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Career Steps Profile: SPIE Fellow Michael Postek

NIST Chief Measures Career Options

photo of NIST division chief Michael Postek

Michael T. Postek

Age: 57

Job: Chief, Precision Engineering Division, NIST, developing dimensional measurement technology for nanotechnology, semiconductors, and other industrial needs.

Expertise: Nanometrology and scanning electron microscope (SEM) critical dimension (CD) metrology.

Early Career Influences: Brother Bernard Joseph, high school science/physics teacher, who kindled my interest in science. Dr. E. Laurence Thurston, director of the Electron Microscope Center at Texas A&M University where I learned my microscopy (and received an MS).

Recent Steps: We work closely with several instrument manufacturers to push measurement science. Recently, my work with Dr. Andras Vladar and the manufacturer on the newly developed helium ion microscope may soon be pushing scanned particle beam metrology into new realms with resolution potentially three to four times better than current scanning electron microscopes. CD and particle metrology may benefit greatly from this instrument. I was able to acquire the first commercial helium ion microscope for NIST and we are currently using our microscopy expertise to understand the fundamental science of this instrument and to explore its application to an array of samples across several laboratories at NIST.

Successful Career Step: While I was a doctoral student, I teamed with three other graduate students in 1980 to publish "Scanning Electron Microscopy: A Student's Handbook" which is still in use today (yes! over 25 years). That provided me with sufficient visibility that I left the university and was hired by the (then) largest scanning electron microscope manufacturer in the U. S. as director of the Applications Laboratory. While at the manufacturer, I helped to develop some of the first SEM measurement technology for semiconductor applications and was eventually hired by (then) NBS and now NIST.

Most Difficult Career Step: Probably leaving the laboratory and entering management.

Easiest Career Step: The day I return to the laboratory.

Steps to Keep on Top of Developments in the Field: At NIST, we interact strongly with industry and work to find out their measurement needs. I have been deeply involved with both SEMATECH and the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors since inception. I also am a NIST representative to the National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET), which is the interagency committee that coordinates the plans, budgets, programs, and reviews for the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Before Taking a Career Risk: Assess all the pros and cons, knowing that there may not be any greener grass. Do not let the bright spots be your only guide. Look for the problems and determine if they could become showstoppers in the future.

Next Career Steps: I have always enjoyed teaching. I initially taught at Louisiana State University and when I came to NBS I taught an SEM short course at the University of Maryland for over 14 years, I teach in a SEM in Forensics Short Course at the SCANNING microscopy meetings and I have taught SEM metrology at the SPIE Microlithography (now SPIE Advanced Lithography) meetings for many years. There is a crying need for development of microscopy for nanotechnology. Who knows?

Profile Submitted: February 2008

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200802.98

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