Fellowship program building high-tech workforce in heart of NYC

2017 NanoFab Fellows in the ASRC cleanroom, left to right: Nicholas Proscia, Megan Webster, Frederick Pearsall, and Robert Collison.

2017 NanoFab Fellows in the ASRC cleanroom, left to right: Nicholas Proscia, Megan Webster, Frederick Pearsall, and Robert Collison.

For many students interested in a career in science, many focus their attention on developing their research and finding novel answers to the many questions facing the world. But increasingly, early-career scientists are learning they need to have a well-rounded resume in order to make a career in research, with increasing emphasis placed on technical training with core instrumentation.

But thanks to the growth of programs such as the NanoFab Fellows at the Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, CUNY, these researchers are gaining exposure and practical training on some of the most advanced equipment available. The program — run by the NanoFabrication Facility at the ASRC — brings together cohorts of outstanding graduate students to optimize fabrication processes and monitor baseline processes that improve reproducibility and yield throughout the facility.

NanoFab Fellows meeting at the ASRC to discuss progress on ongoing process development projects.

NanoFab Fellows meeting at the ASRC to discuss progress on ongoing process development projects.

“This fellowship challenged me to learn new processes and techniques, and to learn about working in a cleanroom environment, which I had never done previously,” said Megan Webster, a PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering at The City College of New York. “I certainly think that this fellowship will enhance my portfolio of skills, and make me more valuable to a potential employer and more competitive in the job market.”

The fellowship program began in the winter of 2015 with a cohort of two graduate students. This year, the program has expanded to four, including Megan, Robert Collison (Chemistry PhD candidate at CCNY), Frederick Pearsall (Chemistry PhD candidate at CCNY) and Nicholas Proscia (Physics PhD Candidate at Queens College). NanoFab Facility Director Jacob Trevino said the program was designed to enhance the graduate students academic skill with practical skills that will help expand their research scope.

Nicholas and Robert monitoring a thin-film deposition in a sputter chamber.

Nicholas and Robert monitoring a thin-film deposition in a sputter chamber.

“The program is designed to provide graduate student researchers with the ability to become technical experts in utilizing real-world nanofabrication processing tools and strengthen their career marketability,” NanoFab Director Jacob Trevino said. “Students also serve as ASRC ambassadors for their respective campus and research groups, transferring knowledge and techniques to their home institutions.”

An additional benefit to having the students in the ASRC NanoFab is that it provides them with a toolset spanning the entire nanofabrication process. In Robert’s work with Stephen O’Brien’s lab at CCNY and Jacob Trevino’s lab at the ASRC, he utilizing top-down nanofabrication methods to fabricate arrays of plasmonic and semiconductor nanostructures for various applications. Meanwhile, Nicholas is investigating hot electron dynamics in plasmonic systems & magnetic properties of nanoparticle oligomers with Luat T. Vuong at Queens College and Vinod Menon at CCNY.

Megan performing an industry standard RCA clean on silicon wafers prior to desposition.

Megan performing an industry standard RCA clean on silicon wafers prior to desposition.

“I was challenged in my communication skills, as writing a standard operating procedure requires the right amount of details and information to be fully effective,” Nicholas said. “Deciding what is necessary information for a beginner to have, while not providing superfluous information is more challenging than expected.”

Because the ASRC NanoFab was designed as a place for students, postdocs, and industry professionals to work in a shared environment, the facility has a deep commitment to providing opportunities for educational and professional growth.

Fred and Rob discussing process design experiments used to baseline equipment and provide standards for other NanoFab users.

Fred and Rob discussing process design experiments used to baseline equipment and provide standards for other NanoFab users.

“I am certain that this experience will help my future career, not only because I have become comfortable with tools and training but because I have been exposed to the entirety of cleanroom procedures and that prepares me in a unique way for the job market,” Frederick said. “The ASRC NanoFab can really help boost any user’s resume for positions in industry, national labs, and academia.”

Funding for the Fellowship program is provided by the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center and the NSF funded CREST Center for Interface Design and Engineered Assembly of Low Dimensional Systems (IDEALS) . Contact Jacob Trevino at jacob.trevino@asrc.cuny.edu to find out how to apply for the NanoFab Fellowship position in 2018.

NanoFab Fellows having fun and showing their pride in the ASRC.

NanoFab Fellows having fun and showing their pride in the ASRC.