Note: Each year, we partner with Dr. Amy Sheck’s students at the North Carolina School of Science and Math to profile some unsung heroes of the Duke research community. This is the seventh of eight posts.
“As a young girl, I always knew I wanted to be a scientist,” Dr. Tania Roy shares as she sits in her Duke Engineering office located next to state-of-the-art research equipment.
The path to achieving her dream took her to many places and unique research opportunities. After completing her bachelor’s in India, she found herself pursuing further studies at universities in the United States, eventually receiving her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Throughout these years Roy was able to explore and contribute to a variety of fields within electrical engineering, including energy-efficient electronics, two-dimensional materials, and neuromorphic computing, among others. But her deepest passion and commitment is to engage upcoming generations with electrical engineering research.
As an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering within Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, Tania Roy gets to do exactly that. She finds happiness in mentoring her passionate young students. They work on projects focused on various problems in fields such as Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Mechanical Engineering, but her special focus is Electrical Engineering.
Roy walks through the facilities carefully explaining the purpose of each piece of equipment when we run into one of her students. She explains how his project involves developing hardware for artificial intelligence, and the core idea of computer vision.
Through sharing her passion for electrical engineering, Roy hopes to motivate and inspire a new generation.
“The field of electrical engineering is expected to experience immense growth in the future, especially with the recent trends in technological development,” she says, explaining that there needs to be more interest in the field of electrical engineering for the growth to meet demand.
The recent shortage of semiconductor chips for the industrial market is an example of this. It poses a crucial problem to the supply and demand of various products that rely on these fundamental components, Roy says. By increasing the interest of students, and therefore increasing the number of students pursuing electrical engineering, we can build a foundation for the advancement of technologies powering our society today, says Roy.
Coming with a strong background of research herself, she is well equipped for the role of advocate and mentor. She has worked with gallium nitride for high voltage breakdowns. This is when the insulation between two conductors or electrical components fails, allowing electrical current to flow through the insulation. This breakdown usually occurs when the voltage across the insulating material exceeds a certain threshold known as the breakdown voltage.
In electric vehicles, high breakdown voltage is crucial for several reasons related to the safety, performance, and efficiency of the vehicle’s electrical system, and Roy’s work directly impacts this. She has also conducted extensive research on 2D materials and their photovoltaic capabilities, and is currently working on developing brain-inspired computer architectures for machine learning algorithms. Similar to the work of her student, this research utilizes the structure of the human brain to model an architecture for AI, replicating the synapses and neural connections.
As passionate as she is about research, she shares that she used to love to go to art galleries and look at paintings, “I could do it for hours,” Roy says. Currently, if she is not actively pursuing her research, she enjoys spending time with her two young children.
“I hope to share my dream with this new generation,” Roy concludes.
Guest post by Sutharsika Kumar, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Class of 2024