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Laura Deremo
Laura Deremo | Image: Courtesy of Laura Deremo

Laura Deremo, a senior in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, is pushing the boundaries of the typical undergraduate experience by pursuing a research project that intersects the fields of materials science and electrical engineering.

For this project, she is working alongside Dr. Patrick Shamberger, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, on a special type of computer memory called resistance switching memory.

“We quantify electricity using resistance, current and voltage,” Deremo said. “For example, a light bulb works because current runs through the filament inside the bulb. More current equals brighter light. My research was using a material that could change how much current it let through. So we start out with a dim light, stress the material with a high voltage and then we would have a bright light. My job was to analyze the physical reason that the material changed how much current it let through.”

High-resistance filaments will produce a dim light bulb and low resistance will produce a bright bulb. The material can switch between being a high and a low-resistance state. Computer memory relies on storing zeroes and ones, but it does not care how those numbers are stored. As there are two distinct states – in this case high and low – of a material it can be used to build a computer memory, which is where her project comes into play.

“My research is really at the intersection of electrical and materials engineering,” Deremo said. “Understanding the physical phenomena requires understanding the material really well, but it's all useless if the research ignores the application of the material, which is the electrical engineering.”

In addition to working on this multidisciplinary research project, Deremo started the Women in IEEE student organization in the department. Deremo hopes other girls see that there really is a place for them in the field of electrical and computer engineering, and that they are not alone.

Upon graduation, Deremo will begin her career as a design engineer at Texas Instruments. She will join many graduates from the department, which has provided a large number of students to the company's workforce. At Texas Instruments, Deremo will be designing, redesigning and testing another type of memory, F-RAM. F-RAM is similar to her current research project in that it is a physics-based electric access memory, which also uses dual states but with a different material.

Deremo urges other students to always look for opportunities. Because she decided to get involved in this research project in addition to her normal student load, Deremo saw many more doors open for her, including the offer to work at Texas Instruments in a similar area.