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Erin Young, BEng. '99

(Materials Engineering) | Driving innovation through research

The circular process of innovation often sees materials science enable new technologies, which then drive the development of new materials.

It was that process that attracted Erin Young to the study of materials, and over the last two decades she’s worked on the cutting edge of technologies that are changing our world.

Today, the 1999 Materials Science and Engineering graduate is a device scientist at Apple in California, researching and developing new imaging and display technologies.

Her shift to the business side of the innovation circle came in 2017, after many years of work in the academic world where she co-authored more than 100 publications and patents.

An honours thesis project in her last year at McMaster convinced Young that she enjoyed independent research, so she went into graduate school and earned a PhD in Materials Science from the University of British Columbia in 2006. She then worked as a research scientist in the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) for 10 years.

“It has been very interesting to make the change from academia to research in industry, where we are doing extremely high-level research with a lot of resources,” she says. “The pace is much faster.”

Her research at UCSB focused on crystal growth and the properties of the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) and related alloys, which are the foundation for the visible blue/green and UV light emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers that are now used in so many applications.

“My career highlights relate to that wonderful feeling of making something work in the research lab for the first time,” she says. “During my time at UCSB as a research scientist I really enjoyed the experience of ‘lighting up’ new designs of LEDs and lasers for the first time.”

Other highlights include presenting papers at international conferences, as well as seeing UCSB professor Shuji Nakamura win the Physics Nobel Prize in 2014 for his role in invention of the blue LED in the 1990s.

"It was wonderful to see the Nobel committee recognize the technological impact of semiconductor materials science and the significant impact it has had on people's lives".