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ASML is an important employer of alumni from the Plasma & Materials Processing (PMP) research group at the TU/e, particularly of MSc graduates from this group. Nevertheless, around four-fifths of all PMP graduates at the masters, doctoral and post-doctoral levels are pursuing careers at organisations other than ASML.

This finding emanates from a recent survey conducted by the PMP research group amongst 176 of its 2005-2018 alumni. The survey results are presented in a blog by Erwin Kessels, professor of Applied Physics at the TU/e and leader of the PMP group.

Describing the motivation for the survey, Kessels says it “tells us who is looking for students and postdocs coming out of our group and it helps us in defining and mapping our research lines and educational programs. It is also good to get the numbers straight”.

For instance, given the rapid rate at which ASML has taken on highly specialised researchers in recent years, it would be natural to assume that a large proportion of PMP graduates are being absorbed into the ASML team.


Kessels TU/e ASML
Erwin Kessels

“From the number of people that [ASML] have been hiring over the past few years (the company grew from ~10.000 employees in 2013 to 16.000+ in 2017), one would also think that more than 50% of our people start working in the company that is the world’s leading provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry and which is only 8km away from the TU/e campus. But is this true?”

Kessels finds that the absorption into ASML is lower than expected and, further, that the figures vary depending on the level of study achieved.

“Most of our bachelor and master students come from the Netherlands, although the number of international master students at the TU/e has been increasing over the last years.”

Just under half of the survey participants are masters-level graduates, 30% are doctoral graduates and slightly more than one fifth are post-doctoral graduates. ASML has employed 21.0% of all surveyed graduates, with the emphasis being on the MSc graduates: Of all MSc graduates, 24.1% are ASML employees, compared with 19.2% of PhD graduates and 16.2% of post-doctoral graduates.

The differences by study level are explained by the demographic variances of students at the TU/e. According to Kessels, “most of our bachelor and master students come from the Netherlands, although the number of international master students at the TU/e has been increasing over the last years. Our PhD candidates and postdocs come from anywhere in the world”.

This translates into a similar trend for the PMP group, where 93% of the MSc graduates are Dutch, 61.5% of the doctoral graduates are Dutch and only 13.5% of post-doctoral graduates are Dutch. The vast majority of MSc graduates (92%) are still in the Netherlands, while 30.8% and 43.2% respectively of the doctoral and post-doctoral group are no longer in the Netherlands.

Kessels reports that, other than ASML, typical employers of former PMP researchers include TNO, the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER), ARCNL, imec, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Philips, ASM and Océ. Most of these companies are located, or have branches, in the Brainport region. A significant number of graduates are in academia, including at the TU/e, Delft University of Technology, the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, and the University of New-South-Wales (Australia).

The Plasma & Materials Processing group is one of 14 research groups at the Department of Applied Physics at TU/e and is focused on the realm of plasma science, materials science and surface science. Its current focus is largely on the preparation of nanolayers and nanostructures by atomic layer deposition and related processes.