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Make the World a Better Place: Scientist’s Team Works to Develop Breakthrough Technologies

Mar 7, 2023 5 min read

We caught up with Ding Ding, research manager, who shares his perspectives on developing technologies that will change the world, teaming with colleagues and building a multidisciplinary career.  

You have advanced quickly since starting your career at KLA in 2019. Please share your story.

I started my job as a research scientist in Singapore. As the team grew, I was fortunate to take on a more administrative role in managing our materials research and development team. Since then, our team has continued to mature and contribute actively to impactful technology development at KLA Singapore. Our success is driven by talented and indispensable team members with valuable mentorship and support from our KLA colleagues in Milpitas, California.

What do you like most about your job?​

I love brainstorming with my team because this is when great ideas that can make the world a better place begin to take shape. Figuring out ways to develop solutions and overcome challenges together is very rewarding. Sometimes, the team’s solution to a particular challenge seems to be a stroke of genius. 

How has working at KLA contributed to your professional development? ​

Unlike popular ideas of career development, which tend to be all about achievements at the individual level, being part of a great team working on transformative ideas has been especially pivotal to my development. At KLA, ideas are brought to life as teams from different regions, backgrounds and technology disciplines work together.

A favorite writer of mine, Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” emphasizes the importance of having the right people for the right tasks, upon which things will naturally work out. These subtle yet essential concepts are embodied at KLA and have made our professional development experience particularly beneficial as our teams work across regions to bring forward solutions that meet customer requirements now and in the future.

Ding (third from left) with his team members Boon Leng Chuah, Yesheng Yee, Guozhen Liang, Jinfa Ho and Jingyue Fan.

What is the work culture like at KLA?

We have a well-established culture of respect and trust, with an emphasis on integrity and honesty. I believe these strengths embody KLA’s values to be honest, forthright and consistent – and are fundamental at KLA, and part of what makes it such a special company.

What’s it like to work across different technology disciplines?

KLA understands what it takes to be genuinely multidisciplinary. In my past academic experiences, many claims of multidisciplinary research were very specialized and narrow. Now, after three years of working within KLA’s team setting, it has become clear to me that working successfully to resolve technology development challenges is an actual test of the multidisciplinary approach. One never knows where or when unexpected bottlenecks will happen during the development process. But our team keeps the process moving by solving these issues thoroughly and concisely through close collaboration, proving that KLA truly takes the multidisciplinary approach to making the world a better place.

How do you explain to friends and family that you’re working on technology that is changing the world? ​

Many people often hear about highly visible projects like the CERN particle accelerator and NASA space rovers on Mars. But they don’t necessarily know how we are putting equally advanced technologies into KLA’s inspection equipment to detect defects in tiny devices used in our phones and computers. I don’t think any of my friends or family realized how precise we need to be and how much cutting-edge technology has already been applied to having consumer devices at our fingertips. The need to keep up with evolving technology is critical to our industry’s future – and also explains why organizations around the world continue to fund megascience projects.  

In addition to his work at KLA, Ding is passionate about photographing places he has visited. Clockwise from above left, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, United States; Calliope hummingbird, Pasadena, California; rural Ireland; and a hornbill, Malaysia.

What is a current or future technological challenge that requires KLA’s expertise?

Although artificial intelligence and big data are projected to be future technology trends, the hardware to support and improve these technologies requires more sophisticated and accurate equipment from KLA. One key industry challenge continues to be obtaining the materials needed to advance next-generation inspection technologies. While materials development can be tedious and costly, the industry and academia are moving forward to develop future inspection systems that our customers will need. We will overcome these challenges – and, I believe KLA’s disciplines and steadfast culture of innovation place us in an excellent position to guide and develop these breakthrough technologies for our industry that will ultimately impact consumer products for years to come.

Ding and his family at home (left), performing at a school concert and playing a friendly round of peekaboo.

Where did you grow up, and how did that influence your decision to enter technology?

I was born in China but moved to Singapore at an early age. My grandfather was a geology professor, and I wanted to be like him when I was young. While attending high school in Singapore, I decided on a career in science and technology. I was awarded a fellowship to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering and physics in the United States at Brown University, and I earned my Ph.D at Caltech.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My hobbies include photography, playing the guitar and hiking. Recently, these activities have been mostly replaced by spending time with my children.

What else should readers know about KLA and its people?

I am a big believer in gratitude and kindness, which I see regularly at KLA. I appreciate those times when KLA colleagues I did not even know offered help. I once broke my lunchbox while taking it out of the microwave and spilled my food. A colleague walked up and showed me where the mop was kept, and we cleaned up the mess together. In the next moment, another colleague offered me her sandwich. We share our kindness across KLA.

Be sure to catch up on our previous employee spotlights in our Opportunity Ahead, Making the World a Better Place and Inclusion for All series, and don’t forget to browse the KLA careers page for the opportunities ahead.

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