Sandian honored with inaugural technologist award from American Vacuum Society

By Sue Major Holmes

Photography By Randy Montoya

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Catherine Sobczak
TECHNOLOGIST CATHERINE SOBCZAK prepares a silicon wafer to load into a sputtering system. Catherine has been honored with the inaugural Thin Film Distinguished Technologist Award from the American Vacuum Society. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

The American Vacuum Society has honored Sandia technologist Catherine Sobczak with its inaugural Thin Film Division Distinguished Technologist Award for providing exceptional technical support of thin film research and development.

Catherine will be formally recognized next fall by the society’s Thin Film Division at the society’s 63rd International Symposium & Exhibition in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s an honor to receive this award. The people who nominated me are high-level folks in the vacuum technology field. It’s nice to be recognized for all your years of service doing this,” Catherine says.

The award cites her contributions over the course of her career, both at Sandia and earlier at the Phillips Research Site at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base. She works with thin films, a form of coating used in everything from eyeglasses to microchips.

Manager Deidre Hirschfeld presented her a certificate last month that goes along with the honor, and Catherine says colleagues made sure it would be a surprise. “They told me to dress up because we were all going to get an award for something else,” she says.

Deidre calls Catherine one of the outstanding technologists working in thin film coatings. “She takes the initiative to fully understand any work assigned to her, then uses her knowledge and experience to help develop process improvements,” Deidre says. “This international award recognizes the important contributions of technologists who are working in the background and often overlooked. It is the technologists who do the experiments then collect, organize, and help interpret data while ensuring that equipment is in working order.”

Catherine started her career in thin films at CVI Laser

Corporation and was trained in physical vapor deposition by Mark Halliburton, now in Dept. 6560 at Sandia, and former Sandian Eric Jones Jr. Among her mentors at Phillips were the late Chuck Carniglia; David Reicher and George Luke, both now retired; and Bradley Pond, now with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Sandia mentors include Ron Goeke, Juan Romero and David Adams.

“Everyone I have worked with has been enormously supportive,” she says.

The New Mexico Chapter of the American Vacuum Society (AVS) created and endowed the award to honor its founders and their contributions.

The Thin Film Division, in a call for nominations earlier this year, said, “We are all indebted to the support provided at some point in our careers by outstanding technologists and technicians, and this award is meant to recognize the importance of that role in thin film research and development.”

AVS, founded in 1953, supports networking among government, industrial, academic, and consulting professionals in such disciplines as engineering, chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and business through common interests related to the basic science, technology, development and commercialization of materials, interfacing, and processing. It has about 4,500 members worldwide.