Nanotech NYC sits down with students, faculty and researchers from across the city to give those interested a glimpse into the local nanotechnology scene. Today we sit down with Jasmine Sabio, a Nanofabrication Process Engineer at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center Nanofabrication Facility.
Tell us a little bit about where you are from.
I was born in Long Island, New York but was raised in Huntsville, Alabama. I circled back to New York after ~20 years in Alabama; however, I don't remember New York too much since my family moved to Alabama when I was really young. So for those who think I come from a one-stoplight kind of town, you may be surprised. Huntsville has a rich history and presence in engineering (NASA, Boeing) and was actually recently ranked 3rd in high tech jobs.
Where did you complete your undergraduate and any graduate degrees prior to this one?
How was your transition from Alabama to NYC?
I get this question a lot - it's a justified curiosity because Alabama is very different from NYC. For me, the change was easy. I complement the fast paced milieu that NYC thrives on. It also helped that I did a summer abroad before I moved to NYC. For 6 weeks, I was visiting 6 new cities and countries and had to learn to quickly assimilate to a new culture, language and surroundings. By the time I made it to NYC, moving around was a breeze because everything was in English.
What was your master’s research on at NYU? What kinds of applications are there for it?
At NYU, and under the supervision of Dr. Hartman, I had a goal to study the dissociation of methane at moderate temperatures, opposed to traditionally high temperatures. A palladium carbon-carbon cross-coupling reaction was chosen for the study and I was tasked with designing and fabricating a microfluidic device to serve as a platform to study the reaction. The success of this study would give us insight on what parameters can dissociate methane at low and moderate temperatures which in turn would feed a much larger scale application: safely and efficiently controlling methane emissions that are contributing to global warming.
How did you figure out you wanted to specialize in this area?
I owe my passion and enthusiasm to Dr. Hartman. With his guidance and mentorship, he exposed me to the field of microfluidics and nanofabrication which I wouldn't have gained on my own. Then through exposure and experience, my excitement and curiosity in the field grew.
Tell me about your current occupation. What are your main responsibilities and what does a day look like for you?
I'm currently a Nanofabrication Process Engineer at the Advanced Science Research Center. In the nanofabrication facility, we hold over 30 nanofabrication tools that over 500 users utilize. With the rest of the nanofabrication support staff, we maintain the operation of the tools and lab along with training users on how to use the tools. Aside from maintenance, I like to think of myself as a research shaman for the users. I offer my input and expertise to users as they move through their processing to help point them in the right direction.
I also have my own projects and collaborations. I'm remotely processing microfluidic molds and chips for Columbia University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, collaborating with Dr. Shereen from the Neuroscience Initiative of the ASRC to improve Diffusion Tensor Imaging in MRI, and continuously involved with the extensive outreach that is held at the ASRC. So a typical day for me starts with making sure the users of the ASRC are ready and equipped with what they need for their processing and the rest of my time is dedicated to my side projects.
How did you come into being a Nanofabrication Process Engineer? Was it something you thought you would do in the future while going through school?
At NYU, I spent about a year working and completing my research in the very same nanofabrication lab I'm a process engineer for. As my masters came to an end and I was struggling to find a job, the current director of the nanofabrication facility, Dr. Trevino, encouraged me to apply as a nanofabrication process engineer at the ASRC. Three months later, I joined the nanofab staff and have been at the ASRC for about a year and a half now.
As I was going through school, life after school wasn't something I was planning - all my time and energy was expelled on wrapping up my project before I graduated. However, when I was conducting my research at the nanofab, I was always interested in more than my own work and was proactive in helping out in the lab. So when I graduated and moved into a staff position at the ASRC, my job responsibilities felt organic and intuitive.
Where do you hope to take your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
I plan to elevate my engineering experience and expertise with a JD to open up a pathway towards transactional law with a specialty in intellectual property, specifically in the nanotech community. My current position as a process engineer has given me a curiosity and affinity towards the inner workings of bringing an idea from design to product, especially the protection of those ideas with patents. I'm currently planning to start law school fall of 2020.
What do you do for fun outside of your program? Do you have any hobbies or other causes you spend time on?
Outside of work and traveling and studying for the LSAT, I like to spend my extra time giving back to the community. I join volunteering projects from New York Cares and use that platform to expand my network and opportunities for volunteering. Through New York Cares I became involved with Meals on Wheels and the soup kitchen at The Church of the Village. Through Meals on Wheels, I became involved with Encore Community Services who matched me with a 95 year old who I see weekly to play scrabble, listen to records, and sip on rum and cokes.
Socially, you can find me at restaurants and music shows. As an aspiring food connoisseur, I love adventuring through all the restaurants and cuisines that NYC holds. As with music and being in NYC, upcoming and current artists are always passing through NYC - there's rarely a weekend when there isn't a DJ or band I like is playing.
I know you also spend some of your time in mentoring and outreach roles. How did you get into doing those activities?
At Alabama, I was constantly exposed to mentorship and outreach opportunities through the clubs and organizations I was involved in. This ranged from tutoring to in-class demonstrations at local schools. At NYU, I continued my mentorship with a student from Brooklyn Technical High School for two years and now she’s a Chemical Engineering major at Columbia University. In my current position, I have plans to mentor an Ossining High School student over the summer and school year. As I write this, I'm surprised at the evolution of my outreach which all stems from me randomly being involved in clubs as an undergrad. When I was in high school, I had no idea that I'd be an engineer nor did I really know about the field - it wasn't very intuitive. I like mentorship and engaging with high school students because it is something I wish I had when I was younger.
If you could go back to the first day you started your academic journey and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
I wish I could've told younger Jasmine to not be afraid to ask questions. As I've grown older, I've learned that every opportunity is a learning opportunity. The opportunity to learn can be initiated by asking probing questions. This self-engagement yields higher retention on the new or abstract subject and who knows, can make something seem boring really interesting.