specs and tolerances are extremely important – so is being practical and reasonable.
Turning point . . . assisting with the development of a non-profit science education foundation and realizing how much I missed science. I wanted to know why glass is transparent, why metal feels cold to the touch, and how a computer works, so I pursued my master’s and then realized that grad school was just a big science camp! They paid me a stipend, and let me play on multi-million dollar microscopes and look at rows of atoms in man-made diamonds! How cool is that?
Geek moment . . . designing my own orange and blue class ring and choosing diamonds with visible defects because I studied defects – two blue diamonds . . . for every one million carbon atoms, there is one boron atom sitting in the lattice – and one orange diamond – for every 10,000 carbon atoms, there’s one nitrogen atom. Boron and nitrogen are “p” and “n” type dopants, making my ring a “p-n-p” junction. Engineers love it.
Sense of pride . . . the common thread that runs throughout my career started at Auburn – I helped initiate the Cupola Engineering Ambassadors with a mission to “promote, unify and serve the College of Engineering.” Those tenants have impacted every aspect of my life – promoting science and engineering, explaining the impact it has on our lives, and unifying people for common causes.