Between Classes With...Tania Cabrera

Division of Math, Science, Technology and Health


The field of nanotechnology keeps getting bigger and bigger. Tania Cabrera, Assistant Professor in the Division of Mathematics, Science, Technology and Health, shares her expertise every day with students in the College's Nanoscale Materials Technology program, preparing them for exciting careers in New York's Tech Valley industries. We asked her to share some of that knowledge with us.

Can you explain what nanoscience is?

Nano is materials on a very small scale.

How is it applied in everyday life?

There is nano involved in the chips all of your electronic devices: computers, cell phones, television displays, computer monitors. Pretty much anything that is electronic, smart phones, tablets, those would not exist without nano.

Tell us more.

A computer chip contains many little on/off switches that send electrical signals. Here's an interesting factoid, when they made the first computer chip it contained four transistors and it cost $150. That was in 1976. At that price, an I-phone now would cost you $3.2 billion. We just keep shrinking the little switches and you can have more and more of them, so you get smaller and faster electronics.

What's your background and what led you to nano?

My background is in chemistry and material science, which looks at how the chemical structure will dictate properties of materials; it's the intersection of chemistry and engineering. I got interested in nano materials as an undergraduate. I did an internship at Columbia University and the group I was working with started researching some nanoscale materials and I became really interested. So I went back to Columbia for grad school. I always stress with my students to take an internship. If you hate it, it's just as important as if you love it.

What are some of the hot topics, emerging trends, related to nano that you're covering now with your students?

The continual shrinking of computer chips is a big one. With all of the industry we have going on in the area, that's most of the focus - printing smaller and smaller features. This is a very intense manufacturing feat and it's all going on right here. Albany, Tech Valley, is THE area right now for semi-conductor manufacturing. We learn the theory behind how it's done so we learn all of the different manufacturing steps involved. When our graduates go into the industry, they know the different steps, the different machines and the instruments that are involved. They gain hands-on experience at SCCC as well, in our vacuum science and thin film deposition classes. The feedback from students is that the students feel very prepared when they work in the industry.

What do you see for the future of nano?

I think we will continue to print smaller features on larger silicon wafers (they print many chips on one individual wafer and cut it into the smaller pieces that will then go into your devices). Smaller features, bigger wafers - that's where it's going.

About Tania Cabrera, Assistant Professor

Tania Cabrera is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Math, Science, Technology and Health. She has been a member of the Schenectady County Community College faculty since 2009. Tania teaches Materials Science, Nanoscale Materials, Vacuum Science, Thin Film Deposition, Semi-Conductor Manufacturing, Integrated Nano Lab and various chemistry courses. She holds an M.S. in Organic Chemistry from Columbia University and B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Physics of Materials from Simmons College in Boston, Mass.


May 2012