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Reflecting on 10 Years of The Karel Urbánek Best Student Paper Award

Mar 21, 2023 3 min read

Each year since 2013, SPIE announces The Karel Urbánek Best Student Paper Award in conjunction with the SPIE Advanced Lithography and Patterning Control Conference. To mark its 10th anniversary, award sponsor KLA asked the current winner and past recipients for their advice to students thinking about entering their research papers.

The 2023 Winner is…

Yuka Esashi, Ph.D. candidate at University of Colorado Boulder. Yuka urges others pursuing higher academic degrees to do as she did and submit their work because winning the award will ultimately impact their careers.

“Receiving the award is quite an honor,” says Yuka, whose paper, “Multi-Mode Tabletop EUV Reflectometry for Characterization of Nanostructures,” earned the top score among 14 papers submitted. “For students, this is great recognition that puts our research out there so people within the profession can see your work.”

This exposure to the semiconductor industry, she adds, gives students an opportunity to engage with various companies at the annual SPIE conference.

Yuka Esashi receives the 2023 award from Matthew Sendelbach (left), SPIE Conference co-chair, and KLA’s John Robinson.

Past recipients of the Karel Urbánek Best Student Paper Award Christina Porter and Luc van Kessel agree, both telling students to “Go for it!”

“There is a lot of interest in student work at SPIE, and submitting a paper is a straightforward way of getting visibility for your research. People at the conference are receptive, and papers with solid scientific content where the ‘how’ is explained are received warmly. These connections students make will last well into their careers.”

Christina Porter, who earned her Ph.D. from University of Colorado Boulder

Christina, recipient of 2017 award for her paper “Sub-wavelength transmission and reflection-mode tabletop imaging with 13-nm illumination via ptychography CDI” says students who submit their research can network and decide whether to pursue a career in the semiconductor industry. Winning the top award not only increased Christina’s visibility within the industry, but also helped her realize how impactful her work could be and was a factor in positioning her for a job she wanted. She is now a project leader and physicist in the Netherlands.

Luc, winner of the 2020 award for his paper discussing “The Influence of Three-Dimensional Sidewall Roughness on Observed Line-Edge Roughness in Scanning Electron Microscopy Images” says conferences are an effective way for students to share their work with a large audience and expand their network.

“Actually winning an award increases that exposure even more. You always get useful feedback in the form of comments and questions, and it opens up avenues for future collaborations.”

Luc van Kessel, who earned his Ph.D. at Delft University of Technology

While preparing for the conference, he made every effort to try and win the award.

“Having that effort rewarded is great,” recalls Luc, now a researcher in the Netherlands. “Responses from people around me were wonderful. My adviser was very proud, and the group I was working with were very happy for me.”

About Karel Urbánek and the Award

Presented every year since 2013, The Karel Urbánek Best Student Paper Award recognizes the most promising contribution to the field by a student, based on the technical merit and persuasiveness of the paper presentation at the conference. Papers this year were evaluated by a seven-member judging panel.

“As metrology, inspection and process control increase in importance within the semiconductor industry, it’s important that we attract, encourage and promote new talent and help launch their careers in this critical industry,” says John C. Robinson, Ph.D., senior principal scientist at KLA, and chair of the Metrology, Inspection, and Process Control XXXVII conference at SPIE Advanced Lithography and Patterning 2023, where the award is presented.

The award is named in honor of Karel Urbánek, born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1938, who studied math and physics. One of the companies he formed was Tencor Corp., a startup in 1976 for films metrology​ that merged with KLA in 1997. He was CEO and chairman of Tencor’s Board of Directors for 15 years.

Go to this link for a full list of past recipients and more photos.

Are you interested in tackling complex technical challenges and exploring the edges of optics, sensors, mechanics, AI and data analytics? Explore KLA’s careers and join our engineering team.

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