Background and education
Dr. Nikoonahad received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Electronic Engineering from University College London (UCL), England, in 1979 and 1983, respectively. Here, he also completed two years of postdoctoral work. His Ph.D. and postdoctoral work were concerned with scanning microscopy and were carried out under the supervision of Sir Eric Ash. Dr. Nikoonahad became a Senior Member of the IEEE by nomination in 1989. In 1997 he completed the Executive Program for Growing Companies at the Graduate School of Business of Stanford University.
Career and business interests
Dr. Nikoonahad was Cofounder and CEO at Solar Notion, Inc., a privately held company in Silicon Valley, California and focused on achieving grid parity with photovoltaic electricity through a radically new silicon process technology that would reduce the cost of manufacturing of solar panels by a factor of five. Prior to Solar Notion, Dr. Nikoonahad was involved with a number of start-up, private, and public companies at the executive level, all in the high technology arena.
Dr. Nikoonahad was formerly Vice President of Technology for Strategic Business Development at KLA-Tencor (KT) Corporation focusing on merger and acquisitions (M&A) and investment activity in the areas of equipment for Microelectromechanical systems, optical communication devices, magnetic media inspection and metrology, and for semiconductor manufacturing. He joined Tencor Instruments in Mountain View, California in 1992 when he proposed and helped develop a platform for a high-speed, laser-based, wafer inspection system, which, then for the first time, addressed the inspection needs for 0.25 micrometre process technology in high volume semiconductor production. That platform was subsequently named Advanced Inspection Technology (AIT) and during its peak times generated over $1 billion in revenue. Dr. Nikoonahad then managed development groups and extended that capability for smaller silicon geometries, using ultraviolet lasers. Subsequent to the AIT, he led numerous development teams for inspection and metrology products used in silicon manufacturing. Laser imaging, metals and dielectric thin film metrology, laser and spectral ellipsometry for dielectric film characterization, photothermal ellipsometry for implant measurement, chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) end-point detection, optical CD (OCD), overlay characterization, and micro/macro defect inspection are among some the technologies that Dr. Nikoonahad and his teams have developed. He was Vice President of Technology for a new division of KT focused on integrated meteorology. He was also an advisor to the KT Venture Fund and a member of the corporate Patent Review Committee. He was the winner of numerous innovation and patent awards while at KT.
Prior to KT he was at Philips Research labs in Briarcliff Manor, New York where he served as Senior Member Technical Staff and led research on acoustic imaging, Doppler flow measurement, and medical ultrasound. Dr. Nikoonahad has been principal investigator on a number R&D projects for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).