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Dr. Robert Okojie, Research Electronics Engineer, NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH

NTB: With a sensor that potentially operates at 1000 degrees °C, what do you see as some interesting applications for that?

Dr. Okojie: It actually allows the device to come even closer to the combustion chamber than the 600 °C device. It also gives you the confidence that when you insert the device in a remote location, say 6 kilometers into the Earth in a 400 °C environment for several years, that you have a functional, stable device.

NTB: Can you take us through a typical day of yours?

Dr. Okojie: A typical day will be coming in first thing, and processing my devices in our own class-100 cleanroom. I spend half of my day mostly in the cleanroom, helping in the fabrication of the different devices. Then I step out and focus on analyzing the test results that are going on in my lab.

I also have my test lab, where I test the devices that I fabricate in the cleanroom. It’s a combination of trying to bring a device to life, and making sure that the device is functioning properly. We’ve now sent some of the devices out for packaging. They come back from packaging, and then we have to do the reliability analysis testing here. So: a combination of fabrication, post-fabrication, lab testing, packaging, and post-packaging, long-term characterization.

NTB: What would you say is the most satisfying part of your job?

Dr. Okojie: Expecting the unknowns. Sometimes your prediction does not essentially reproduce itself. In other words, you have your hypothesis that you’re going with, and you think you’ve taken care of all of your physics and the math and the calculations, and at the end of the day, you’re surprised by some new phenomena that you encounter, which actually makes it very interesting. Because any new phenomena that we encounter opens up an opportunity for new ideas and new inventions. As a matter of fact, a lot of our inventions were based on accidental discoveries. That, for me, is that most fun part of this work. It can be quite fascinating when you’re confronted with surprising phenomena that you never anticipated would be there.

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