NIST - National Institute of Standards and Technology

01/05/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/05/2023 09:26

A Nanofabulous Experience: Internship at NIST’s NanoFab Provides Vital Training for Engineers and Technicians Entering the Semiconductor Workforce

The interview went well, but for weeks Maldonado-Rivera did not hear from the space agency. She called to inquire and was told to wait. On a workday in October 2021, Maldonado-Rivera was away from her desk at Northrop Grumman for a few minutes. When she got back, she noticed a call on her cellphone from NASA. "OMG, OMG," she told herself as she quickly returned the call. But the person at NASA had already left for the day.

She would have to wait another 24 hours to get the news: She had landed her dream job.

On Oct. 25, 2021, Maldonado-Rivera got her NASA badge and laptop and took her oath of office. She was really there. She had made it.

Hired as a systems processing engineer, Maldonado-Rivera began work fabricating and helping to design tiny electrical devices for a spacecraft that NASA hopes will begin orbiting Venus late in the next decade. Recently promoted, she is now supervising other scientists in her group, who often consult her on designs.

"If it wasn't for the NanoFab and my mentor, Jessie Zhang, I wouldn't be here at NASA right now," she said.

Maldonado-Rivera has been doing some mentoring of her own. Staying in touch with students and faculty members from her university, she told them how much the NanoFab internship had helped her. That's a key reason that Giovanna M. Castejón-Cruz, who graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 2021, applied.

Castejón-Cruz began her internship in January 2022. During her four months at the NanoFab, she learned how to operate and maintain several instruments, including a sputtering tool. That device employs an energetic beam of ions to remove, or sputter, atoms from a target material such as gold or chromium. Inside a vacuum chamber, the sputtered atoms are then deposited onto a silicon chip, forming an ultrathin coating.

Using a direct-write laser, Castejón-Cruz inscribed chips with tiny, three-dimensional structures. She also conducted experiments in photolithography.