Celebrating WOMEN IN SCIENCE: Interview with Mariam Debs

February 7, 2020


Mariam Gonzalez Debs is currently the Programme Management Officer. Until September 2018 she was the Facility Manager in the Microfabrication and Exploratory Nanotechnology Department at INL.  Mariam holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, in the area of compound semiconductor nanodiffusion.  She has prior industrial semiconductor experience working at high-volume manufacturing facilities overseas for fab start-up, technology transfer, and process improvements within back-end and die preparation modules.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and why a career change?

After my PhD in Chemical Engineering, I worked in the chip-making industry for several years.  This work led me to work at INL at its very beginning – when we were bringing up our Cleanroom and High-Accuracy Laboratories.  But, as these facilities took off to their respective flights, I found myself at a point where the challenge I yearned for was no longer present – to be part of a transformation.  While looking for new opportunities, the PMO (Programme Management Office) at INL came about.  I took this new challenge because it brought a holistic view of the research being pursued here, yet at the same time, the opportunity to dig into the details to help ideas transform. 

And as this new door opened at INL, thanks to my scientific background, I fully embraced it and I am learning new things every single day, and in a way, transforming myself – not into a scientist, but as an enabler for the woman in science.


What is the importance of your work for an organisation like INL?

I am a translator in many ways.  And I don’t mean only of languages, but a translator of scientific concepts, of research outcomes, of new implementations, of rules with a purpose, and of needs from internal and external customers.  These translations bring understanding, which can consequently bring people together.  People are aware of the power of collaboration; it makes ideas move much faster and further.  Science and technological institutions need these collaborations, at all dimensions, to be able to reach society in many different parts of the world.



What excites you about your work?

My main customer is the Researcher.  Researchers at INL are full of smart ideas, and when you see two smart ideas coming together into something much bigger, it brings a smile to my face.  I get excited at work when researchers get to grow their ideas into something fruitful; from the seed to the tree.  My work is to help the seed grow, and afterwards, show off what a nice tree INL has to offer.

The research “seed” grows with accessibility to research journals, search tools to scout new tech trends within various dimensions, and activities to help researchers know what their fellow colleague is up to, which might add value to their own project as well.  The “fruit” is the scientific breakthrough, the new device, their latest publication – our own product that brings value to the society.