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The UAE university student Khawla Al Maysari works on a project with Hamda Al Shehhi, left, and Alia Al Dhaheri, right, during their seven-week semiconductor internship programme at GlobalFoundries in Dresden, Germany. Jeff Topping / The National
The UAE university student Khawla Al Maysari works on a project with Hamda Al Shehhi, left, and Alia Al Dhaheri, right, during their seven-week semiconductor internship programme at GlobalFoundries in Dresden, Germany. Jeff Topping / The National

Fine science in Big Apple

The Life: The Advanced Technology Investment Company (Atic) will introduce its Al Nokhba internship programme to Globalfoundries facilities in New York to help UAE students discover the semi-conductor industry.

There is a new and exclusive opportunity on offer for the best and brightest of Abu Dhabi's science students to gain first-hand experience of the latest in semiconductor technology - Stateside.

This year Advanced Technology Investment Company (Atic) will be introducing its Al Nokhba - Arabic for elite - internship programme to its US$5 billion GlobalFoundries facilities in New York. This helps UAE students discover the semi-conductor industry and gain first-hand experience of the latest developments at the heart of a business that must constantly innovate. In this way they can keep pace with the growing number of gadget buyers who demand that their mobile devices be capable of running an increasing number of features.

About 10 Emirati students will become resident in the New York silicon chip fabrication plant this summer for 10 weeks.

The initiative was created by Atic and is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Education Council. It began four years ago when interns were sent to the GlobalFoundries plant in Dresden, Germany. The company's facility in Singapore has been hosting interns for two years now.

"It is the first year that we will be sending students to New York," said an Atic spokeswoman. "It is very exclusive and all applicants have to qualify, we only bring on board the top students. It gives them a good idea of the industry and also global exposure."

Fifty per cent of the participants have to be women, and previous interns have gone on to secure jobs at the plants. A report commissioned by Atic last year found that Arab women studying science and technology in the region were less likely to pursue careers in those fields than males.

"The report's findings are tremendously significant in this regard, underlining female integration as a necessary element for any nation seeking to maximise returns on their human capital investment," it said.

Generally, female students perform at least as well as males in science and maths, and in many cases were outperforming them, the report said.

Safa Al Hashmi, a UAE national and a manufacturing engineer wrote in The Nationalthis year of his time working at the Dresden plant: "In such an environment, stepping beyond the confines of current knowledge becomes a deeply ingrained part of the culture. And it is this culture, I believe, that lies at the heart of innovation."

The internship programme includes meetings with management teams from GlobalFoundries, interactive classroom training and team-building exercises, on-site observation of the complete process of semiconductor manufacturing, and cultural activities.

It "empowers . students with the tools to lead across a broad range of advanced technology-driven industries", according to Al Nokhba's website.

Previous Al Nokhba graduates have already accomplished a number of scientific breakthroughs, including one who invented a new way of integrating microchips into prosthetic limbs, giving the disabled a greater degree of mobility. Another has invented a microchip-powered device that allows airport paramedics to monitor the vital signs of the elderly, sick and infirm and react instantly in the event of an emergency.

The programme was created in line with the Abu Dhabi 2030 vision to shift the emirate's oil-based economy to one based on technology and knowledge. It aims to support Abu Dhabi's investment in advanced technology by providing UAE nationals with access to world-class education.

GlobalFoundries said at the end of last year that it expected $4.5bn in revenues for 2012 - up 31 per cent year-on-year and making it the world's fastest-growing chip firm. It is also weighing up an initial public offering for 2015, when it expects to reach profitability. It leverages on the growing demand for outsourcing the manufacturing of the microchips that power today's most advanced electronic devices.

GlobalFoundries is wholly owned by Atic.

Atic has invested more than Dh100 million in research grants and funds since 2009. Recipients include Khalifa University, UAE University, American University of Sharjah and the Masdar Institute.

thamid@thenational.ae

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