Brendan McBennett named as 2023 recipient of Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship

The lithography-focused award honors the memory of the SPIE Senior Member and Mentor chief engineer
21 December 2022
Brendan McBennett, 2023 recipient of the Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship, at work in his lab.
McBennett adjusting a wedge, which is an optic that reflects only a small fraction of the laser beam and transmits the rest. This allows imaging of a beam mode on a CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) camera, which would otherwise be damaged by the full laser power.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — Brendan McBennett has been announced as the 2023 recipient of the $10,000 Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and Siemens EDA — formerly Mentor, a Siemens company — for his potential contributions to the field related to advanced lithography. McBennett will also be honored during 2023’s SPIE Advanced Lithography + Patterning conference.

The Nick Cobb scholarship recognizes an exemplary graduate student working in the field of lithography for semiconductor manufacturing. The award honors the memory of Nick Cobb, who was an SPIE Senior Member and chief engineer at Mentor. His groundbreaking contributions enabled optical and process proximity correction for IC manufacturing. Originally funded for three years ending in 2021, the Nick Cobb scholarship will be awarded to one student annually for an additional period of three years, through 2024.

McBennett is pursuing a PhD in Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU). Working under the supervision of Professors Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, his graduate work focuses on heat — “the most entropic and overlooked form of energy, which nonetheless plays a crucial role in nanoelectronics and quantum technologies,” notes McBennett. In the Kapteyn-Murnane group, he uses short-wavelength lasers to resolve heat flow on length scales below the visible diffraction limit, which has led to numerous counterintuitive observations that have pushed the boundaries of existing theory and opened new routes to modeling heat dissipation in nanoelectronics. To address a critical bottleneck issue — acquiring the nanofabricated samples necessary to study industry-relevant material geometries — McBennett has worked with mentors at NIST and across CU to learn electron beam lithography, while simultaneously developing an ultraviolet transient grating experiment to extend nanoscale heat flow measurements to high bandgap energy materials. McBennett received his BS in Mathematics and BA in German Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016, and an MS in Physics from CU in 2021.

“It is an honor to receive the Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship, and I am excited to build closer ties with other advanced lithography researchers at the SPIE conference this February,” says McBennett. “Thermal management is critical to nano, energy, and quantum technologies, and, as our understanding of heat flow at nanometer scales improves, it will be possible to design faster and more energy-efficient devices. I look forward to the new collaborations that this award will make possible as we apply our ultraviolet sources to study heat flow at shorter length scales and in new materials.”

“We are pleased to again be collaborating with SPIE to award the fifth annual Nick Cobb Memorial Scholarship to Mr. Brendan McBennett,” says Siemens EDA Vice President of Product Management Calibre Semiconductor Solutions Steffen Schulze. “The scholarship honors Nick's fundamental work in the field of lithography and his many contributions as the chief architect of Mentor's Calibre OPC solutions. And, by the way, Nick studied at the same school where Brendan is currently pursuing his PhD degree. Brendan has five papers, either published or in review, describing and quantifying heat transfer and imaging materials at the nanometer scale. As the semiconductor industry increasingly embraces 3D integration both in packaging as well as at chip level, management of thermal aspects, both in manufacturing and during operation, will gain in importance.”

About Siemens EDA

Siemens EDA, is a world leader in electronic hardware and software design solutions, providing products, consulting services, and award-winning support for the world's most successful electronic, semiconductor, and systems companies.

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, brings engineers, scientists, students, and business professionals together to advance light-based science and technology. The Society, founded in 1955, connects and engages with our global constituency through industry-leading conferences and exhibitions; publications of conference proceedings, books, and journals in the SPIE Digital Library; and career-building opportunities. Over the past five years, SPIE has contributed more than $22 million to the international optics community through our advocacy and support, including scholarships, educational resources, travel grants, endowed gifts, and public-policy development.


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