COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In his 31 years at Ohio State University, Steve Ringel has mentored a number of students studying highly scientific realms of technology in Columbus.

He just wishes they would stay.

After donning their graduation gowns, many leave the state for somewhere like the San Francisco Bay Area for tech jobs on one coast or another, said Ringel, who is the director of the Institute for Materials Research at Ohio State and an engineering professor. Ringel also oversees research at the university.

But after ground was broken in September on the $20 billion computer chip manufacturing facility one county east of the city, students in every level of STEM programs at Ohio State are abuzz with job opportunities that could soon present themselves within driving distance. 

“They all want to know, ‘Well, what can we do to work with Intel in the central Ohio region?’ And that’s a statement that didn’t exist a year ago,” Ringel said. 

Intel has pledged to invest heavily in Ohio education — and the technology company laying down big roots in central Ohio and across the state announced where the first $17.7 million of those funds would be allocated more than two weeks ago. In its first phase, the Ohio Semiconductor Education and Research Program will fund proposals led by seven universities in Ohio.

Intel will eventually funnel $50 million total toward state higher education. 

Professors and researchers said they are ready to hit the ground running.

Targeting job pathways in Appalachian parts of Ohio 

One proposal is focused exclusively on the Appalachian regions of the state, with the goal of being a “gateway” to Intel opportunities for students in Appalachia. It is being led by Ohio University in collaboration with 13 other schools, including its regional campuses and a number of other institutions. 

Longtime Ohio University physics professor and department chair Eric Stinaff is the point person for the proposal. Stinaff has been at Ohio University for 16 years.

As part of the Appalachian Semiconductor Education and Technical Ecosystem, they are building a pathway where students at regional institutions can earn a number of stackable certificates — transferable across the 14 schools in the coalition — to prepare them to work as technicians.

Stinaff said he is struck by the magnitude of what Intel is bringing to the state and what the proposal he is leading could do.

“These are going to be exciting jobs for the next generation of technology,” Stinaff said. 

Still, he said the diversity of Appalachia and the resources each part may or may not possess presents a unique challenge in bridging educational gaps. They are currently eyeing Fairfield County as a subset of the region to see if the model for a centrally located resource works.

Research on semiconductor fabrication at Ohio State

Of the eight proposals, Ohio State will spearhead two projects that are in conjunction with a number of institutions. 

Ringel is in charge of one: The newly established Center for Advanced Semiconductor Fabrication Research and Education, or CAFE. It is the only proposal of the eight that combines a heavy focus on semiconductor fabrication research with hands-on training for undergraduate and graduate students. 

He is excited to get started. He said he is just waiting for a thumbs up to officially begin research, wanting to give students that hands-on environment to prepare.

“All of this work, and this knowledge base we’ve created over the years, is now going to benefit regionally and locally,” Ringel said. “I want to see the region do everything it can to take advantage of this.”

Intel said in a Sept. 9 news release it believes the first $17.7 million will prepare 9,000 students for the field and award more than 2,300 scholarships.