Despite being geographically scattered, a small but growing community of engineers, scientists and students working in fields utilizing e-beam lithography came together this July at the fourth annual, and first virtual, Meeting for Advanced Electron Beam Lithography (MAEBL).
But virtual attendees at this year’s annual event had more in common than their interest in lithography; these researchers from the U.S., Canada, England, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Australia also shared the challenges and lessons learned in safely reopening and operating their facilities in the midst of a pandemic.
The Ohio State University helped connect the e-beam lithography community from across government, industries and academic institutions, with the help of co-founders Gerald Lopez from the University of Pennsylvania and Kevin Lister from HRL Laboratories, in California.
For co-organizer Aimee Price, a senior research associate at Ohio State’s Nanotech West Laboratory, the workshop was an opportunity for researchers with similar technical backgrounds to share best practices in an array of different work situations, and support one another’s similar approaches to problem solving.
“It was truly a worldwide conversation. We are all going through the same thing; we’re dealing with the same struggles,” Price said. “And we are coming up with similar solutions or, at least, different variations on the same theme for those solutions. It was really beneficial to have that breadth of input and voices and experience coming together to discuss this moment.”
Price who is the president and co-founder of MAEBL Inc. is a lithography expert at Nanotech West Lab, a user facility operated by the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) that houses a range of lithography tools at its West Campus space. Following the suspension of non-essential work at Ohio State research facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nanotech West recently reopened with throttled user admittance.
In that interim though, Nanotech West has ramped up communication efforts with research communities within the university and among users throughout the region. From video conferencing software to chat and direct-messaging apps, the facility’s teams have kept users in the loop with facility updates, and regularly held instrument training sessions. Price shared those practices and the value in maintaining communication lines during the most isolating periods of the pandemic.
A major discussion of the workshop focused on navigating the challenges of safely re-opening and hosting users. Operations that can normally be fairly intense exercises, like hands-on training for new users, demands even greater mindfulness to effectively practice social distancing and other safety precautions.
“Most of us are finding ourselves, in our jobs, doing much more than just operating research tools, in terms of ensuring higher levels of safety. Now, there are people who they can turn to for help. And they already have that relationship built. Having that community, having someone to turn to is especially helpful right now.”
This was the first MAEBL 2020 workshop in a series of six that will run through December. Price said the issue of safety during the pandemic will be revisited throughout the series. The next meeting on Aug. 27 will focus on advanced resist options for EBL. The full program can be found here, and registration is still open.
Last year’s meeting was held at Ohio State. Looking ahead, however, Price said she expects MAEBL will consider incorporating a virtual component in future workshops, given this year’s success so far and the new format’s ability to widen its inclusiveness to its community around the globe.
“Having the geographical diversity is really kind of incredible, which we wouldn’t have with just a regular meeting,” she said. “It’s just amazing.”
MAEBL 2020 sponsors are JEOL, STS Elionix, Raith Nanofabrication, Dischem, Genisys GmbH, AllResist, PBS&T. Learn more at maebl.org/maebl-2020.