Education Technology

Nathan Schemm

GaN Analog IC Designer

Hi, my name is Nathan and I design silicon chips (also called integrated circuits, or ICs) used in modern electronics. In particular, the chips I design usually go into power supplies, like laptop adapters or cellphone battery chargers.

On the job
My team is working on a new compound Gallium Nitride (GaN), which promises to vastly improve the performance of these chips. The superior performance of GaN has the capability of enabling power supplies to be much smaller and lighter while also being more efficient and wasting much less power. For example, GaN promises to take your conventional laptop power adapter and shrink it down to the size that cellphone chargers are now.

How does coding play a role in your job? 
I use it in a couple of ways. Some of the integrated circuit is usually “digital” — this means the signals are represented with ones and zeros. For digital, I describe the design in a hardware description language (HDL) which is very similar to a programming language, except instead of describing a program, it describes how hardware should work. So I do a lot of coding of HDL for the chip, and then code even more HDL to test that it works as expected.

How did you learn to code on your calculator?
Learning TI Basic is very simple. It didn’t take very long looking on the Internet to learn the basic control structures, and then you are ready to start coding. It is by far the fastest programming language to learn that I’ve ever worked with. Armed with this knowledge, I started writing programs to make my homework easier.

Why do you think learning to code is important? 
For most STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, there are often problems which require some programming to get the job done. Without the capability to program, there are a lot of problems which become very difficult or tedious. So even if you are not in a computer-related field, programming is still a very useful skill.

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