Published: Sept. 7, 2021 By

Pure luck was what Jared Lewis claims helped him get a job as a student lab assistant with the Colorado Shared Instrumentation in Nanofabrication and Characterization (COSINC) facility.

“I stumbled across the posting,” Lewis, a junior studying mechanical engineering at the Paul M. Rady Mechanical Engineering Department, recalled. “I was looking for a job and thought this sounds cool. Once I started working, I realized just how cool it was.”

Jared Lewis 5
Lewis working in the COSINC facility.

COSINC is an open-research facility within the College of Engineering and Applied Science. University of Colorado Boulder faculty members, graduate researchers, and industry and government researchers all have access to the equipment the center provides. That includes machinery in the areas of micro and nanofabrication, nanomaterials characterization and metrology.

The job posting that Lewis responded to asked that the student lab assistant help COSINC staff in basic maintenance on the state-of-the-art equipment and support some user training. With that job description, clearly, luck wasn’t all that Lewis needed to land the position.

From Jamaica to Boulder

“When we interview students, we make sure that they have a passion for this area,” Aju Jugessur, the director of COSINC said. “It’s important that the student gets enticed in this area if they have an interest.”

Lewis is originally from Jamaica. He came to Boulder for the engineering education and opportunities. He added that CU Boulder’s campus and weather were not a bad deal, either. Lewis said mechanical engineering was always his first choice; from day one, it was the career path that made sense.

“I chose mechanical engineering because of the kind of person I am and the way I think about things,” Lewis said. “Since I’ve been really young, I’ve taken things apart. Not necessarily figuring out how to put them back together, but just figuring out how stuff works.”

That mentality and his mechanical engineering courses have helped Lewis become a great asset for the COSINC facility. In turn, Lewis has received endless opportunities and training, since the center is not limited to one professor’s area of study.

“We’re doing the serious work. We, myself and fellow lab assistants, are responsible for a substantial portion of the lab’s daily operations,” Lewis explained. “Having worked there for just a year, my resume has grown hugely with the skills I’m learning.”

Jared Lewis COSINC 3Jugessur and Lewis operating an Ultim Max EDS detector. The instrument measures and maps X-rays. 

Unprecedented hands-on experience

COSINC puts an emphasis on training undergraduate students, creating a symbiotic relationship between the facility and its four student lab assistants. While COSINC gets the additional help, the students get hands-on experience with the state-of-the-art instruments.

“We don’t want to just train graduate students, faculty and post-doctorates,” Jugessur said. “We want to get undergrads in the lab because there is a need for it. Once someone gets training in this area, it opens a wide range of career paths for them. Not just in electronics, not just in physics, but also in areas such as bio-medical engineering and the emerging area of quantum engineering.”

Lewis’ job at COSINC is within the micro/nano-fabrication element of the group. He has worked on tools such as a Thermal Evaporator, which is a machine used in the fabrication of semiconductor devices. Semiconductor devices are used in electronics like cell phones, computers and TV’s.

One of COSINC’s Thermal Evaporators had been offline for some time, Lewis said. His role as a student lab assistant was to help figure out how to get the tool working again, starting from scratch.

“My troubleshooting ability has improved,” Lewis said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re knocking your head against the wall and there’s no change. It’s almost like these machines have a mind of their own, their own personalities. You’re almost negotiating with it. ‘Come on please work, what else can I do, what else can I try?’ It’s really fun.”

Opportunities outside of COSINC

Working at the COSINC facility has provided Lewis opportunities to participate in programs the center is connected to, such as the Remote Accessible Instruments for Nanotechnology (RAIN). The program allows students to access and control microscopes over the internet to look at nano-sized materials from any computer.

Jared Lewis COSINC 4Lewis and another student lab assistant supporting COSINC lab users.

RAIN is part of the Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Network, which COSINC is a member of. This network allowed COSINC to place two student lab assistants, including Lewis, in an accelerated nanotechnology training course for undergraduates. It also included a stipend for participants.

“This is the type of opportunity we want to provide our undergraduate students because we need the workforce,” Jugessur said. “We are doing our bit to develop the workforce of the future.”

The experience at COSINC has inspired Lewis to go into the semiconductor industry after college. He credited the student lab assistant position for giving him the necessary background and connections to pursue the prestigious area of study. His goal is to work at a company like Microsoft or Intel.

Lewis added that the engineering industry in Jamaica is still young. While he intends to stay in the United States after graduating, Lewis is not ruling out returning to Jamaica one day to develop and uplift the industry in his home country. 

COSINC'S future

COSINC is currently expanding by building new labs, including a new cleanroom, on CU Boulder’s East Campus. Jugessur said they may hire more student lab assistants as the facility acquires new instrumentation. Jugessur is also planning a COSINC workshop that would provide hands-on experience to more undergraduate students. It’s expected to begin later this fall.


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