IBM Research-Almaden

Sharing the Art and Science of Lithography

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This post originally appeared on EE Times

I love my work in lithography and sharing my experiences with young people, hoping to inspire them when they realize the fun and art behind science.

At a young age, I was very curious about how things worked. Much to the surprise and encouragement of my two parents — a social worker and grade school teacher — I took apart radios and wrist watches in effort to learn about their inner workings. Although I considered careers as a geologist, astronomer, or musician, I majored in chemical engineering and ended up with a B.S. degree from the University of Maryland and a graduate degree from Stanford in chemical engineering.

I believe strongly in the importance of nurturing our next generation of researchers. As a Hispanic woman engineer, I have an opportunity to be a unique role model. One of the most rewarding experiences for me as a scientist is the ability to work with children in our inner cities to share my passion for science and technology.

I often visit schools to conduct simple science experiments such as mixing common household polymers like Borax to create “slime.” I’ve also been extremely active in organizing and participating in science summer camps and educational workshops for middle school girls to encourage them pursue careers in science and math careers.

When I tell people I work in lithography, the first image that often comes to mind is a process for reproducing fine art. In addition to producing art that’s suitable for framing, lithography is the key method in making computer chips, which is my area of expertise. We use predominantly photolithography to produce fine lines made of polymers using light to create the connections between transistors on chips that help process data.

By researching new ways to print connective lines out of polymers, we can improve the speed and computing performance of chips for today’s computers. Our goal is to create increasingly smaller lines that allow us to create greater connection density, essentially letting chips process more information faster while taking up less space.

Lithography is important to IBM Research as it seeks to discover new materials for making chips. Silicon is used most prominently today, but we are starting to see its limitations as big data and the need for higher levels of computer processing become the norm.

In order to meet the increasing hardware demands that powerful applications such as machine learning pose, we must play an active role in the pursuit of discovering new materials that can accommodate more sophisticated demands for data throughput. IBM has capabilities to bring forward the solutions from both hardware and software perspectives.

As a professional, I believe it’s important to not only connect within my company, but also with the broader industry to discuss and discover best practices as we trek a common journey. In the course of my career, I’ve co-authored approximately 80 publications and four patents.

In addition, I was honored to chair the 2016 and 2017 SPIE Advanced Lithography Symposium’s Metrology, Inspection, and Process Control for Microlithography Conference and the 2016 Lithography Workshop. In 2018, I will chair the SPIE Novel Patterning Technologies Conference at the Advanced Lithography Symposium.

I love my work. It’s even more amazing to share that experience with young people and to see their eyes light up when they realize the fun and art behind science.

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